Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Gonzo, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; Fields, 3B; Terrero, CF; Uribe, SS; Hall, C. Contreras pitching.
Happy 4th to July to everyone! Between ball games, picnics and fireworks, we should all take a moment to celebrate the freedoms that make this country unique in the history of the world and to remember the events, moments and people who created this country.
Aaron Gray, JamesOn Curry and Joakim Noah enjoyed the ballgame last night from Jerry Reinsdorf’s suite. (No truth to the rumor that I was in charge of serving drinks poolside.) Gray, who threw the first pitch, grew up a White Sox and Frank Thomas fan, while Noah and A.J. shared a pregame moment like only two Gator fans can do …
To Javier Vazquez for his complete-game effort last night. If I had told you in March that on July 4th our starting pitchers would rank second in the league with a 3.82 ERA, wouldn’t you ask how far ahead we would be?
The Trib’s Eric Zorn, a columnist I enjoy and respect (see, there are some, many, in fact), wrote a piece yesterday titled, "Justice Should Be Blind, Not Shortsighted," in which he compared the legal penalties of an assault on the street and the fan intrusion at Wrigley Field last week.
In the end, Eric argued that he would prefer that the State’s Attorney’s Office reduce the fan intrusion charge. And he asks for reader response (Eric’s blog and on-line conversation on topics is one of the things I really like about his column. It’s where, in my opinion, newspapers are heading and need to head to engage readers in conversation on an almost around-the-clock schedule … note the Trib’s new emphasis on sports blogs as a key part of its sports coverage).
Anyway, because the White Sox, Jerry Reinsdorf and State Senator Mattie Hunter were at the forefront of lobbying the State Legislature to make field incursions a felony, I thought I would offer some of the rationale, from our position, for such a penalty.
1. Escalation. Incursions by fans escalate, in a couple of ways. First, one "runner" encourages another and another and another. One way to combat this is to make sure the penalty is a deterrent (which, I believe, it has been at U.S. Cellular Field due to the publicity of the penalty). Secondly, incursions have escalated in nature. Maybe this is part of the world we now live in, call it the idiot gene, but incursions have seemed to move from drunken frat boy running out onto the field behind second base to cheers from his buddies and fans to viscious attacks on coaches, umpires, and possibly players. Take the Wrigley Field instance, for example. The game wasn’t 12-1. The fan went onto the field in a close game, apparently fueled with anger at reliever Bobby Howry’s surrendering the lead. The fan was angry/frustrated, as I’m sure Bobby was as well. That’s a dangerous combination. Thank goodness the security guard reached the fan first. One concern we have is that each incursion tries to top the next, stand at second base with your hands over your head, dodger security, next steal a player’s hat, then steal second base. Where does that eventually lead?
2. The penalty. As a misdemeanor, we often faced situations where a bunch of buddies pass the hat, agreeing to cover the fine, often less than $1,000, and then egg one of their friends to make a run onto the field for the entertainment value. With the penalty now a felony, this practice ends.
3. An Audience. Because the incident is taking place in a "place of amusement", i.e. a ballpark, the potential audience for this crime is large. At the very least, the incursion will potentially incite up to 40,000 other fans at the game, but it also impacts possibly millions via television. In one of our cases, the criminal reportedly called someone before rushing onto the field and attacking a coach and told them to make sure to watch the news that evening. Events that occur on our field each day have the potential to echo around the world and possibly encourage others to copy. If the criminals think of our field as a potential television stage, then the penalty needs to match, in my opinion.
Eric’s column discusses another recent crime, and I am in no way passing judgment on how that should be handled by authorities. But given my own personal experience, and some familiarity with the process, I do feel that a felony is the correct penalty for a ballfield incursion, both as a deterent and as a fit penalty given the potential impact of the crime. What if security had not reached the fan first at Wrigley? My guess is that this wouldn’t even be a discussion.
I had several interesting (no, not heated) conversations with several media members over the last few days about the difficulties in covering the Buehrle negotiations and how that might impact what you read and hear.
Some of my thoughts (all my opinions, so take them for what they are worth) …
On-going negotiations are incredibly difficult to cover, for the following reasons (and as a result, fans may only be getting a portion of the story and that portion may be correct or incorrect on any particular day): Parties involved rarely comment, which leads to having to rely on whispers, rumors, leaks and off the record conversations, all of which carry risks; because negotiations are on-going, information getting to media is often dated, sometimes very dated (this also happens with many, many trade rumors around this time of the year. By the time a rumor is reported, it’s old and over); negotiations in corporate life usually occur in a boardroom somewhere, they are not clean, black and white, they involve back and forth, give and take … i.e. you might not want to see how the sausage gets made, you just want the brat when it’s all done. In this case, fans I’ve talked to are almost numb from the back and forth, roller coaster of emotions each day’s reports bring. That’s because you normally don’t see or read about that side of a negotiation. You just see the end result. Finally, in any negotiation, parties are potentially looking for every angle. It seems to me that the biggest challege facing reporters covering a story like this is to do your best to not become pawns for either side in negotiations. I understand that’s a tough challenge at times. In this case, I think it has been interesting for fans to also get a chance to study how reporters try to manage the process of covering an on-going negotiation … or at least I have found it interesting, even if we would prefer to have all our negotiations remain quiet until finished.
Let’s win one tonight and then enjoy the fireworks.