I experienced something instructive while covering a high school baseball tournament a few months back. Our local minor league baseball team graciously afforded its stadium for use in the event.
The stadium closes its upper deck for purposes of the tournament because high school crowds are nearly always small enough to fit into the lower seating area. Indeed, none of the games of this tournament even came close to testing the capacity of the lower section.
The luxury boxes happen to be in the lower deck as well. Naturally, they’re off-limits (and locked). However, there is a row of outdoor seating in front of each box that affords me, a working member of the media, an unobstructed view of the field.
This is crucial to shooting video. The position the TV cameras use is behind and above home plate. This is less than ideal, because it means shooting through the netting above the backstop. It’s still the necessary position for television cameras because of their size and cost.*
I have a smaller camera. I prefer sitting down the first base line, with nothing between me and the field. The only trouble is that a fan standing up at the wrong moment will completely block my view. The easy solution is to sit in one of the outdoor seats in front of the box. The few feet of extra elevation gives a clear angle on the action.
Shortly after arriving on the first day of the tournament, I found my way to my preferred seat. I settled in and prepared to go to work for what would be about a fifteen-hour day.
An overzealous security guard accosted me just as the first game was about to begin.
“Sir, sir . . . you can’t sit in those seats.”
“I’m working media.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll have to move.”
“This is the exact –
“- the exact seat – “
“ – seat I used last year.”
“Sir, no one is allowed to sit in those seats. You’ll need to find somewhere else to sit.”
In my head, I knew I was right. But I also knew that the downside of refusing to move might be getting ejected from the premises. I normally think in terms of worst-case scenarios. In this instance, the worst case was me missing a half-dozen games that I was supposed to be covering.
By the end of the second inning, the entire row of forbidden seats in front of the box was full. None were occupied by media members.
The yellowshirt never came back.
It occurred to me as I sat there that this entire incident perhaps represented a fundamental flaw (or at least one important flaw among many) I have.
I’m a rule-follower. Despite my irreverent tone and willingness to “call bulls**t,” I am, at bottom, respectful of authority to an outdated, counter-productive degree.
As a result, I fail to take advantage of many rules that the rest of society sees fit to bend. I won’t turn right on red if a sign says not to do so. I won’t jump to the front of a line if I see an opening. I won’t lie in a job interview.
I notice that those around me who do these things tend to “get ahead.” To be sure, I’m not suggesting that everyone who has success breaks rules. Only that circumventing otherwise-mandatory behaviors is one method for overcoming a talent gap in many different settings. I also know that, for every “success” story, there’s an example of a person being reprimanded or worse for failing to act in accordance with relevant guidelines. That motivates me to an extent, but this aspect of my personality is more deeply ingrained than a simple fear of punishment.
Maybe I’m noble. Maybe I’m a fool. Either way, I think it’s too late to change something that fundamental at this point in my life. For better or for worse, this is how it’s going to be.