Monday, October 12, 2015

Snoozing Yankee fan grounds out in $10 Million lawsuit.

As the saying goes, "truth is a defense" to claims for defamation, as one sleepy Yankee fan found out. His name is Andrew Robert Rector, and ESPN's cameras caught him napping at an April game between the Yanks and the Bosox (perhaps he knew where the Yank's season was headed?).  The commentators called him "oblivious," and chided him for sleeping at a game. As a baseball fan, I watch the video and wonder why he was wasting that ticket? But I've never found much in the way of rational thought exhibited by Yankee fans, particularly when found wandering publicly in pairs or larger groups. The team never should have moved from Baltimore to New York, where they are just not appreciated (please note the irony in my typing, as I bemoan the fading fortunes of my modern era Orioles, the free agent incubator).

As reported by the New York Daily News,
The TV station’s cameras picked Rector out of the crowd for about 30 seconds as he slumped over in a box seat at the game. Rector’s suit alleged ESPN broadcasters Dan Shulman and John Kruk went on an “unending verbal crusade” using words like “stupor,” “fatty,” and “stupid” to describe him, along with other “vituperative utterances.”

Wait, Mr. Kruk called someone else "fatty?" He spent a career challenging the outer elastic limits of baseball pants.

But Mr. Rector hails from the Land of Trump, where the governing principle is "when criticized for something you actually did, sue for $10 Million." And that is just what he did--Mr. Strike Zzz sued ESPN, the announcers, the local station and MLB. He alleged defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other things.

Judge Julia Rodriguez granted a defense motion to dismiss, saying the comments were not defamatory, and at worst, "reflected hyperbole or a looseness of words."  And any sports fan will tell you that is a charitable description of most broadcasts (Jim Palmer said that when he started broadcasting he most feared running out of stories. Newsflash--he has).

Not every criticism is an actionable tort, especially when it is an observation of a true event. Judge Rodriguez and I have a shared message to the great mass of Yankee fandom, "get over yourself." Like Mr. Rector, none of them has hit, caught or thrown a single ball for any one of those 27 World Series and 40 American League Championships. As I prefer to read Judge Rodriguez, the average Yankee fan has just been indicted for extreme sports hubris.

And remember another fan incident at Yankee stadium that captured press attention, albeit fictional?

Go O's.