Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Major League Escort Service

Ya know;  at first, it sounds pretty cool.

A Major League baseball player getting a police escort to arrive at his game on time.

Who wouldn't like a police escort when your plans are changed at the last minute, and you have to be someplace really important, really, really soon?

Yesterday afternoon, that's the predicament in which Texas Rangers rookie Joey Gallo suddenly found himself.  He was trying to make it up from suburban Austin along a traffic-choked I-35 to the Rangers' ballpark here in Arlington, smack-dab between Fort Worth and Dallas.  And it was rush hour, which here in North Texas starts at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon, and ends around 7pm.

In the best of circumstances, it's a three-hour drive between Austin and here - four with moderately-bad traffic.  Reaching the Fort Worth area during rush hour?  Well, just make sure you have plenty of gas.

If you're an important employee at one of the biggest companies here in the Lone Star State, you might get a chauffeur-driven SUV, but you're still not going to get a police escort.  However... if you're an employee of a popular company in town... then it seems the cops are all too willing to help you out.

Gallo admits that he was speeding fairly recklessly on his way up from Round Rock, near Austin, and hauling through the exurban town of Alvarado, on the southern fringes of Fort Worth's sprawl.  That's where the police met up with him, but not to give him a ticket for driving dangerously.  He had played in Colorado the night before for the Rangers' minor league team, and had gotten back late to their hometown of Round Rock.  He was asleep at 1:30 yesterday afternoon when he got the call - literally - up to the major leagues, which meant he had to be in Arlington for last night's game, which was scheduled to start a little after 7pm.

Why the Rangers waited so long in the day to call him up is their business.  I don't understand the mechanics of baseball, which is as much of a business as anything these days.  But if Gallo was so important to the team last night, why didn't they put him on a plane?

It's not like either Gallo, with a Major League contract, or the Rangers are hurting for money.  Southwest Airlines has three daily non-stops between 3:10 and 5:00 in the afternoon, costing $231.  And Southwest doesn't charge baggage fees!

I realize that police escorts are fairly standard practice for signature sporting events, and bus caravans for prominent teams.  I've seen police escorts on our freeways for the fleet of Dallas Cowboys buses on gamedays here in Arlington.  When we've had big-ticket college events, I've seen tour buses for those teams being escorted by a squadron of motorcycle cops.  But those are rent-a-cops, off-duty officers, hired in advance so on-duty cops don't have to give the appearance of favoritism.  And it's for the entire team, not just one player.

Perhaps it's being generous to allow that the Rangers figured getting Gallo a police escort was a better use of public dollars than Gallo wrecking out at a high speed, and tying up first responder dollars all afternoon.  But how many heart surgeons rushing to the hospital for a critical surgery, for example, get a police escort?  For 40 miles?  That's approximately the distance Gallo was escorted.  According to Google Maps, the trip should take 42 minutes in normal traffic.

As it was, a pop-up thunderstorm delayed the game's start by about an hour.  And Gallo hit a spectacular fifth-inning home run clocked at 110 mph.  So things worked out just fine for him.  However, despite Gallo's homer, the Rangers ended up losing the game.

When it comes to reinforcing the perception that our society's elites just get more special privileges than the rest of us, however, the Rangers lost just a little bit more.

Update August 9, 2016:  The top law enforcement agency in the state of Texas has deemed Gallo's escort as "not appropriate" and the matter will be "addressed internally."

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