What’s catching a few winks in public worth to you?
Andrew Robert Rector of New York reckons it’s worth $10 million to him.
He dozed off at a Major Baseball League (MLB) game. Television cameras caught him and voila, here were his few minutes of fame.
Except, Mr. Rector decided to expand his few minutes of fame. He decided to develop it into a case of infamy. He filed a $10 million defamation suit against ESPN’s broadcasters Dan Shulman and John Kruk who, he claims in the court papers, subjected him to an “avalanche of disparaging words,” whatever that is supposed to mean.
A semi-illiterate lawyer named Valentine Okwara wrote the lawsuit for Mr. Rector. Why semi-illiterate? Because a self-respecting lawyer would never permit a document filled with typos and grammatical errors to leave her or his desk, never mind her or his office.
As New York Post reported, the suit claims that broadcasters Shulman and Kruk made “false statements” that included such dreadful suggestions as Mr. Rector is “not worthy” to be a Yankees fan and “is a fatty cow that need two seats at all time and represent symbol of failure.”
In fact, Mr. Rector is of the view that he was made out to be “a confused individual that neither understands nor knows anything about history and the meaning of rivalry between Red Sox and New York Yankee.”
So, the used-car dealer’s lawyer writes Mr. Rector has “suffered substantial injury” to his “character and reputation,” as well as “mental anguish, loss of future income and loss of earning capacity.”
This character, reputation and mental anguish stuff has become an incredibly popular feature in similar lawsuits. One would think the plaintiffs are all people of sterling reputation, and the defendants have been dragging their names through mud all along, one and all.
The broadcasters, in Mr. Rector’s view, are not the only guilty parties. He included Major League Baseball, ESPN and the Yankees as defendants, too.
A YouTube video posted by MLB, titled, Fan sleeps in stands during game vs. Red Sox, shows Mr. Rector slumped in his seat with his eyes shut and his head lolling over his right shoulder.
Except, it seems, the two broadcasters never called Mr. Rector any animal names. An archived audio of the play-by-play reveals only that Shulman and Kruk were somewhat surprised to find the fan snoozing during the 2-1 game.
They wondered how long he had been at it, with Kruk noting: “It’s only the fourth inning!”
His colleague then asked: “Did he sleep through the (Carlos) Beltran homer? I mean, 45,000 people stand up and cheer, and he sleeps through?”
Whereupon Kruk observed that, “I think it would be tough to, but he seemed pretty comfortable. It didn’t look like he just started to sleep.”
They did poke fun at Mr. Rector’s girth, with Shulman asking the famously rotund Kruk: “Not a cousin? Not a relative?”
“No, I don’t think so — but you never know,” Kruk replied.” I didn’t get a good look at him because of the head tilt. But I mean physically he could be, yeah.”
Have you found any of the most inflammatory words alleged in the suit — including “fatty” and “stupid?” Mr. Rector claims they were heard “by millions of people all over the world.”
Of course, the entire episode caused a number of bloggers and sundry online commentators to add their voices to the choir, but they are not included in the suit. Not yet, at least. Even though the names they are calling Mr. Rector are nothing to write home about.
Speaking of home, Mr. Rector’s mom, Hana Rector, defended his suit. That’s what moms are for: to defend their children no matter how stupid they are.
“It should send the message that idiots need to stay out of people’s business and not make fun of people who are harmless,” New York Post quotes Mrs. Rector as saying. That perfectly diminishes the impact of her next statement: “If he paid for the tickets, it’s his prerogative what he does.”
If she’d only left it at that. But no, she had to add: “Whose business is it if he’s sleeping? He can do whatever he wants.”
If he only slept on camera at a baseball game, Mr. Rector could have explained it away. He could say that he subscribed to the world-infamous Peter Adler theorem. It reads, verbatim: Baseball is the best non-toxic replacement for sleeping pills.
By filing the lawsuit he made himself a laughingstock.
A cynic would say, a laughingstock, all right, yes, but one who’d be laughing all the way to the bank.
Not so fast.
Remember the lady who sued McDonald’s because the coffee she bought was too hot?
For the record, according to court documentation of those proceedings, it was anywhere between 82 and 88 Celsius, meaning it was below boiling temperature. These documents reveal, also, that the lady scolded herself while a passenger in a car, as she tried to open the styrofoam cup in order to add cream and sugar.
What she did was dangerous. The multi-million-dollar original sentence made headlines around the world. It looked much differently on appeal. There exists no public documentation of the final resolution of the case but, mildly put: the plaintiff lady was no longer laughing all the way to the bank.
The only thing her lawsuit caused was to publicize the expression “frivolous abuse of the judiciary,” and force all kinds of companies to increase the prices of their products by the cost of printing all kinds of warnings on their containers.
Philosophically speaking, it made the entire humankind look like a bunch of useless morons. Caution, the ice is slippery. Caution, drinking alcohol while digesting sleeping pills may enhance the pills’ effect on your body. Caution, this chainsaw is sharp and can cause you a substantial injury if you touch it while it’s in motion.
Of course, you can’t just go and write a law banning frivolous lawsuits before they’ve hit the courts. Everybody has the right to have her or his case heard before an independent court. But a neat amendment might help: whenever a court of law finds a lawsuit was frivolous, it ought to fine both the plaintiff and the lawyer. The fine should be substantial: the entire cost of the proceedings, including the wages of everybody involved, even the janitors. And a certain percentage on top of it, as a deterrence. Hit in their wallets, these people would think twice before trying anything like that again.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rector accused ESPN’s broadcasters of insinuating that he was stupid. They did no such thing.
But by suing them, Mr. Rector has proven for all times that if they were to say anything of the kind in the future, they would be perfectly right.
Tagged: Andrew Robert Rector, Boston Red Sox, coffee, Dan Shulman, defendant, ESPN, frivolous lawsuits, hot coffee, John Kruk, Major League Baseball, McDonald's, MLB, New York Post, New York Yankees, plaintiff, Valentine Okwara