Why ‘pay attention to the game’ is a dumb argument against extended netting
As is always the case when a fan is injured by a foul ball a conversation about protective netting has emerged in baseball over the past couple of days. As is always the case when that conversation emerges, the first argument of people who are against extending protective netting is “if people would simply pay attention to the game this wouldn’t be a problem.”
Typically my response to that is to note that there are a lot of distractions at a baseball game. Vendors. Scoreboard information and entertainment. The MLB app itself which encourages use and interaction with your phone during a game. Conversations with people near you. Between that and the fact that the seats are closer to the action than ever and the fact that balls come screaming off of bats at over 100 m.p.h., giving someone as little as two seconds to react, it’s simply unrealistic to expect thousands of people to pay such close attention that they’re never at risk.
My friend Jeff Snider of Baseball Essential, however, has an even better response to that: you can be paying super close attention to the game and still be at risk. It all just depends on what you’re paying attention to:
I have a hard time not judging the fandom of someone who thinks “pay attention to the game” and “have your eye on the batter every second” are synonymous. One of the best things about attending live baseball games is watching all the other stuff that goes on off-camera.— Jeff J. Snider (@snidog) May 31, 2019
“How does Kevin Kiermaier get such good jumps? I’m gonna watch him for a few pitches and see what he’s doing as the pitch is coming in.”— Jeff J. Snider (@snidog) May 31, 2019
“Paul Goldschmidt is a good baserunner without being fast. I’m gonna watch his secondary leads and see what he’s doing.”
So much to see.
There are legitimate discussions to have about netting at stadiums re: height, how far down the line, etc. But “just pay more attention” is not a serious argument, and “why bother, you’re never gonna totally protect everyone” isn’t much better.— Jeff J. Snider (@snidog) May 31, 2019
So, anti-netters: in addition to not paying attention to people, scoreboards, phones or anything else, should fans at the game also not pay attention to defense and base-running? Inquiring minds would like to know!