As of this year, all 30 MLB teams now have protective netting that extends at least to the ends of the dugouts, a change made after a toddler suffered bleeding on the brain when struck by a line drive at Yankee Stadium last year. The netting has a pretty negligible impact on the viewing experience for most fans, and it protects people from projectiles that can come off the field at more than 100 miles per hour. Cool. Good stuff. But here’s a different take, from a New York Times op-ed by ex-Candid Camera host Peter Funt: Actually, the nets are bad and fans are now “caged.”
Funt opens by acknowledging “this might not be the best place to question something so basic as fan safety,” which is true. He unfortunately proceeds to finish that sentence “but here goes.” Here’s a choice excerpt:
What riles serious fans is that their experience at ballgames is being compromised, in large part, by the behavior of more casual attendees. Sit at a game nowadays and you’ll see that half the crowd is distracted by mobile devices. It’s no wonder they’re at risk.
There are also more parents with infants in their arms. Why? You wouldn’t see a 1-year-old in a theater with a T-shirt proclaiming, “My First Opera.” Yet, lap-babies are increasingly present, and in danger, at baseball games.
Teams could easily require that everyone have a ticket, regardless of age, which would immediately reduce the number of vulnerable infants at games. They could also place an age and/or height requirement on certain seats — just as amusement parks do with risky rides.
There’s a lot of flawed logic there—“casual attendees,” including children and short people, should be allowed at baseball games; it often doesn’t matter how closely a person is paying attention when a ball is traveling toward them at 105 mph; an open-air ball game with a noisy crowd is not the goddamn opera—but at this point it’s almost too obvious that there’s some flawed logic in the Times’s opinion section.