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Opinion: When A Video Isn't The Whole Story

The Chicago Cubs celebrate their win against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 22, and three children in attendance got to celebrate with foul balls.
David Banks
Getty Images
The Chicago Cubs celebrate their win against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 22, and three children in attendance got to celebrate with foul balls.

We live in times of instant mass outrage. Someone does something, says something or is seen doing something and they can be demonized with a click. The next time you might be tempted, think of this:

In the fourth inning of Sunday's game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs' first base coach tossed a foul ball to a smiling youngster in the stands who wore a Cubs hat endearingly too large for him. The kid bobbled the baseball. What people saw next in video clips that zapped around the world was a man with close-cropped hair, who sat behind the boy, scoop up the baseball and give it to the woman next to him.

Tweets and other social media posts began a barrage about the man who filched a foul ball from a little boy. There could be no doubt. We saw it.

The Cubs front office quickly dispatched a staffer down to the seats. He gave the youngster a new ball signed by Javy Baez, the Cubs shortstop. The little boy smiled under the brim of his boat-sized hat, and held up two baseballs.

The Cubs tweeted the photo to say, "A @javy23baez signed ball should take care of it."

What the Cubs discovered from people nearby was that the man in question wound up with four balls during the game, and gave three to children, including the young man who had appeared to be swindled. He also gave one to his wife; it was their anniversary.

Julian Green of the Cubs said in a statement, "Unfortunately, a video that was quickly posted and unverified has made a national villain out of an innocent man."

The man doesn't want to be identified, but said through the team, "Many foul balls came our way that day and were happily shared among the children in our area. No one left disappointed. I am not 'that guy' that the media and social media made me out to be."

And the mother of the little boy issued her own endorsement of the stranger who sat behind her son and so freely shared the baseballs he snared: "The fans in his section left the game giddy with excitement from a great game," she said. "Most of all our son, who had one of the best days of his life."

I almost retweeted that 12-second video myself, no doubt with some caustic comment. I think I would have, if the man with close-cropped hair had been a Yankees fan. I wonder how many people who passed along that video to condemn a man with a click will now pass along the true story of his kindness?

How many of us today would rather be outraged than informed?

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.