Monday, February 1, 2016

Minnesota Twins and the dawn of wimpiness

It's started. And all because some idiot fan wasn't paying attention. A splintered bat flew into the crowd and the fan that had paid big bucks for close-up seats got injured.

So now the Minnesota Twins have decided to put up nets roughly 6-8 feet high down their "sidelines" to ensure such a "tragedy" never happens again. Other Major League teams will likely follow. But where does it end? You just know this is the tip of the proverbial wimpy iceberg. Once these nets have been accepted, another safety feature will come along, then another, and another yet. Pandora's politically correct sports box has been cracked open.

It's somewhere between laughable and nauseous to hear the talking heads spouting off on what a good thing this is for baseball. "The umpires want it. The players want it. And most of all, the fans want it", they claim.

All of which is total bull droppings, of course. The umpires couldn't care less. They've got a hard enough job to do making calls, arguing with millionaires, and standing on their feet for a typical 3 hour game. Do you really think these guys care about balls or bats flying into the stands?

Same with the players. And what's the difference between one of them drilling a 100 MPH line drive into the seats or a bat going maybe 30 MPH? One gets there a whole lot faster. Ah, but a splintered bat can cause serious injury, you say? True enough, but so can a high speed spherical object like a baseball bashing somebody in the head. When players whack vicious foul line drives into the stands, they might take a quick glance -- or maybe not -- as to whether somebody got hurt. Two seconds later, they're ready to play ball again like it never happened. That's somebody else's problem. It happens all the time, and is an accepted part of the game. The fans know this when they come to the stadium. If they want to sit up close to the action, which increases their chances of snagging a souvenir, they pay bigger bucks. And with that comes the presumed responsibility of paying attention.

True, some safety nets have made sense over the years. Behind home plate, it seems reasonable to protect the fans from the scores of fouled-off pitches that will come their way during the course of any given game. And it was probably a good idea to likewise put up nets behind NHL goals. Even if one is paying attention, a little frozen black puck coming at one at warp speed might be difficult to discern and avoid.

Fans sitting behind home plate have long become accustomed to watching the game through a net. They have long known that will be the case when they buy their tickets. And they forfeit any chance of getting a souvenir ball to take home. Goes with the territory. Hockey fans, at least some of them, have become accustomed to watching the game through a screen as well.

But that doesn't necessarily make it right. If John/Jane Doe wants to pony up the big bucks to sit close to the action, knowing full well a risk/reward factor is in play -- then who are the "authorities" to tell them they will be denied such an experience?

Make no mistake. Once the 6-8 foot nets start going up in baseball parks behind the dugouts, in time they will get taller and extend further down the sidelines. Eventually, they will likely engulf the entire stadium. Every fan in attendance will be watching the game through a net. Doubt that? Granted, a splintered bat will never fly into the outfield stands, but some oblivious nitwit will get conked on the head by a home run ball, rushed off to hospital, and sue the team for their negligence in protecting him. You know, the usual. Pain, suffering, loss of potential income, depression, nightmares, mood swings, flashbacks -- the run-of-the-mill litigated horror story. Plus a few million bucks, of course.

And the nets will go up there too. No more souvenirs in the cheap seats -- all because some nitwit wasn't paying attention. Or was too drunk and tried to catch the ball in his mouth instead of hands. Throw in another million for the concession people serving him too much alcohol, which left him in a drooling idiot state of mind. It's THEIR fault. Could happen.

The fans don't need more nets around the stadium. They need more common sense and awareness, which could be facilitated by another new rule.

Ban all cell/smart phones from stadiums. Nobody had them years ago and we never heard any wimpy concerns about fan injuries. They were there to watch the game -- not text/sext, tweet, or check out other social networking sites every 10 seconds. Look around the stadiums today. Most fans are paying far more attention to their phones than they are the game itself.

If you want to go to the ballpark, leave the phone behind, and watch the damn game. Isn't that supposedly what you went there for in the first place? HELLO? And while you're there, at least try to pay attention, especially if you're in the up-close seats. Things might be coming at you. It's not only part of the experience, but also why you skipped a house/car payment so your average "family of four" could sit "ringside" for such a spectacle. When they get back in the family car, let the networking begin. But not at the ballpark. There's absolutely no reason for this, and is likely the cause of the occasional freak injury that happens.

Bottom line. Leave the grand old game alone. The true fans know how to act. They neither want nor need their sight lines and accessibility to souvenirs impaired because some people with more dollars than sense didn't have the brains to pay attention to what was going on right in front of them.

Idle closing rant: Why is it the NFL has nets behind their goalposts? A kicked football floating into the stands hardly poses a risk for injury -- save for the hard cores that might fight over it. Why not let the end zone fans, which are usually the most rabid, catch any and all such balls to take home as souvenirs?

The NFL is a $10 billion dollar a year mega-sports industry. Tell me they can't afford a few hundred footballs at maybe $100 apiece, and I'll tell you something is very wrong with this picture.

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