Many commenters were upset with me for characterizing the tragic death of Shannon Stone, who fell to his death while trying to catch a ball during a Texas Rangers game, as the result of his own bad judgment, suggesting that I was impugning the character of a dead man. (I wasn’t.) That reaction sparks the second Ethics Alarms quiz question relating to the incident.
NBC baseball blogger (and lawyer) Craig Calcaterra put up a post this morning headlined “Idiot nearly falls from the stands chasing a ball at the Home Run Derby”:
“Just days after Shannon Stone died from a fall while reaching for a baseball at a Texas Rangers game, a fan at last night’s Home Run Derby nearly fell out of the outfield stands while lunging for a home run ball hit by Prince Fielder. He was spared serious injury or death only because his friends grabbed him by his feet, held him and then pulled him back as he dangled over the railing above a concrete deck 20 feet below…His name is Keith Carmickle, and common sense is not his forte. His fall came after he stepped up onto the narrow metal table which abutted the railing — the kind you stand in front of and set your drink on while watching the game — and then, while still standing on it, reached down low to catch the ball as it came in…He missed the ball, but his momentum carried him forward and he fell headfirst over the rail. If it wasn’t for his brother’s and his friends’ quick action, down he would have gone. Despite his idiocy, he (a) escaped this dangerous situation of his own making unscathed; and (b) was allowed to stay at the Derby by security. Both of these factors have been added to the “evidence that there is no God and/or that He is not just and fair” side of the big ledger I keep on my desk and in which I tally the wonder and folly of Humanity as I encounter it…”
Your questions to answer, if you dare: 1) Is it fair for Calcaterra to call Carmickle an idiot, and Stone just a random victim of circumstance? 2) Why or why not?
If Carmickle is a reckless idiot but Stone an innocent victim of circumstance, is it because:
- …Stone died and Carmickle did not? That would be strange. Carmickle’s mistake didn’t cost him his life or make his son fatherless. It is true that one should not assess the widom of a decision based on unforseen conequences, but it takes some mental hgymnastic to find essentially the same conduct more foolish when the consequences are less serious.
- …Stone’s accident had been well-publicized, so while Stone had no reason to fear falling to his death, Carmickle had the extra warning of Stone’s demise? Craig seems to be arguing this, to which I say, “Really? Stone needed a previous fatality for him to be forewarned that leaning over a guard railing was a bad idea?”
- …Stone was a fireman, and it’s wrong to suggest that a fireman ever does anything dumb or irresponsible?
- …Carmickle took a greater risk than Stone? This seems undoubtedly true, based on the photos of Carmickle before he fell. But both fans took a risk, the difference in the nature of the risks being only matters of degree; both risked falling 20 feet, and both fell. One was caught.
I initially felt that Craig’s characterization of Carmickle as an idiot was too harsh, but the photos convinced me otherwise. However, if he was an idiot, I don’t see how anyone can honestly argue that Stone didn’t make, at very least, a terrible decision. If it troubles you to call it a stupid decision or a dumb decision, then don’t, but recognize that you are basing your assessment of the act on sympathy rather than analysis. Carmickle doesn’t inspire sympathy—not a father, not a firefighter, not dead—so calling him an idiot is easy.