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.