In July, a man attending a Texas Rangers baseball game died when he reached for a foul ball that was tossed to him by a player. He lost his balance, went over the left-field wall at the Texas Stadium, and fell to his death while his six-year-old son watched.
This is a tragic story, no doubt. But I’m a bit perplexed by the idea of a statue being erected at Rangers Ballpark to commemorate the man’s death.
Here’s what the president of the Rangers told the Dallas sports show Galloway and Company:
I’m trying hard to find a way to put this without being disrespectful. But to me, a statue commemorates some sort of act of bravery. The man in this case — I don’t name him on purpose, because this isn’t about him — died in a tragic accident, one that you could argue was his own fault.
A young Japanese woman was swept over Niagara Falls this week. She had straddled a railing meant to prevent people from falling into the Niagara River. She then lost her footing as she tried to return to the sidewalk, and fell into the river.
Where I come from in Nova Scotia, there’s a place called Peggy’s Cove, which is known for its picturesque lighthouse and its impressive waves. Gravely-written warning signs ring the cove:
And yet, this happens all the time:
Each year, especially during or after storms, people are swept from the rocks and either are or are not rescued.
Tragedies like this occur often. They are sad. But when does a tragedy — especially one caused by the behaviour of the victim — deserve or merit commemoration?
To the credit of the Texas Rangers, they have apparently been in regular contact with the family of the man who lost his life, and this statue has their support. That’s good. But I wonder if there was a dissenting voice within the organization. I wonder how one man’s tragic attempt to retrieve a souvenir of a night at a ball game is transmuted into a tribute to the fans of baseball.
It seems to me that this is an act that devalues the idea of commemoration. Celebrate the fan? Yes. Absolutely. Without them, there is no professional sport. Commemorate tragedy? Yes. But commemorate a death that resulted from the dead person’s mistake? Something just seems wrong. Let me give you two examples from the sport of bicycle racing. On a mountain in France, a plaque commemorates the death of Fabio Casartelli, who died in a crash on a descent in 1995. On another mountain, a plaque commemorates the death of Tom Simpson, who died while climbing a fearsome mountain doped to the gills on amphetamines.
Both deaths are tragic. But are both equally deserving?
I’m still not sure I’ve articulated my thoughts well. But maybe this is a start.