Thursday, July 10, 2008

Nanny-State: American Style

Want to play Wiffle ball? Want to make your own makeshift Wiffle-ball diamond like days of yore? Not so fast kemosabe. A group of kids built a makeshift Fenway Park to play Wiffle Ball on unused public land and the neighbors are hassling them because of "nuisances" "liability" and "traffic and drainage". Adults need to pull the stick out of their collective backsides. From the New York Times story:

After three weeks of clearing brush and poison ivy, scrounging up plywood and green paint, digging holes and pouring concrete, Vincent, Justin and about a dozen friends did manage to build it — a tree-shaded Wiffle ball version of Fenway Park complete with a 12-foot-tall green monster in center field, American flag by the left-field foul pole and colorful signs for Taco Bell Frutista Freezes.

But, alas, they had no idea just who would come — youthful Wiffle ball players, yes, but also angry neighbors and their lawyer, the police, the town nuisance officer and tree warden and other officials in all shapes and sizes. It turns out that one kid’s field of dreams is an adult’s dangerous nuisance, liability nightmare, inappropriate usurpation of green space, unpermitted special use or drag on property values, and their Wiffle-ball Fenway has become the talk of Greenwich and a suburban Rorschach test about youthful summers past and present.

I didn't wear an official Little League uniform until I hit 6th grade -- yet I played baseball almost every warm day that wasn't footall season. Gloves doubled as bases and when we had too few players someone might be full-time pitcher or play for both teams until some other kid ambled along. Bats? Shared. Gloves? Shared. Drinks? Why out of the water tap at the park or near whatever field we played in.

Kids activities are too organized and not only is it NOT fun if you or your kid is not professional-grade amateur -- it's expensive. Hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars a year. Give kids, bats, ball, and gloves and a bit of guidance and they'll figure it out. One of us checked out Joe Niekro's book out of the library and we taught ourselves to throw knuckleballs.

Parents (and our enablers in law offices, police stations, et al.) are afraid of injury, liability, child molestors, etc. All those things are possible, but not at all probable. Even worse -- it seems to be an insidious striving for equality. Everybody has to have the same awful experience.

1 comment:

Robert M. Lindsey said...

Build it and they will come. Of course, no one said "they" were uptight adults. And why did they wait until the kids had done all the hard work and then try to take it away from them? Why not ask what's going on when they started clearing the field? I have a Jane's Addiction lyric in mind right now that I won't type for fear someone with a lawyer will think ill of me.