Thursday, October 16, 2003

I was watching ESPN's SportsCenter last night. They were doing a piece on the controversial Game 6 of the baseball series between the Florida Marlins and Chicago Cubs.

A little background. The Cubs are the most cursed team in North American professional sport. They've gone longer than any other team without winning the pennant and thsu playing in the World Series (1945) and without winning Major League Baseball's grand prize (1908). Many people erroneously think that last dubious distinction belongs to the Boston Red Sox, but they won it in 1918 (against, ironically, the Cubs).

In Game 6, the Cubs were winning and were a mere 5 outs from winning the pennant in front of their home fans. A foul ball went into the very front row of the stands and a Cubs' fan caught it, almost certainly preventing a Cubs' player from catching it. If a player reaches on to the field of play to catch a ball, fan interference could be could and the out awarded anyway. Except, when the ball goes in to the seats, that rule doesn't apply. The Cubs' player was furious and other fans threw beer at the now-infamous fan.

However, I bet 30,000 other fans in the park would've done the same thing in the same situation. Trying to get a foul ball is a rite of baseball. More importantly, when a hit baseball is coming right at you, your instinct is to catch it; your other instinct is to protect yourself so you don't get smashed in the noggin. You generally keep your eye on the ball (the first rule they teach 6 year old players), not looking around. Otherwise, you may get smashed in the face. I'm sure if he'd known the player from his own team had a chance of making the out, he would've tried to stay out of the way. He can't be looking in two places at once.

Immediately following this incident, the Cubs collapsed, lost Game 6 and eventually lost the series. Naturally, this fan has become the scapegoat for a collapse that had far more causes than that single incident.

ESPN quoted a long-time Cubs' season ticket holder, "I think these fans like that are sort of selfish or they don't really care about the consequences of what happened." Well, here are the consequences.

Last night, ESPN reported on how the guy needed leave the park with security for his own protection. There was a shot of him departing with a jacket over his head, like an accused criminal, which is exactly how the poor guy is being treated. Then, there was a shot of police cars guarding the guy's house in a particular Chicago suburb.

So after this piece telling how much of a threat there is against this guy, what does ESPN do? THEY SHOW HIS NAME!! They talk about how fans are reacting violently to the incident, then they broadcast on national television his name and what town he lives in!! The Associated Press article did the same thing. Why don't they tell where his wife works and where his kids go to school while they're at it?

I know the press can be reckless at times but this is insanely poor judgement. And for no reason. It's not like knowing the name helps us understand the story any better. So these media outlets are increasing the danger on this guy for absolutely no reason, no benefit to anyone, including those press outlets themselves. If anything happens to this guy, ESPN and the AP (and the screech media as well) will have it on what passes for their conscience.

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