There are two stories I read over the past three days that got me all hot and bothered.
The second one, I’ll save for Wednesday’s post, because you don’t have the time or energy to read two rants from me today.
So I’m just going to talk about this fantastic, absorbing, and terrifying story I read from NJ.com’s gifted sports columnist, Steve Politi, who brought to light a story I had not heard anything about, and which indeed scared the hell out of me.
The headline of the story jars you right away: “He told a kid to slide. Then he got sued.”
Politi brings us the saga of a high school baseball coach named John Suk, who eight years ago was a 23-year-old leading the junior varsity team at Bound Brook High School in New Jersey. On April 4, 2012, Suk was coaching third base when, with his team leading 6-0, a kid named Jake Mesar hit a line drive into the outfield.
Mesar rounded second, and was headed for third. Suk thought it would be a close play at the base, so he instructed Mesar to slide.
Mesar did as he was told, and suffered a serious ankle injury. Many surgeries and rehabilitation later, Mesar is not able to play sports anymore. Doctors at the time actually feared they might have to amputate his right leg, but that didn’t come to pass.
The injury is unfortunate, absolutely. But what happened three years later is unprecedented: Suk was sued by Mesar’s family for recklessly endangering the livelihood of their son.
That’s right: Because Mesar was seriously injured when Suk instructed his player to slide, the family was suing him.
This is, of course, absolutely ridiculous, and I nearly shook with rage as I read Politi’s story. For four years this case dragged on, the sheer absurdity of it being lost on Mesar’s family.
As Politi so eloquently writes:
I had come to Somerville ready to ridicule, but it doesn’t take long for the gravity of the situation to hit me. If this jury of four men and four women decides Suk was reckless as a third-base coach for making this most routine decision, who else will end up in a courtroom like this someday?
What about the gymnastics coach who tells an athlete to tumble on a mat? Or the swimming coach who instructs a teenager to dive into a pool? Or the thousands upon thousands of parents who volunteer every weekend on soccer pitches and lacrosse fields and Little League diamonds?
If Suk is found liable for an injury that took place because of that slide — and if a seven-figure check is written because of his actions — what will happen to high school sports? Who will sign up for these coaching jobs knowing their reputation and livelihood might be in jeopardy? And how long before school districts drop sports entirely rather than pay skyrocketing insurance premiums?
Who, when you reach a certain age, hasn’t told a kid to dive for a ball and not worried as he or she hit the ground with a thud?
This idea, that because something bad happened during a sports game, someone must be to blame, is so prevalent in our society. John Suk told a kid to slide. And he had to suffer through years of trouble and accusations from a kid he coached’s family.
I don’t want to spoil for you how the lawsuit came out, because I really want you to read Politi’s fantastic piece. But even the idea that this case went all the way to trial, sends a shiver down my spine.
I have two sons. They’ll probably play youth sports in a few years. There’s an excellent chance I’ll coach some of their teams. And the idea that if I’m coaching third or pacing the bench at a basketball game and a kid gets hurt because I encouraged them to slide or dive and I’m going to get SUED for that???
Unbelievable. What a disgrace this lawsuit was.
It’s awful what happened to Jake Mesar. But millions of kids get hurt every day playing sports.
Telling a kid to slide shouldn’t make you end up in a damn courtroom.
Just makes me so mad…
**And now, we interrupt your Monday for a few seconds of a baby and a dog, sliding across an apartment floor, in adorable cuteness.
And now my weekly look at the nuttiness that is the National Football League, where each week up is down, down is up, and hitting someone over the head with their own helmet is frowned upon (more on that in a moment).
— J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets! A two-game winning streak! A destruction of maybe the worst team in the NFL, a week after beating another of the league’s doormats! Four offensive touchdowns in each game! They’re 3-7 baby, Super Bowl here we come…
OK, OK, relax. Beating two crappy teams means nothing. Still, it’s nice as a Jets fan to feel good on back to back Sunday nights, it doesn’t happen often.
— The Baltimore Ravens may be the best team in the NFL right now. Two weeks ago they knocked the New England Patriots from the ranks of the undefeated, and Sunday they demolished a pretty damn good Houston Texans squad, 41-7. Lamar Jackson did more Lamar Jackson things, running and throwing like few QB’s ever have, and the Ravens defense just dominated Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense (oh and they benefited from an atrocious non-call on pass interference; I truly have NO idea what PI is anymore, if this isn’t it.)
— So, I’m not sure how much you followed the Colin Kaepernick/NFL workout circus on Saturday, but for an unbiased, full recap of the ridiculousness of the NFL changing the terms and setting down insane rules for the workout, here’s Howard Bryant, a fine sportswriter, recapping it all.
Kap should be in the NFL. Full stop. End of story.
— Finally, OK, yeah, I have to weigh in on the Myles Garrett awfulness from Thursday night, when the Cleveland Browns star defensive end decided, after being roughed up by Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph, to rip off Rudolph’s helmet and then, shockingly, whack Rudolph over the head with it.
It’s no exaggeration to say Rudolph could’ve suffered serious brain damage. Those helmets are heavy. It’s also inexcusable for Garrett, until now known as a clean player, to lose his temper and do something so dangerous.
It’s also convenient how so many are overlooking the fact that Rudolph, seconds earlier, twisted Garrett’s helmet around and could’ve seriously hurt Garrett, which is likely what triggered the Browns player’s rage.
None of that is to excuse what Garrett did, of course. But it needs to be considered. It was an awful, despicable act, and it’s good Garrett is suspended for the year.
It’s just so Browns to finally beat Pittsburgh, get your season back on track, finally have something to feel good about, and then this happens in the final seconds.
The Browns, they’re always gonna Browns.