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Against Pouting

The above footage from Tuesday’s Giants-Dodgers broadcast has been making its way around the internet. As you will see in the video, a young man, having missed a shot at a foul ball proceeds to pout, get noticed by the gentlemen in the broadcast booth, and have a ball hand-delivered to his seat. The video has been celebrated by some as an example of the great things humans are capable of if we are just nicer to each other.

I see something far more insidious at work.

The message here is, apparently, that pouting pays. This boy went home with far more than just a baseball on Tuesday — he went home confirmed in the belief that no pout goes unrewarded. The Giants’ broadcasters have set a very dangerous precedent not just for this boy’s parents, but for this boy himself, and the future of our society as a whole.

For the boy’s parents: Obviously he’s going to become (if he isn’t already) an insufferable, whiny, spoiled, brat who makes himself vomit if mommy and daddy don’t let him eat his dessert before dinner, who throws a tantrum in the store when he isn’t bought the toy he wants, and who complains that “his parents don’t love him” when they only give him 50 bucks a night for Hanukkah.

For the boy himself: He will now go through life with the deeply mistaken belief that any hardship in life can be overcome with a good pout. Not only does this set him up for great embarrassment when he grows up and, for instance, is told that his credit card has been denied at a fancy restaurant and goes on to pout in front of all the other diners, but it could also carry tragic consequences. Perhaps the boy grows up to be less fortunate and comes to rely on government aid for his meals. However, one month his food stamps do not arrive. Dismayed by this perceived injustice, he pouts, and pouts, and pouts, all the while neglecting to pick up the phone and make a call. Unsurprisingly, he starves.

For society as a whole: All of the children who were watching Tuesday’s broadcast have also been told, tacitly, that pouting leads to good things. Consider for a moment what this means for our prospects for political progress in the future. The pout is a fundamentally passive act. It rests on the agency of others to right wrongs for the pouter as opposed to the agency of the wronged organizing, agitating, and demanding change. Imagine for a moment if the Congress of Racial Equality had advised southern Blacks to sit at home and pout as opposed to sitting-in at lunch counters.

I think the reason we adults find this video amusing and the boy endearing is because we know deep down that it presents us with a picture of the world exactly as it does not (and should not) function. This child’s behavior is endearing in the same way that a child’s enthusiasm for Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny is endearing. It reminds us of — and fills us with nostalgia for — an innocence that has been swept away with our increasing awareness of the workings of the material world. But, of course, our society has no use for adults who continue to believe in Santa Claus.