Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Trespass at the Open

The seemingly ageless Bob Costas was conducting an interview near the 18th green of the Olympic Club in San Francisco with U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson.

Suddenly an oddly dressed interloper inserted himself into the picture. Within seconds, the camera cut away — but not before the interruption broke the flow of the interview.

Simpson dealt with the distraction by acknowledging it. “Enjoy your jail cell, buddy,” he said, glancing off camera. His tone seemed to express genuine concern, not derision.

Costas reflected back Simpson’s statement, as good interviewers often do. The “gendarme” was now in charge of the situation, Costas observed.

This was a somewhat odd word choice, it seems to me. After all, “police officer" would have been much more straightforward. But it did give Costas a chance to show off his vocabulary.

In any case, I record the exchange because of how it reflects the reliance our society continues to have on incarceration, even for nonviolent offenses. Locking someone in a cell is America’s default position when dealing with deviant conduct that has been defined as criminal.

We are arguably not as open a society as we like to think ourselves to be. A more open society would probably not be so quick to bundle its enemies off to jail.


  1. And I wonder, Eric, what -- if any -- laws did the young man actually break? Dressing up oddly? Uttering some unintelligible sounds? Walking in front of a camera? Interrupting Bob Costas' life-changing interview? Or was it simply an act of anti-social behavior -- for which there shall never be enough jail cells in America.

  2. exactly my point, in this post and in this entire blog: There will never been enough cells, if incarceration is always the default position for virtually all forms of social conflict.