By Jamie Kanter
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 23, 1998

Spectators beware: Cheer at your own risk


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Jamie Kanter

There seems to be a new passion in Arizona sports. With a hapless professional football franchise and a championship-less pro basketball team, many fans have turned to a new hope: the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This newest Major League expansion team has injected a large dose of adrenaline into the all-too-dormant world of professional sports in this state. Even with the new excitement, however, fans are outraged because a new bill working its way through the legislative process. The new bill would restrict fans from suing for injuries sustained from a day at the ballpark.

And why would fans want to sue? No, not because they slip on a wet floor in the bathroom or get food poisoning from a stadium dog; they want to sue if they get hit by flying baseballs.

Perhaps this is just me being foolish, but aren't flying baseballs a pretty essential part of the game? I'm no expert in the intricate rules of baseball. I can't tell you what constitutes a balk or why you can sometimes run to first after a third strike, but I feel confident that the game would lose its fundamental purpose if baseballs were not allowed to fly.

Come on, the pitcher has to hurl the ball at speeds nearing 100 mph. Then the batter needs to make contact with the ball before it winds up in the catcher's mitt. If both do their jobs, then the laws of physics and common sense dictate that the result is a high-speed projectile.

Perhaps the fans who want to sue have never been to a ball game or watched one on TV. Perhaps they simply were not prepared for the whole ball-flies-fast-in-the-stadium motif that runs rampant in the game of baseball. They have no idea that foul balls sometimes work their way into the crowd. They just don't know the rules. I can forgive them for ignorance.

What I can't forgive is the greedy nature of fans who refuse to take responsibility for their decision to watch a baseball game. When you enter the stadium, you accept certain risks. You could fall down the stairs or get a wicked sunburn. Should a fan be able to sue if he forgets to throw on the Coppertone before the game? Should the owner have to pay for his aloe-based lotion? Of course not, that's ridiculous. Just like these fans who want to sue for being hit by baseballs.

Most of us consider it a delight to be near a ball as it falls into the stands. We jockey for position, move our gloves, hats or bare hands into the flight path and hope to strike gold. We enjoy that as part of the game.

These delicate flowers, however, need compensation if some sort of incidental injury occurs as the result of normal play. Perhaps these folks should stay home in their protective shells rather than venture out into the cold, hard world where something bad might happen.

Some of their supporters, however, claim that the bill is simply an attempt by the owner of the Diamondbacks, Jerry Colangelo, to protect his assets. That may be true, but that doesn't make these lawsuits any more justifiable.

Certainly, an owner whose stadium does not take the proper precautions to shield the fans is in the wrong. However, most parks do protect the fans sitting near home plate, those with the greatest risk.

They simply cannot fence in the whole field and protect everyone. People simply should not sue if they happen to get hit.

Using that rationale, we should be able to sue if Jason Terry falls into our front-row seats (as if we could wrestle the tickets out of the arthritic hands that currently possess them) while chasing a loose ball in McKale. While we're at it, we need to be able to sue those tennis players who hit balls into the stands after matches. Oh, and we'll have to do something about golf; that's just an accident waiting to happen.

It bothers me that we would even consider tarnishing the game by allowing ignorant "fans" to sue because they get hit by a ball. That's part of the game and the fan is there to watch the game, whatever happens. If there are people out there to whom this is unacceptable, I have but one piece of advice: Grab a beer and a hot dog and stay home.

We don't want to worry about protecting you as you cower in fear; we want to watch the game.

Maybe we'll even bring you home a souvenir baseball.

Jamie Kanter is a senior majoring in Spanish and psychology. His column, "On the Flip Side," appears every other Thursday.


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