SIDELINE SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
A few years ago someone sued McDonald’s for making hot coffee. I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve heard that cold coffee is a bigger crime.

In any case, someone suffered burns when she-not someone else-spilled hot coffee on herself. I guess the rationale was that if the coffee had been lukewarm, she wouldn’t have been burned.

A 2-year-old boy recently banged into a playground railing in Stamford, Conn., and suffered cuts on his head. His mother sued the city, claiming the accident hurt “his modeling and acting career.”

She might as well have added the possible loss of college scholarships and a potential professional athletic career.

In a letter to city officials, the mother claimed the railing was painted the wrong color, pointing out that it blended in with the landscaping. It should have been painted a brighter color, she said.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. You can’t make this stuff up.

We’ve become a country long on lawyers and short on common sense.

While legitimate cases of neglect are out there, we have more cases of people not taking responsibility for their actions.

Given the growing number of lawsuits, how long will it be before someone sues an official for making a bad call that determined the outcome of a game?

A lawyer would argue, “My client coaches a middle school team. His chances to advance in the coaching profession have been severely hampered by this official, who counted a last-second shot, even though films clearly show that the shot was taken two-tenths of a second after the buzzer.

“Instead of having an unbeaten team, my client has a blemish on what should have been a perfect record. Who knows? The loss might have kept him from landing a varsity head coaching job at a high school.

“Assuming that he would have been successful as a high school coach, he likely would have become an NCAA Division I coach. He would have qualified for a big multimillion-dollar contract, shoe contracts, and much more.

“The financial damages from that one bad call are potentially millions of dollars. You have no choice, your honor, but to rule in favor of my client.”

If the current trend continues, lawsuits will become as commonplace as Pete Rose’s oft-heard claim that he never lied about betting on baseball.

Imagine the possibilities. Players could sue coaches for not giving them enough playing time. Parents also could sue coaches for not giving their child enough playing time.

And officials could be sued by everybody. When there’s a collision between two players on the basketball court, an official might be forced to blow his whistle and think, “If I call an offensive foul and I’m wrong, I could be sued. If I call a blocking foul and I’m wrong, I could be sued.”

Schools could be sued because poor lighting in the gym hindered the development of their athletes. Or, schools could be sued because of an overemphasis on academics that deprived players of valuable time honing their skills.

Coaches and players might sue sports columnists, claiming that the criticism of their performance caused irreparable harm to their self-esteem.

Schools could sue fans for not making enough crowd noise, thereby not giving their team a true home-court advantage.

Timers also could be sued. Imagine the damage that resulted to a player’s self-esteem when timers buzzed the horn five times to signify the fact that they fouled out. Nowadays, timers just ring the horn once and hold up their hand indicating a player has five fouls.

Speaking of another self-esteem issue, officials are now encouraged not to point at players who foul unless absolutely necessary.

Maybe officials should be able to sue fans when they yell, “I’m blind. I’m deaf. I want to be a ref.”

I know the good old days weren’t always that good, but the day may come when we realize we were better off when things were decided on the court instead of in court.

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