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Sunday, April 04, 2004

Play Nice

I thought all of you would enjoy this amusing little anecdote. At the baseball game the other day a player hit a high foul ball down the left field side. The ball got stuck in a light fixture just below the upper deck seats. A man sitting directly above the light fixture held his toddler by the foot and dangled him over the side to retrieve the ball. The kid seemed terrified to be hanging almost 100 feet above the lower seats, but he did his duty and grabbed the ball. His father pulled him back to safety and the fans gave them a polite round of applause.

None of that is true but just for laughs I asked a lawyer friend if that hypothetical parent would run any legal risk for putting his son in grave danger to retrieve a $5 baseball. Although my friend’s specialty isn’t criminal law he told me that prosecutors aren’t likely to charge parents for anything that doesn’t actually harm their children. My legal advisor added that had the father been going after an important baseball—like Barry Bond’s record home run—he wouldn’t be charged even if he dropped his kid. Things happen. Maybe dad had some mustard on his hands, mustard he got on his hands from wiping his careless child’s face, maybe the kid was wiggling too much, or maybe the father was distracted by the next pitch which the batter sent over the center field wall for the game-winning run, and the kid just slipped. Is that the father’s fault? What's the guy supposed to do, not clap when somebody hits a game-winning home run? Do you even like baseball?

My lawyer friend did advise me that an essay poking fun at recklessly endangering the lives of children poses some possible legal ramifications. I have decided to change everything by saying that the guy at the baseball game lowered his wife by her ankle to get the baseball—his wife who is an adult and is not pregnant. One of my female readers quickly pointed out that this scenario is demeaning to women.

So how about this: The guy climbs out on the ledge to get the baseball himself and falls to his death. There, are you happy now? An innocent man dies trying to obtain a priceless memento of a wonderful day he has spent watching a baseball game with his son. Maybe the kid has cancer or something, I don't know. Had the man used his son to retrieve the ball the two of them would probably be home by now playing catch with an official baseball. Instead one of them is dead and it happens to be the bread winner of the household, not just another mouth to feed.

Doesn’t it make more sense to let the father lower his kid to get the ball? Sure, there will be a few cases—as I mentioned—where the father’s hands are greasy from a hotdog, so his grip is compromised, but even in the worst case scenario, if someone has to die to retrieve a foul tip, would you really rather see the father fall from the upper deck instead of the son? What if the kid grows up to be a terrorist? Or a drug dealer? Or even worse, a U.S. Senator?All that I'm saying is that you should be careful before you judge a man who is lowering his child by one leg from the upper deck seats at a baseball game. You aren't getting all the context you need to make a fair assessment of the situation so perhaps you should just mind your own business and watch the game.

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