Friday, July 15, 2011

The Business of Safety

It's been more than a week now since Shannon Stone of Brownwood, Texas, fell over the railing in Rangers Ballpark.

That was a shocking sight, to be sure, and it aroused all sorts of emotions in people. But even though, as I mentioned the other day, some people did suggest that Stone had been negligent (to a point), no one said he was reckless or stupid.

Not so Keith Carmickle, the fan who nearly fell to his death while trying to catch a ball at the Home Run Derby during the All–Star Game festivities earlier this week.

With concerns about stadium safety already elevated, Carmickle — by his own admission — used "bad judgment" ...

... which seems like a no–brainer, given that Carmickle risked his life for a baseball that was hit in an exhibition — and he already had two baseballs, as it was.

To make up for it, Carmickle says he is going to auction off the souvenir baseballs and give the proceeds to Stone's widow.

There is a certain symmetry to that, I guess.

But more needs to be done.

It is beyond Carmickle's power, no matter how many baseballs he sells. It is even beyond the admittedly powerful images of Stone's widow and their young son, who watched his father fall to his death.

Frankly, it's in the hands of baseball's powers that be. Well, mostly.

"The incidents, days apart, have committed and casual fans alike debating who's responsible for preventing ballpark accidents," opines the Fort Worth Star–Telegram. "The quick answer is everyone. The harder question is how."

There are those who decry the so–called "nanny state" — and, believe me, I understand their position. I, too, worry about unwarranted intrusion on individual liberty.

But there are some places and some situations in which those in charge must step in to make sure the environment remains manageable — and sports events are at the top of the list.

There was a time in my life when I went to sports events frequently — especially during (and even after) my college years. There is an undeniable excitement that comes with being there, and, most of the time, I think people are content simply to savor the moment.

We've all seen crowds that got out of control. It would be nice if we could always be sure that good sense will prevail, but we have seen too many Carmickles — they're usually the guys who are shirtless in sub–freezing weather.

Safety truly is everyone's business — but, until we can be 100% certain that fans will always behave maturely, management must shoulder most of the responsibility.

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