Broken Bats, Barn Doors, and Murder

Craig Calcaterra, a former lawyer who now does baseball blogging over at the NBC sports site, has once again called for baseball stadiums to include protective netting along the stands from home plate to first and third base. This time the impetus is a frightening incident in Milwaukee at a Brewers game, in which a broken bat handle went flying into the stands and hit a child. These types of incidents have been happening with greater frequency in recent years, although these is some disagreement about why. Some say it is the more brittle maple bats, others that it is the whip-thin handles of the bats now in vogue, and still others blame the new glut of baseball parks seating fans closer to the field.

I just hate the idea of netting off fans from the game, and have argued with Craig about it on his blog in the past. But it is hard to argue this: if an incident like the one in Milwaukee ended up seriously wounding or killing a fan, then netting would appear in all parks, and quickly too. Since it is only luck that prevented last night’s incident from turning tragic, the responsible conduct by major league officials and team management would be to take the safety precautions now, before the completely predictable death actually occurs, because if they don’t, eventually it will, as sure as eggs is eggs (whatever the heck that means).

They won’t, though, will they? They’ll wait until that first disaster, because nobody will have the courage to take a precautionary action that diminishes the fan experience without the kind of public outcry that only a tragedy can generate. We have seen this pattern in so many settings that it is routine; in fact, the idiomatic name for it is over a hundred years old. It’s called “locking the barn door after the horse is gone.” When the consequence is just a lost horse, we call this stupid. When the consequence is a dead child, we should think about calling it murder.

It is certainly unethical.

3 thoughts on “Broken Bats, Barn Doors, and Murder

  1. Well, it should help keep those streakers off of the fields, eh? NHL had to kill a 13 year old girl in Columbus before they put nets behind the offensive zones. Prior to that, they pointed to Moral Luck as proof and evidence that despite occasional injuries, nothing tragic would happen.

    That being said, at some point, there is some personal accountability for which seats a fan picks. If there is a “danger zone” that only older patrons should sit in, let’s make it an adult area. Must be 18 to smoke this and sit here. Must be 21 to drink this and go there. There’s no mandate that kids should be able to sit in the first row just past the end of the protective netting already in place.

    Now, if the ball parks thought that being the most family friendly place is important to their attendance, then they should put up additional protective netting, to the detriment of older and capable fans, who may be fine with the change or may want different season tickets or move up to the club level. (Or stop coming all together.)

  2. In the late ’80s when I lived in Oakton, there was a key blind intersection, with trees close to the road on all sides, which hosted frequent accidents. When my mother called to request a stoplight after she herself was T-boned there, she was told that one would be placed after a fatality at the site. Apparently a fatality would push the the intersection from merely difficult to dangerous.

    A few years later, they installed a blinking light, red on one direction and yellow on the other. I still wonder if someone finally died or if it was “just” a reaction to all the accidents.

    Sadly, it’s not only baseball that puts a minimum “cost” to safety improvements.

  3. Pingback: Ethics Quiz: What Do the Gulf Oil Spill, Pearl Harbor, Bernie Madoff, 9-11,Tyler Colvin’s Chest Wound Have in Common? « Ethics Alarms

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