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Opening Arguments

Good, but not too good

Here is the opening paragraph from Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron."

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Actually, Vonnegut was being downright Panglossian. We're going to reach total equality a lot sooner than 2081, and we won't need a constitutional amendment to get there. Here's an excerpt from the account of recent goings-on in New Haven, Conn.:

NEW HAVEN — The fight between youth baseball league officials and one of its teams over a player whose pitching is said to be too good for batters is moving from the ball field to the legal field.

Leroy and Nicole Scott, whose fast-pitching son, Jericho, 9, is at the center of the dispute, met Monday, along with another player's parents, with prominent attorney John Williams to see whether the season could be saved. Williams said Monday he will take legal action to try to get Jericho's team into the upcoming playoffs, where they belong after an 8-0 season. He also will sue the league over the pain and suffering of Jericho and the other young players.

League officials offered to move the team's 13 players to other squads after they tried to dissolve the team last week because the coach, Wilfred Vidro, refused to pull Jericho off the pitcher's mound as requested by league officials.

Jericho's pitches are so fast and accurate that league officials and some parents feared their kids weren't able to play freely, league attorney Peter Noble said recently. All the players on Jericho's team declined to move and are sticking together.

So, the message this kid is getting is: Be good, but not too good, or the other kids won't want to play with you. It turns out that some of those "league officials" have ties to another team -- the one that's won for several seasons in a row and is now stuck at No. 2. Big surprise there, huh?

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh thinks using the Harrison Bergeron analogy is goo much: "Competitive sports, especially but not exclusively among children, generally works best when the players have roughly the same ability. Including players who are much better than others tends to make things less fun for other players, for spectators, and sometimes for the much better players themselves. And it also makes things less educational for other players and for the much better players."



tim zank
Tue, 08/26/2008 - 7:39pm

Oh my God, let the kid play. You either have winners and losers or you or continue to "pansify" this once competetive nation.