American sports fans, TV commentators, and the chattering classes in general, were outraged at a Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees baseball game when an engaged couple grabbed a foul ball at the same time a little boy’s father was trying to snatch it for his son.
The child begins to bawl and makes a huge fuss – all caught on national TV.
The couple are then vilified as selfish and unfeeling for not handing the crying child the ball they had won.
The drama continues when the muscled ones on the playing field seeing the poor, distraught child, throw him another ball. The child is further rewarded a day or so later when the Texas Rangers team send him more loot – a team jersey and a very special ball signed by all the team players.
The father goes on to explain that he and the child had sat in those particular seats before and caught a ball, so the child’s expectation was that he hoped to do so again.
So one happy ending with one happy child.
But at what cost?
Was a teaching (and learning) moment lost?
Was it right the child be rewarded (and rewarded over and above his original expectation) because 1) he was a child and 2) because he was a crying child? Would that not have been a good time to model winning and losing and, moreover, losing with good grace?
If the child had looked disappointed but otherwise did not make any more fuss, would he have been singled out for the special treatment he received? Was it the whining that made the difference? A theory millions of kids everywhere are testing out as I write, no doubt.
Yes, the child had hoped to elicit the same luck as the last time he had caught a ball in similar circumstances, and which is okay. But I expect Denzel Washington to come through my bedroom door wearing only a pineapple, but it doesn’t happen, and no amount of crying changes that. I know. I’ve tried.
And what about the “Your wants and needs are as important as my wants and needs” learning missed?
Americans take their baseball very seriously. Something this avid child fan would already know and something I’ve witnessed first-hand the few times I’ve attended a game. When that prized foul ball comes hurtling towards your head at 600 mph, the person who catches it wouldn’t hand it over to you if you were the crying baby Jesus being breastfed by Gandhi.
The engaged couple then compound the situation by saying publicly they would have given the child the ball if they had been aware he wanted it, but that they were oblivious. Which is understandable. That financéd man knew he was getting him some that night because of that caught ball, a situation he was hoping his own balls… you get the picture.
So, yes, I believe they weren’t aware of the upset child, although I would have hoped the most they might have said had they been aware is, “Sorry you didn’t catch the ball, buddy. Maybe next time.”
From what I can make out then, a whining child was given a prize he didn’t win, and when he then makes a huge fuss he didn’t win that particular prize, he is given an even bigger prize.
It would be great if that bigger prize from the Texas Rangers came with an inscription which read:
“Hello, Bud, you didn’t get these nice things because you were whining, but because we couldn’t pass up this golden PR opportunity.”
But I suspect that will be another teaching moment batted out of the ballpark.