On July 8, 1994, the woman I’d eat bees for and I were fortunate enough to be at Fenway Park for a Red Sox game against the Seattle Mariners. It was a Friday night, and neither team had a winning record. Neither team would have a winning record by season’s end. But it was Fenway Park, which remains one of the more beautiful baseball parks in the Major League Baseball.
The Red Sox were losing 2-0 in the top of the sixth inning. The Mariners had runners on first and second. Then Marc Newfield hit a line drive to shortstop John Valentin. The runners had taken off as soon as the ball was hit, so after catching the ball, Valentin stepped on second base and then ran to tag the Mariner who had been trying to make his way from first to second.
And then there was silence.
Valentin ran off the field, and his teammates began to follow him, but many fans had no idea what had just happened. As it dawned on the crowd that Valentin had just made an unassisted triple play, the crowd erupted in approval. There was no social media at the time, and few fans had cell phones with them, so it took the public address announcer to confirm that we had just witnessed one of the rarest plays in Major League Baseball: making all three putouts in one fell swoop.
Had we had cell phones, undoubtedly devices would have been held up, and for the next several minutes, a healthy portion of the fans would have been consumed with their phones rather than with the game. Replays would have been running immediately. Texts to friends in and out of the park would have been sent.
And that would have been fine. Using social media to share joy over a communal witnessing of a rare event would not have bothered me. Sharing joy can be a good thing.
It’s when social media gets in the way and is sometimes used as a bludgeon toward players, coaches, and even other fans that a line is crossed. When at a sporting event, it’s hard to escape someone pointing their phone at other fans and making short video recordings while offering running commentary complaining about their behavior, whether that behavior is talking loudly, scarfing down sloppy hot dogs, or something else. What the recorder fails to recognize is that they are being no less disruptive or annoying than the loud talkers or sloppy eaters or whoever’s behavior is bugging them.
People talk loudly at baseball games. They serve sloppy food that gets eaten sloppily. It’s not the opera, for goodness’ sake. Not everything we find disagreeable needs to be reported on social media. If the loud talkers aren’t paying sufficient attention to the game or if the sloppy eater is paying more attention to the ratio of mustard-to-relish on his hot dog than to the scoreboard, don’t distract everyone else with your phone.
Better and perhaps the right thing would be to enjoy the game. You never know when the next unassisted triple play might come along.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice," is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.
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