Mascot Liability

In an interesting ruling, the Missouri Supreme Court held yesterday that a spectator at a Kansas City Royals baseball game could get a new trial on a lawsuit against the team for an injury he suffered at a game in 2009.  According to the allegations in the case, the fan was hit in the eye by a wrapped hot dog thrown into the stands by the Royals’ mascot, Sluggerrr.  The lawsuit further alleges that the incident caused the fan to experience a detached retina and required him to undergo two surgeries to try to repair the damage.

In Missouri, as in many other states, the “baseball rule” applies to fans who go to a professional sports event.  Teams are protected from claims for injuries arising from the inherent risks involved in watching the event in person — like the possibility that a foul tip might come your way.  The Missouri Supreme Court said, however, that a hot dog thrown by a mascot is not an inherent risk — and thus the “baseball rule” doesn’t apply.

Some legal observers say the decision might cause sports teams to reassess their use of mascots, like Sluggerrr.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  I despise lame, furry, meaningless mascots and deeply regret how they have assumed increasingly prominent roles in virtually every sporting venue.  When I was a kid, the organist would play between innings at a ball game, and you could have a conversation and eat some peanuts; now every spare moment is cause for loud music, stupid contests, and idiotic mascots firing cheap t-shirts into the stands and engaging in other antics.  If the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision about Sluggerrr and his hot dog have brought that appalling era to a close, the judicial system has done a very good thing for society.

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Soccer Bites

In Tuesday’s World Cup game between Uruguay and Italy, Uruguay’s star player, Luis Suarez, approached an Italian player from behind and bit him on the shoulder.  The Italian player, not surprisingly, reacted instinctively to the pain of the chomp by swinging his shoulder away and bringing his arm in contact with Suarez’s head.

It being soccer, both players fell to the ground in hopes of getting a penalty.  (Can you imagine how LeBron James would react if a player guarding him bit him on the shoulder?  I don’t think his first instinct would be to fall to the ground.  This is one reason why many Americans find soccer so bizarre.)

There’s no doubt that Suarez was the aggressor, or that he intentionally bit the Italian.  The incident was caught on video; the YouTube clip is below.  Weirdly, this is the third time Suarez has bitten someone in a soccer game.  Other than Mike Tyson, I’ve never before heard of an adult athlete biting another adult athlete during a sporting event.  Suarez has a history of other bad conduct, including making racist comments to an opposing player.

Psychologists consulted by the BBC in response to one of Suarez’s earlier biting incidents say that biting is the product of frustration and primitive, emotional impulses, which is why it is relatively common in children but so rare in adults; tension builds, and the tension is released with a bite.  That’s what psychologists say, but I think adult biting suggests much more deep-seated issues.  A rude gesture, or even a punch, I can understand — but a bite is a more personal and injurious act.  And when you think about how many germs can be found in the human mouth, a bite is far more disgusting and invasive.

They’re talking about whether Suarez should be suspended for the bite, and if so for how long.  That’s a pertinent topic, but I think it’s missing the bigger issue.  After three bites, plus a suspension for racist abuse, this guy clearly needs some serious help.  He’s obviously dangerous to others, and if he can’t control his biting tendencies, how can he be trusted to control whatever other impulses he might be experiencing?

Political Poor-Mouthing

In the past few weeks we’ve witnessed two of the principal presumed contenders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, pointedly talking about their purportedly humble economic circumstances.

Clinton, who with her husband Bill is worth tens of millions of dollars, first said that she and the former President were “dead broke” when they left the White House.  She was immediately ridiculed for that comment, and since then has tried to explain that, even though they are millionaires many times over and make tens of thousands of dollars each time they give a speech, they struggled earlier in life and pay “ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off.”

Biden, on the other hand, said people shouldn’t hold it against him that he isn’t rich.  He says he doesn’t own a single stock or bond, and has no savings account.  Of course, fact checkers quickly determined that his disclosure forms show that, in 2013 at least, he had one savings account and two checking accounts, and his wife holds certificates of deposit and investments in several different mutual funds.  Biden concedes that he has a “great pension” — achieved from being a Senator for decades — and makes a “good salary.”  (As VP, Biden earns $227,500 per year and gets lots of freebies.)

Clinton and Biden obviously think they need to make such statements to enhance their electability — which is why we are treated to the spectacle of two people who make far more than the vast majority of Americans, and who live lifestyles that exceed what most people dream of, consciously downplaying their success.  The history of poor-mouthing it by American politicians is a rich one.  During the 1800s, candidates touted their often exaggerated log-cabin roots, and in the early 20th century Horatio Alger tales were popular.  More recently, the elections of Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and George W. Bush seemed to take the wealth issue off the table.  Apparently not!

These days, the poor-mouth strategy seems more likely to set a politician up for a fall rather than winning votes; both Clinton and Biden have been chided for their implausible recent remarks.  But let’s set aside issues of truthfulness, candor, and awareness of how normal people live — why would you want to vote for someone who hasn’t been successful and responsible about their finances?  And if Joe Biden in fact doesn’t have a savings account or own any stocks or bonds after decades of receiving the hefty salaries of U.S. Senator and Vice President, what the heck has he been doing with all that money for all those years?  Most of us working stiffs have been scrimping and savings for decades in a responsible attempt to have a decent retirement.  I guess old Joe doesn’t need to worry about that with his “great pension,” eh?