You know how in football sometimes we watch a wide receiver make a spectacular catch, but due to the rules laid down before the season began it isn't a catch? We see the replay over and over, and by the rules of common sense it's a catch. It's totally a catch. If you and I were out at a park playing a friendly game of gridiron and your friend Wyatt made the same catch it would totally be a catch. And not only that, everyone would be filled with glee because it was such a great catch, and even if you're on defense you can't help but be happy to have been a part of something so good.
But a professional sport doesn't work like that. It isn't self-policed the way our friendly game is. There are rules.
Last November twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer while holding a pellet gun. On Friday, the city of Cleveland produced court documents that argue Tamir was responsible for his own death. Specifically, they argue that Tamir "failed to exercise due care"[^1] in order to avoid injury.[^2]
There's a video of Tamir being killed. Normally I avoid watching these videos. I'm sensitive or afraid. I don't want to see someone be killed. But I watched this one.
Mark has written about it before: how Tamir played with snow and crushed ice under his feet, how he wandered around for minutes at a time, how he should have been afraid to be a twelve-year-old boy.
I watched the video knowing how it would end, but I was still shocked when the squad car burst into frame and a police officer shot Tamir not two seconds after opening the door. I don't know what I expected. Some kind of movie stand-off, I guess.
"Don't move! Show me your hands! Drop the gun!" A tense silence. Tamir makes the wrong move. Bang. Cue the music.
I was expecting something that conformed to common sense. Except the rules aren't based on common sense.
Sometimes a catch it isn't a catch and sometimes a twelve-year-old boy is responsible for his own murder. The only difference is, in the NFL everyone knows the rules and they apply the same to everybody.
- [^1]: A phrase I will never forget.
- [^2]: "Being shot in the stomach."