Saturday, July 9, 2011

Death at a Rangers Game

Thursday night, Shannon Stone, 39, was at the baseball game with his 6 year-old son. The Rangers were playing the A's, and Stone wanted a foul ball. He yelled to Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton that he wanted the next ball. When a foul came Hamilton's way, he turned and tossed it towards Stone in the stands. Stone, a firefighter with the Brownwood Fire Department, reach out to get it and fell out of the stands head first, 14 feet. He was injured but talking and asked rescue workers to check on his son. Then he had a heart attack and died.

If you go to the ABC website, you can see the video of the fall, but not the landing. Stone fell behind a barrier, and was therefore not visible from the field or the stands aside from right near where it happened. The video is horrifying enough if you know how the story ends.

I was pleased to read today that counseling has been offered to the Rangers players and, specifically, to Josh Hamilton. Hamilton asked after Stone after the fall and was told he was awake and talking. He didn't find out that Stone was dead until after the game. Apparently Hamilton is a recovering addict, which will make bouncing back from this event even harder. Unfortunately, when we're under extreme stress we tend to act in our most ingrained and familiar ways. If you're an addict, that addiction is almost as automatic as breathing, and under stress it tends to rear its ugly head.

This is one of those stories that just isn't "supposed" to happen. Taking your kid to the ballgame is about as wholesome as it gets. So immediately, we start looking for someone to blame. If it's someone's fault, then this isn't just a horrible freakish outcome of perfectly reasonable actions on everyone's part. If someone's to blame, somehow the rest of us are safer.

In this case, the Rangers, following a fall by a fan last year, had their railings looked at and pronounced up to code and safe. Hamilton was indulging a fan wanting a ball for his kid, something in other circumstances we would say makes Hamilton a great role model. Stone was doing what fans do, and if you look at the video it doesn't even look like he was reaching unreasonably far to do it. No one did things wrong, and yet this situation is terribly wrong.

Going to the game won't be any more dangerous this weekend than it was last, when I took my own 6 year-old to a game. But boy, it sure feels like it.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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