Political Animal

Suing Your Way to a Lower ERA

SUING YOUR WAY TO A LOWER ERA….I’m generally skeptical of panicky invocations of doom caused by skyrocketing awards in civil lawsuits. Most of the time, big awards get front page treatment, but the fact that there’s actually some merit to the case gets buried in the back pages, and when the award get reduced 99% a year later it barely even gets a blurb.

Still, there is something disconcerting about our apparent tendency to sue over anything these days, even if most of the frivolous suits do get thrown out. The LA Times, for example, has a story this morning about Marc Martinez, who sued his son’s high school baseball coach:

Martinez alleged in his first suit that Emme harmed his son J.D.’s future as a college pitcher by making him pitch too many innings, damaging his arm. Martinez pulled his son off the team in his senior year and later filed another suit, saying the coach made false statements in a newspaper article, ruining his son’s chance for a college scholarship and, perhaps, a career in the big leagues.

….So far, most of the “disappointment cases” appear to be frivolous, said sociologist Richard Lapchick, who directs the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. But if juries begin handing up judgments, he said, it could leave coaches feeling handcuffed, afraid to talk freely with recruiters, second-guessing themselves on how they handle young athletes.

Overbearing parents are hardly a new phenomenon in teenage sports ? I still remember the (literally) hair-raising stories* my high school tennis coach told me 30 years ago about how his father treated him. But there’s not much question that it’s gotten worse, frequently leading to fights with both coaches and other parents, and now, apparently, to lawsuits.

Time to chill out folks. And remember: if your kid isn’t already a superstar in high school, the odds of a pro career are slim and none. Better to focus on their grades instead.

*Literally hair raising? Yes. After he lost a match one time, his father held him down and shaved his head as punishment.

UPDATE: In comments, ChrisL points out that good grades aren’t guaranteed to keep you away from lawsuits either….

UPDATE 2: Charles Kuffner, who is currently coaching a winless Little League team and is therefore a prime candidate to have his ass sued off, has some more thoughts on this.

Liberal Heroes

LIBERAL HEROES….I just read Todd Gitlin’s latest column in the Washington Post, pointed there by Atrios and Avedon Carol, who disapprove, and Gary Farber, who thinks it’s “spot-on.”

And….I dunno. Gitlin shakes his head at the “intense wounded rage” of the right, something that he agrees is inexplicable considering that ? basically ? they’ve won: not only did they win the war with Iraq, but they control “the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and, increasingly, the lower federal courts.”

But he also shakes his head at the “helplessness” of the left, suggesting that simply opposing conservatives isn’t enough. Liberals need to have solid, proactive policies, especially in the field of foreign affairs, not just furious reactions to George Bush.

Now, I basically agree with Avedon that

The Democratic left, at least, has perfectly good policies – they just aren’t as dramatic-sounding as Invading a Country! and Winning a War! and Enormous Tax Cuts! and what-have-you.

But if liberal policies really are more nuanced than conservative ones, that’s all the more reason that they need to be articulated more forcefully and more plainly, no?

So….I still dunno. I don’t think I’m quite ready to reject Gitlin’s critique just because I don’t like it. I guess I need to think about it some more. But he did say one thing that struck a chord:

For its part, much of the left now is drawn toward melodramatic good-guy, bad-guy polarization — or rather, would be so drawn if it could settle on who, if anyone, might occupy the positive pole.

Conservatives have their heroes, but do we have ours? I have to admit that when I survey the (broadly defined) political field, I find very few people I truly admire. Who are the liberal heroes of the beginning of the 21st century?