Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What's harder to do in sports than hitting a round ball with a round bat?

Okay, I wouldn't bring this up in my political blog, except that I am beginning to think the only solution is political.

See, I am a part of this weekly pick-up softball game every Saturday in Culver City. It is a really fun game, spirited but not too competitive. We don't count innings until we start to get tired and decide it is the top of the seventh. Everybody throws in a little bit of money to cover the field and balls: $5 a game, or $100 for six months.

Anyway, after missing a lot of games this winter because of the 100-year storms, Culver City decided to rip up our contract. We had even just signed legal waivers saying we wouldn't sue if we got hurt during a game. While trying* to get our money back, we realized how hard it is to play a pick up game of softball in LA. Now a days you have to have a committee and a friend in the Parks and Recs department just to play at a park or a school on the weekend. We started meeting at a middle school in Sherman Oaks--which hardly had a proper field, just a backstop abuting a lawn--but they kicked us off, saying we need a permit to play. That is basically the policy everywhere--many fields are simply locked up; the others are either already reserved or require a permit, an onerous process that as we have seen may result in money being stolen.

I won't expect anyone else to care about this, but I do think there is a basic public policy problem here. Public fields should be open to the public, and any permitting process should be used only to avoid conflicts when too many people want to use the field at once--not to make money, discourage use, or reward local corporations.

*Update 5/9/05: I am told our group did get its money back.


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