Monday, May 10, 2010
The Role of
the Taser in Sports
PASTIMES. I had no idea this incident had created such a furor:
A police officer in Philadelphia exercised his so-called discretion this week when he Tasered an unarmed teenager who ran onto the baseball diamond during a Phillies game. He shot the 17-year-old prankster from behind, firing 12,000 volts that sent the boy tumbling into a heap.
The real shock is this was not a clear misuse of force. Officials defended the officer, saying he followed protocol, which allows police to Taser a fleeing suspect.
The case is an extreme but timely example of why poorly crafted Taser policies need to be changed. Regulations restricting use of the weapons need to be spelled out, so there is little room for such discretion in the absence of far more aggressive behaviour on behalf of a suspect.
So what. Some people are upset with what goes in the Philadelphia sports community. Nothing new. Philadelphia is the city they all love to hate. Then, over the weekend, I learned that two WIP SportsTalk hosts almost came to blows on air over the subject. Hugh Douglas, former Eagles defensive end, clashed with co-host Rob Charry over the issue of team safety. Douglas made the point that a nut on the field is a danger to athletes and to the people who are trying to catch him. Charry, on the other hand, is a stereotypical sports journalist lefty (we learn from facebook that Charry "likes" this), who sees a police state behind every potted palm except the ones statist Democrats are using for props at their news conferences.
Rob Charry: A face made for sports talk radio.
Charry, who is exactly my age, is, perhaps needless to say, an obnoxious halfwit I've grown to loathe for his canned diatribes -- whenever call traffic is slow -- about how neither golfers nor racecar drivers are athletes, as well as his not very well disguised bias against any athletes who admit to being conservatives. He can't quite explain, for example, why he dislikes ex-Phillie Curt Schilling, who never dissed Philly even after moving to Boston. He just doesn't like him. You know.
Which means in the current instance, I suppose, that the real culprit in the tasing at the Phillies ballpark was George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.
But I'm with Hugh Douglas. The tasing was justified. A teeneager running loose on a ballfield is no frail grandmother giving lip to a cop at a traffic stop. He's a random unknown obviously in good enough physical shape that tackling him could cause injury to the tacklers and clearly fit enough not to be grievously injured by a taser. A dog running wild on a baseball field is funny. A drunk jerk running wild on the same field is annoying and potentially dangerous. Also upsetting to one of the flightier star pitchers in baseball, Cole Hamels. Which is why I'm prepared to thank GWB and Cheney for tasing the dumb sonofabitch even if he meant no harm. Maybe he's learned not to do it again. That would be a good thing.
I mean, some tasings are good things. That's what got me to thinking about the role tasers might play in big-time sports. They're decisive, to be sure, but not necessarily official or even a penalty. The way the target hits the ground is more cancellation than sentence. It's just an abrupt way of saying "Stop it. This is unacceptable." It interrupts time when the time that is going on is bad behavior. It allows time to resume its normal course when the unacceptable has been removed from the field of action.
There are quite a few things in sports that should be stopped without making a big deal of them otherwise. Without fines, team punishments, stoppages of play, or other sanctions. Things that rules haven't been very good at preventing. Stop the offender cold in his tracks and resume play as if nothing had happened. Without remark, rules changes, or note of any kind. Others tempted to imitate the offender might take the lesson and refrain in future. I've compiled a few examples of where tasers could have a very positive impact on sports. See if you agree.
NFL Football. We've all grown used to silly touchdown celebrations. But who isn't irritated by losing teams whose defensive players make a tackle and then expend energy they obviously need to keep their team in the game stomping around in personal glory over a single second-down stop on their own 20 yard line?
Yeah, lots of these are TDs, but not all of them. Even so, tase'em.
NFL referees should just tase these idiots and have them dragged quietly off the field to the locker room. (Idiot owners should be treated the same way, regardless of income or age.)
Major League Baseball. Fan interference can change a game, a series, a season. As it did with the Chicago Cubs in 2003. Fans like this shouldn't have fifteen minutes of fame. They should be absented from the moment and forgotten.
Raise your hands, everybody who thinks shock
treatment wouldn't improve this guy's personality.
There's another MLB example on my mind, but I'll save it for later.
Soccer (i.e., Third World Football). This is the most over-hyped, least intrinsically intriguing, most boring team sport in the world. Nothing could make it a good game, but one thing that could be improved by vigorous tasing is the pansy practice of pretending to be injured for the purpose of drawing the referee "yellow cards" that decide most contests.
Soccer refs? Put away the damn red and yellow cards. Tase these phony creeps and make them play their damn nil-nil game like men.
NHL Hockey. Speaking of men. There was a time when The Hockey was played by men. Now they have helmets, visors, and method acting degrees.
Hockey refs are tough. Remind the players of Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull by tasing them when they act like Sidney Cohen.
NBA Basketball. Or is this the WNBA?
No. Lesbians are tougher. But the NBA con is older.
Professional Boxing. It's been on a downhill path for a long time. Ring refs should know when to stop a fight suddenly "by accident" rather than perpetuate an official travesty.
Truthfully, I'm ready for boxing to be banned. Tasing is far more humane than what they do to each other for paychecks that are stolen from them by everyone. (Yes, I'm becoming Howard Cosell. Proudly.) Just tase both fighters when they enter the ring. Much better outcome all around.
Professional Golf. Just for Rob Charry. Because golfers aren't athletes. For example, PGA officials should tase golfers who don't have athletic bodies. Unlike offensive linemen in the NFL, who never look like Kate Smith, only with bigger boobs and a less pretty face. And golfers who don't know how to dress, unlike every NFL wide receiver and NBA star.
Though there is a syndrome related to professional golf that does require tasing. It's hinted at here. And here.
You see? Tasing would be much kinder. No one's seeking senseless bloodshed here. (Although I am rooting for the Hell's Angels to get the first crack at this particular problem, even before my own suggested solution.)
Finally. As a baseball fan, I really wanted to find some way to bring the taser solution into the problem of homeplate umpires who can't call balls and strikes better than a blind man staring in the opposite direction from the pitcher. I had ideas, struggled with the 'who' problem on taser control, and was innovating a fan-held remote taser option when I stumbled across this:
Okay. I admit it. Referee type jobs are difficult. Lots of instantaneous judgments required. Something like cops have to deal with in public safety situations. Maybe, just maybe, the decisions should be left to the professionals. And if and when we second guess those decisions, perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Unless we're Rob Charry. In which case we can be certain Tiger Woods was never an athlete and Richard Petty was just a redneck with a cowboy hat and a heavy throttle foot. You know. Expertise.