In the seventh inning of last October’s American League Wild Card game between the Blue Jays and Orioles, a fan threw a beer can at outfielder Hyun Soo Kim in an attempt to interfere with a fly ball catch attempt. It didn’t work, as Kim still caught Melvin Upton, Jr.’s fly ball for the final out of the inning, but the incident sparked immediate outrage.
In the aftermath the Internet, quite predictably, went crazy, mocking and/or excoriating the beer-thrower. Eventually Toronto Police sent out a picture of the person they suspected to have thrown the beer. He was soon identified as Postmedia journalist Ken Pagan. Pagan at first told a half-truth, seemingly attempted to mislead — telling the press “I was drinking out of a cup” — but he soon came clean and was charged with “mischief.” He’d eventually be given probation and 100 hours of community service. He’d also lose his job with Postmedia.
Today there is a long — a very long — article from CBC News about Pagan, what led him to throw that beer and what has happened to his life since October. The short version: he was drunk and it was an impulse and, after some Internet infamy, the legal proceedings and some time delivering pizzas, he has managed to find a stable job outside of media. His girlfriend stuck with him and, though he’s banned from MLB ballparks and can’t really bring himself to watch Jays games yet, he’s gotten really involved in amateur baseball, his long time love, and seems to be in a pretty good place, all things considered.
Throwing a beer is not a capital crime, so at some point a guy should stop having to pay for such a transgression. As such, I’m happy that the guy is coming out of his bout with infamy mostly intact. Still, something about this whole story irks me.
Probably because of how deep a dive it is. We’re given Pagan’s whole life story, chronicling his love of baseball from childhood and his career arc. We’re given a play-by-play of that entire night, of course. We’re given a much longer account of his thoughts and feelings in the aftermath and the bouts of shame and embarrassment he went through and the now de riguer passages about just how mean the Internet can be to people.
All of which is important to Pagan — I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s suffering — but most of it seems calculated to make us forget that this is a pretty simple story: “Guy got drunk and did a stupid thing.” That’s really the alpha and omega of it, yet even that much is hidden by the writer’s misleading and inapt comparisons to Steve Bartman and other people made infamous due to mistakes at a baseball game or on social media. Bartman, of course, committed no crime and his act couldn’t have hurt someone like Pagan’s did. He also wasn’t acting like a drunken lout like Pagan was. Pagan is not public enemy number one by any stretch, but he’s not a Canadian Steve Bartman.
I suppose everyone is the lead actor in their own personal drama. This story is, no doubt, a formative one for Pagan and the lessons he learns from it will impact the rest of his life. I likewise don’t begrudge him the chance to give the world a better impression of who he is than that which it got last October. But people do dumb stuff everyday and rarely if ever do they get the full-blown, soft-focus redemption tale like Pagan gets here.
When we see stuff like this we should ask why it’s appearing. And why similar treatments do not appear for others who find themselves suddenly infamous for what, to them, are likely similarly uncharacteristic transgressions.