By Cole Rodocker – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student
Mom, Apple Pie and Baseball. All quintessentially American, all extremely bad for your health. With governments across the world encouraging participation in sport as a way of battling obesity, it should come as no surprise that many would push their aspiring Ryan’s and Ruth’s towards baseball, a sport more wholesome than most, cheaper than most, and far less susceptible to traumatic brain injury.
Unfortunately, the great American past time may in fact be doing more harm than good to the spectators it entertains and the children playing the sport itself. The result of a mostly sedentary sport and food provided at baseball games may beg the question as to whether more should be done by the MLB in order to facilitate the health of its players and fans. If a football player can sue for inevitable head trauma, why can’t a baseball player or fan sue for a concentrated push towards obesity? The MLB has been sued on numerous occasions over other health related safety concerns, claims that baseball has made someone fat may be right around the corner.
Baseball is well known for its feats of agility and raw power. Baseball is also known as being an extremely slow game for fans and players alike. With television viewership tanking, the MLB has implemented new procedural rules in order to eliminate some of the downtime, thereby speeding up the game without changing any of the fundamental rules. That being said, sitting down is inevitable; this goes for the players as well. During a game with a low score line, players in the outfield might languish until their turn at bat arrives, only to be quickly struck out and find themselves on the pine until they are forced into the field again. Recent studies have shown the catastrophic effects of sitting for more than 8-12 hours on the human body, an effect that in many instances is not even mitigated by regular exercise. The 7th inning stretch may need to be augmented by a 3rd, 5th, and even 9th inning stretch in order to combat the perils of sitting too long.
Even if one trains and strives to be the best they can be physically, baseball stadiums themselves may be a significantly to the increasing waistlines of North Americans. No one has ever asked to have a salad bought for them in lieu of peanuts and crackerjacks. Local sport concessions are predominantly full of less perishable foodstuffs such as soda, candy, hot dogs, etc, which are terrible for players and fans alike. Larger MLB stadiums have begun to diversify their food offerings, yet many of them are known for colossally calorific creations that might make skinnier fans shake their heads in disbelief. The Arizona Diamondbacks are known for the “D-Bat Dog”, a monstrous 18 inch long corn dog stuff with peppers, bacon and cheese, while the Tampa Bay Rays are known for a 4 pound burger which weighs in at over 8000 calories. For those with a sweet tooth, the Texas Rangers have you covered with the “Fried S’mOreo” which, unfortunately, requires little explanation.
As a corpus of law, “obesity litigation” has been generally unsuccessful, especially now that legislation is in place across more than half of the United States that prevents chain restaurants from being sued precisely because they made someone fat. Proving that a customer was duped into thinking something was healthy when it is in fact not has been successful in multiple instances, not the least of which was a recent class action lawsuit against Nutella. Baseball stadiums would be wise not to misjudge the perceptions surrounding the food they sell.
Thankfully, many stadiums also contain healthier options, not the least of which is the widely acclaimed “Veggie Cheesesteak” served up by the Philadelphia Phillies. The MLB is also a major partner in President Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign aimed at engendering better health for children through sport and improved diet. This will hopefully have its desired effect, but it should come as no surprise that the MLB would be so keen to partner in such an initiative. The sport itself and its various trappings create fertile ground for lawsuits concerning baseballs effect on obesity, especially in children participating in programs such as Let’s Move. While the MLB is not solely to blame for the obesity epidemic, it should certainly consider doing more at the grass roots level to both save itself from future litigation, as well as truly enhance the lives of its players and fans.