Friday, July 08, 2011

A Tragedy of Unintended Circumstances

A Tragedy of Unintended Circumstances
People in Arlington Texas thought they were going to see a baseball game yesterday. Instead they saw a man die. And now the rest of the world is trying to find fault and nail blame. People have been going to baseball games for decades now. But life’s a funny thing. Sometimes through the fault of nobody a whim, an odd twist of fate causes bad things to happen.
How it happened was this. Toward the end of the second inning, Josh Hamilton, a Texas Rangers outfielder, saw an unaccounted for ball in the outfield. On an impulse, an impulse inspired by generosity and a desire to please the fans, he tossed it into the outfield bleachers. Back in the old days, the wall underneath the bleachers was the edge of the outfield. But because of the interference of overzealous fans with balls still in play, many fields, including the Ballpark in Arlington established a buffer zone that would prevent fans from snatching a fly ball that maybe could be caught. When Hamilton tossed the ball into the stands, it was with the idea I am sure that someone would catch it and take it home as a cherished souvenir.
Instead what happened was that a man, with his young son in the front row, reached for the ball, caught it briefly and then lost his balance going head first over the railing to the area between the stands and the outfield wall. Fans and players watched in horror. Fans near the young boy held him to prevent his view of his seriously injured father. A relief pitcher heard the man ask someone to take care of his son as he was carried away on the gurney by EMT’s. Sadly, the man died of cardiac arrest.
To say the man’s family is distraught is an understatement. But in this case the fans and players were also witnesses to the tragedy. Knowing the basic decency of Nolan Ryan as a person, it’s a sure bet that the Rangers organization will take care of this boy and his family. Unfortunately down the line lawyers are going to come into play. They will sue the Rangers. They will sue the Ballpark in Arlington. They will sue Josh Hamilton. And because of the way our courts are these days, they will win. The end result will be that other than homeruns hit into the stands, major league baseball, and maybe even other sports as well, will cease launching tee-shirts, souvenirs and yes, baseballs, into the stands. Those days are gone.
In the aftermath, we are going to have to start thinking about how far we are going to provide a safety net for the individuals at sporting events or in life in general. Nobody ever wants to see anyone hurt, but people get run over by cars every day with nobody suggesting we stop driving. People do bear some responsibility for their actions even when things turn out badly. Life is a chancy thing. Anyone can be hurt at any time. And while this does fit the definition of freak accident, it’s not the only one. People have fallen, been pushed or stumbled over railings at almost any ballpark or stadium you care to name. Going to any event has its own inherent risks. That so many of us seem ignorant of that fact points to how safe our society in general must be. But it’s not perfect and short of wrapping us in bubble wrap and locking us in our houses, there’s no way we can prevent every single accident. That’s the nature of accidents. Life comes with no guarantees. Lawyers and courts and countless others try to mitigate that fact. But it is a fact and the sooner we all stop seeking to blame, the sooner we can move on as a society.

By Ellen K, July 8,2011

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