Tag Archives: personal responsibility

Misdirected Sympathy

22 Nov

fan-falls-from-top-deck-to-bottom-in-buffalo-b (1)You know how that guy got up onto a railing up in the 300 level at the Ralph? He put his ass on the railing, started to slide down, lost his balance, and plummeted into the level below, and onto another human being; an innocent and wholly unsuspecting human being, who was simply minding his or her own business, spectating a football game. 

We don’t know if the faller was drunk or high, or just stupid. Regardless, he made a poor and reckless choice, and could have killed himself – or worse, someone else. That no one died is amazing. 

So, let’s just say it: the rail-sliding asshole made a dick move and deserves what’s coming to him – firing, barred from the stadium, public embarrassment, and a thick and juicy lawsuit which may very well bankrupt him. He deserves every bit of it, just like you fervently believe that Dr. Corasanti deserved to be punished for striking Alex Rice with his car and killing her. 

But I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing in the media about the fallout from the reckless slider’s dick move. Oh, Eric Mower went to far by firing him! Oh, the Bills are overreacting! Oh, his poor life is roo-ned

FFS. 

This column in the Niagara Gazette perfectly distills the sympathy-for-the malfeasor angle. Let’s fisk it. 

My husband and I were having dinner with my oldest son the other day when he told us he knows that guy who fell onto another fan at Sunday’s Buffalo Bills game.

After talking with my son about his friend. I could feel a turnabout in my reaction to the event.

When I first heard the story, I felt queasy. Who among us can’t picture themselves enjoying a Bills game on a beautiful sunny day, minding our own business? Nobody ever thinks that some knucklehead will fall on us from the deck up above.

But as I learned more about the young man, it was like someone had refocused the lens on my awareness and suddenly the poor, unsuspecting fan who was fallen upon went out of my focus and the young man who fell upon him came into focus.

This is astonishing. Because your son is friends with a kid who just got through ruining his life, we can just forget about the guy who is the real victim and attempt to turn the reckless slider into a hero? What bizarro world is this? Let’s be clear – the reckless slider is lucky. to. be. alive. That’s it, full stop. 

I’m willing to bet that if the dummy who fell was just some average blue-collar shlub who lost his job delivering pizzas, no one would bat an eye. This? This was a good boy

Clearly, the faller made some bad choices, chief among them deciding it would be cool to slide down a railing at the edge of the top deck of seats.

Crazy, right? I’ve been in the upper decks. I don’t even like to stand up by those seats, they’re so far from the ground.  Who would mess around up there?

But, the other night at dinner, hearing about what’s happened to this guy, I couldn’t help but feel for him.

Not bad choices – dick move. He put his own life and the lives of others in direct peril, and for what? Bravado? Drunken feat of sliding? I have zero sympathy whatsoever for the person who set his own chain of negative events in motion

After the video of his fall went viral, he was fired from his job at at Eric Mower and Associates. His employer announced the firing on Facebook. The Bills banned him from the stadium — forever. Add to his punishment that he hurt someone with his thoughtless behavior, in an action which will be available to watch again and again on the Internet until the end of time. The road for this guy is bound to go steeply uphill for a while.

Wait a minute here. Your sympathy switched from fallee to faller because he got fired and can never set foot in the Ralph again? And because his fall will be on YouTube? Is this for real? 

First of all, we have to presume that the faller was an at-will employee with Eric Mower. This means that the company could have fired him because the sun was shining or not shining; they could have fired him because it was a Tuesday – an at-will employee can be fired at any time for any reason at all, or no reason whatsoever, just as he can terminate his own employment in the same way and for the same reasons.

If Mower decided it didn’t want some asshole who recklessly falls on top of other people at football games on its payroll, it is wholly within its rights to get rid of him. Furthermore, he had a side business, and if his fall is so goddamn great for humanity, maybe he can use it as a selling point for his own design shop. “Hire us: we almost kill people” might be an effective slogan. I dunno, I’m not in marketing. 

He can’t ever go to a Bills game again? Boo hoo cry me the Buffalo River. Again: he’s lucky he isn’t up on manslaughter charges. So his choices of entertainment venues has a subtraction of one. Small price to pay. 

YouTube? If you don’t want people to turn you into a Tosh.O bit, then don’t try that shit at home. 

My son, who is not one to suffer fools gladly, described his friend as an intelligent, kind and funny young man. 

Because I respect my son’s opinion, I had to reconsider my own.

I imagine most of us, at one time or another, have done something colossally stupid and just got lucky that things didn’t end badly.

While my initial response was to feel deep sympathy for the man who was fallen upon, I now — knowing the rest of the story — also feel deep sympathy for the man who fell.

So, because he’s your son’s friend, he doesn’t deserve to suffer the consequences of his actions?

To him — as the mother of his friend — I would like to say this:

Surely you wish this never happened to you, but what I have learned repeatedly in my years, is that you don’t want to wish someone away from an experience that could shape their character and their destiny, because even the most horrific events are rich with opportunity for personal growth.

Maybe he should add it to his resume: “Achieved personal growth through a bad choice that almost killed myself and someone else”. 

There are two paths that lie ahead for you. You can let that horrible day in the stadium define you and perhaps destroy the very best that you are or you can use the event as an opportunity to evolve into an even better human.

I’m certain you already know all this, as every child is taught some form of what I’m saying here, but I also know from experience that we forget the most important life lessons, just when we need them most.

Take the consequences of your actions bravely and do not complain. Make it right as best you can with the most integrity you can muster.

Hope you’re judgment-proof, have good insurance, or a good lawyer! You’re going to be facing criminal and civil time in court. 

You’re getting beat up in the media and online. Forgiving yourself for this incident will be the hardest. Flog yourself a little if you must, but then get on with the business of living.

“Forgiving yourself”?! No, flog yourself a fucking lot. Re-examine the person you are and the choices you’ve made. Re-evaluate what led you to show off like that and almost take a life? Don’t forgive a thing – get help. You clearly need it. “Getting on with the business of living” is the sort of feel-good bullshit that teaches people that it’s ok to do fundamentally and palpably stupid, dangerous things as long as you have a modicum of hippie self-awareness. 

You’ve received a hard lesson, at your own hand, but there’s a strong possibility that it could be your most important lesson.

Yes, don’t tempt fate by trying to pull off inherently dangerous stunts. (How much do you want to bet he sues the Ralph himself because, e.g., it didn’t have spikes on the railing to prevent dumb assholes like him from doing dumb asshole moves like he did?) 

Lastly, during this public humiliation, you will learn who your friends are. They will understand what we all inherently know but often forget — that while there are many of us who would have never done anything as wild and risky as what you did, we likely all know and care about at least one other person who might.

 Yeah, no. One thing you learn when you become an adult – and our reckless slider is pushing 30 and has no excuse – is to behave yourself. When you don’t, you’re going to suffer the consequences. And part of being an adult is doing just that, and you don’t whine about it, and you plead with your friends’ moms to please not write sympathetic drivel in the local paper. You’re a dick. Try not being a dick in the future. 

Accountability

2 Jul

Volunteer Basketball coach at McKinley High School, Michelle Stiles, was suspicious why full-time boy’s basketball coach James Daye was seen leaving the home of one of her players late one evening. After bringing it up, Stiles was summarily dismissed.

(Daye? He was placed on administrative leave in March. Apparently, he had sex with a student while he was teacher in South Carolina in the 1990s. Daye denies this.)

Jayvonna Kincannon, the captain of the girls’ basketball team, was upset at this, and used a cell phone in school in order to add herself to the speaker’s list for a board of education meeting one night. This also was met with swift and unfair punishment.

When a student is suspended for over five days, that student has a right to a hearing under state law. Kincannon never received one. She was suspended for five days, and then, upon her return, informed by letter with Superintendent James Williams’ name on it that she was suspended for an additional six weeks. The special investigator, David Edmunds, found Barton’s fingerprints figuratively all over that 7-week suspension order. It was revenge.

In any event, the 7-week suspension, and the 5-week reduced suspension was an excessive and completely disproportionate punishment. While the school has a right to enforce the rules, it cannot arbitrarily, capriciously, or maliciously impose an illegal, longer sentence such as they did in Kincannon’s case. Although her suspension is now expunged from her record, without the media spotlight on this, it would have just happened. How many more kids are being unfairly punished in the system?

Some members of the Buffalo school board wanted to make the people who did this to Kincannon answer for their actions and misdeeds. They wanted Barton – who refused to participate or cooperate with Edmunds’ investigation – to be punished. They wanted other administrators to be punished. After all, why should a school administrator violate a student’s – a child’s – civil rights and rights as a student in the Buffalo school system with impunity?

Shouldn’t part of what kids get taught in school be personal responsibility? Accountability? That when you make a tough decision, and it turns out to be the wrong one, that there are consequences?

Evidently – and sadly – no.