Streakers and clothed crazed fans everywhere — beware! What was once considered a good-spirited prank is now a criminal act.
This was all too apparent on May 3 when a teenage baseball fan hopped a fence and proceeded to run around the field at a Philadelphia Phillies game. After a 30 second chase scene reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin movie, the fan was eventually brought down when a police officer fired his Taser at the teen.
According to Associated Press reports, the teen was charged with defiant trespass, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey was reported to have reviewed tapes of the incident and found the police officer acted within the department’s guidelines.
While the use of a Taser gun to stop the exuberant fan has shocked some, it comes as no surprise to me. We live in a world where a parked van could contain a bomb and the sight of an airplane flying overhead invokes a sense of unease in many.
The world has changed. A teenage baseball fan being hit with an electric shock device is just one sign that our nation’s collective sense of propriety has been severely altered since Sept. 11, 2001.
Do I think that a person should be able to disrupt a professional baseball game with no consequences? No. But I think banning that fan from attending any other professional baseball event is probably punishment enough.
We, as Americans, cannot let fear rule our lives. This is true from the national stage, down to our town’s neighborhoods. If we allow it, gangs will rule our streets. The only way to prevent that from happening is to get out and talk to our neighbors, take our children to the parks and let the gang members know that we will not surrender our streets.
We can acknowledge the dangers that exist in our society and be prepared to address them, while at the same time keeping that uniquely American attitude that encourages individuals to express themselves through speech, art and idiotic acts of sports fans.
I’m pretty sure that if the police and security officers at the Phillies game allowed the teen to continue to run about the other hundreds of fans, who paid good money to watch a baseball game, would eventually boo him out of the stadium. That outcome would involve more shame and less notoriety for the teen — and fewer puncture marks.
Because, let me tell you, being Tasered is no treat. When I first started working at the Journal as a part-time reporter, I was given the assignment to write a story about the Merced County Sheriff’s Department using Tasers for the first time ever. I dutifully attended one of the sheriff’s department’s training sessions for their deputies so I could better understand how a Taser works and the circumstances in which a deputy would be authorized to use the device.
This assignment was going swimmingly until one captain asked for a volunteer to be Tasered. Not one of the 20 or so macho men present at that training session raised their hand. Seeing that no one was eager to volunteer, the captain said, “I know, let’s Taser the reporter!”
So, of course, I said “Why not?” I don’t know if my blood sugar was low that day or if aliens had taken over my brain without my knowledge, but less than five minutes later I was laying on the floor while electricity was being shot through my body.
The puncture marks are made when the fish hook-looking Taser barbs, which are attached to the wires that carry the electricity, are flung into your flesh. (I still have the barbs, if anyone cares to see them.) One thing I learned from that experience was, if a law enforcement officer yells, “Police freeze! Taser, Taser, Taser!” I am hitting the deck with my arms stretched over my head and admitting to any and all offenses I may be guilty of including overdue library books.
Being Tasered is much better than being shot by a gun, in my opinion, but it is a weapon that should be used on those who are endangering themselves and others, not on an annoying sports fan whose only crime is delay of game.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.