After a series of incidents at Fenway Park (as well as throughout the MLB), the Red Sox brass decided to expand the protective netting close to field level this season. One famous Sox fan penned a piece published in the Boston Globe on Sunday regarding his distaste for the new netting.
Renowned author Stephen King notes in his Globe piece that, “I’ve been a Red Sox season ticket holder since the days when Wade Boggs was playing third base.” King is not happy about the netting now in front of his two dugout-area seats. He describes the loss of intensity and intimacy caused by the change, arguing that all fans who attend a baseball game accept an element of risk, and that they’re ultimately responsible for protecting themselves.
Citing statistics from Bloomberg News and Elias Sports Bureau respectively, King highlights that only 1,750 of about 74 million fans attending major league games per year are injured in game-related incidents. While King comments that the odds of getting hit by a bat or ball are “right up there with getting struck by lightning,” this notion is a bit disingenuous. Out of the 37,000-odd fans at a sold out Sox game, only those sitting in the first tier and close to the field may have a ball or bat fly their way, meaning that those 1,750 injuries come from an “at-risk” population much, much less than 74 million.
It’s also worth doing some further analysis of those numbers; if there are 1,750 game-related injuries per year, 162 games in a season, and somewhere between 12 and 15 MLB games taking place on a typical day, that means the odds of a fan getting hurt at an isolated game is about 70-90% percent. (For those skeptical of that math: 1,750 injuries/162 games=about 11 injuries per game day. 11 injuries per day/15 games per day=73% chance of a fan getting hurt at one of these games. Don’t treat that as an authoritative statistic, merely a reasonable interpretation of the data.)
I’m personally alarmed by how frequently fans are getting hurt. It’s hard to believe that there’s actually such high odds that one fan will get injured at a baseball game you attend this year. Maybe the Bloomberg statistics are flawed. Still, even if that number were as low as 500 fans injured in game-related incidents per year, the frequency of these injuries would be disturbing. In my mind, for King to value “the taste and texture of the game I care for above all others” (in ridiculously good seats that many Sox fans would kill to just sit in once) over minimizing these dangerous incidents is absurd.
Yes, fans should absolutely pay attention and be acutely aware of the risks inherent when attending a baseball game. But that doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive with teams taking it upon themselves to protect their fans.