2004-09-15

Accountable On and Off the Field


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Monday, Texas Ranger relief pitcher Frank Francisco became irate and threw a chair from the bullpen into the stands at Oakland Coliseum, injuring a woman. The following morning he was arrested and will be charged with battery in addition to a likely civil suit.

On the one hand, I'm pleased that the man was arrested and charged. It is high time that criminal activity be treated like criminal activity, even when it happens under the auspices of athletic competition. It is high time that athletes be held accountable for their actions.

On the other hand, I'm a little distressed at some of the discussion I'm hearing. Questions like, "Did the fans step over the line?" imply that perhaps Francisco was justified, that there might be some point at which one just has to say, "That's it! It's time I threw a chair at your head!"

I understand that fans can get out of hand. They too should be held accountable. A ticket is not a license to act like an obnoxious pig. I've been there, and I've heard the logic. "I work hard all week. I'm out at the game and this is my chance to let loose." And then they proceed to do and say things that a person is never justified in doing or saying, regardless of when and where you are, how much you paid for your ticket, how difficult your life is, etc.

Throw alchohol into the mix and the whole situation grows exponentially more ugly.

The real lesson hidden in all of this: words are powerful. They hurt, they crush, they incite! People need to understand this and measure carefully what they say. Athletes need to understand this and be ready. Picking up that chair was a choice. Whatever verbal mayhem inspired the act, Francisco was the one who moved the situation beyond words. Now he must be held accountable.

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