f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

July 12, 2008

the whiff of a lawsuit

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:43 pm

At the Giacalone homestead, I always have to tip-toe around the topic of NIMBYism, as my lawyer brother specializes in protecting homeowners from noisome development in their neighborhoods. (See his piece “zoning challenges: overcoming obstacles” (f/k/a, June 15, 2007). So, I’m going to blame the New York Times article “Build a Wiffle Ball Field and Lawyers Will Come” (by Peter Applebome, July 10, 2008), and a dizzyingly refreshing July Saturday, for today’s misadventures.

Wiffle Ball —
a windblown home run
over the neigbor’s Rambler

— by Michael KetchekBaseball Haiku (edited, with translations, by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura, W.W. Norton Press, April 2007)

You see, a group of “remarkable” teens turned an overgrown lot in and owned by Greenwich, Connecticut, into a Wiffle Ball Stadium. As their local newspaper Greenwich Time noted in an editorial (“We ought to give the kids a break,” 07/09/2008 ):

“About 10 to 15 teens spent three weeks clearing the lot of dense thickets and erecting plywood fences in the outfield, including a replica of Fenway’s Green Monster. They painted the fences green, put down bases and hung a large American flag from a tree in foul territory down the left field line.”

A great story, but, this being the 3rd Millennium in America, the Greenwich Times notes, “it’s not over until the police, newspapers and lawyers get involved. And we wonder why kids lock themselves in the basement and play video games.” Like Ray Kinsella in Kevin Costner’s movie “Field of Dreams” (1989), they built the field out of love of the game and a sense of fun. However, as the NYT piece explains:

“[A]las, they had no idea just who would come — youthful Wiffle ball players, yes, but also angry neighbors and their lawyer, the police, the town nuisance officer and tree warden and other officials in all shapes and sizes. It turns out that one kid’s field of dreams is an adult’s dangerous nuisance, liability nightmare, inappropriate usurpation of green space, unpermitted special use or drag on property values, and their Wiffle-ball Fenway has become the talk of Greenwich and a suburban Rorschach test about youthful summers past and present.”

My twin brother Arthur is right that “Nearby residents are the ones most directly affected by new development, their property values lowered, privacy invaded, and quality of life diminished by noise and traffic. They have the most to lose, and, therefore, the greatest right to speak out.” He’s also correct to complain that “developers, public officials and members of the media” often engage “in a concerted effort to belittle and silence” disgruntled neighbors, and that:

“The residents are castigated as obstructionists, labeled NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard), and even called “Un-American”. Developers are portrayed as saints, residents as villains.”

Of course, there is nothing “un-American” about bringing lawsuits against disruptive neighborhood change. As Walter Olson at Overlawyered.com surely will agree, there is nothing more American these days than bringing such suits. Indeed, as Walter said, “This particular dispute, over noisy kids’ recreation in an otherwise quiet neighborhood of famously expensive Greenwich, Connecticut, might have led to legal ramifications in almost any day and age.”

[larger] You may recall that the f/k/a Gang didn’t have a lot of sympathy in this posting (scroll down) for yuppies who are surprised that farms can make smelly and noisy neighbors. Likewise, although the neighbors were there first, after musing over the Greenwich Wiffle Ball rhubarb, I’m siding with the kids and not the unhappy grownups and their lawyers. The GT editorial got it right (as did the many commentors to the piece), “It would be a terrible shame if the end result of this dispute is the field being taken down. What the young people achieved there is remarkable.” Furthermore,

“Selectman Lin Lavery, who is acting as first selectman and police commissioner for the vacationing Peter Tesei, has stepped in as a voice of reason, shelving the town’s initial plan to shut the field down today.

‘I’m going to suggest that we hold off until we talk to everyone and try to reach a compromise,’ she said. Credit her with a stand-up triple.”

“The teens meanwhile have posted rules at the field prohibiting alcohol and swearing. And they say they would be willing to limit the field’s use to certain hours during the daytime.

“Wow! Not only are these kids resourceful and enterprising. They’re reasonable too. How about we adults follow their lead and let them get back to their games?”

Even our cranky Prof. Yabut applauds those who are seeking a compromise that would let the field stay, and allow us to dream of creaky-kneed wiffle-ball home runs. We hope the kids who built the team will whiff every one of their opponents and show them what it means to be good sports.

update (7 P.M.): According to Newsday [“Greenwich seeks solution to Wiffle ball squabble,” July 12, 2008], the “Greenwich First Selectman [think mayor] Peter Tesei is trying to strike a balance and resolve the dispute. . . Tesei says he is leaning toward letting the teens continue using the lot and wants to hear more from both sides.”

law firm picnic
the ump consults
his Blackberry

…… by david giacalone – Baseball Haiku (2007)

As the New York Times noted, wiffle ball was invented just down the road from Greenwich. The firm The Wiffle Ball Inc. is located in Shelton, CT, and you can learn the origin of the hollow plastic ball with eight oblong perforations at their website, and learn the official rules. It being an American sport and company, you won’t be surprised to discover that a major part of text on the Wiffle Ball website is dedicated to the topic of Trademark and Copyright restrictions. [Intellectual Property lawyers out there might opine for our readers as to whether the word “wiffle” has become a generic term.] As the Mullany Brothers — grandsons of the founder — remind us all:

“Please be advised that “WIFFLE” and all images contained herein are either copyrights or trademarks of The Wiffle Ball, Inc. Their use, for any purpose, is forbidden unless you’ve obtained express written consent from The Wiffle Ball, Inc. to do so. Additionally, all content, particularly The Rules of the Game, is copyrighted material.”

baseballdiamond “. . . You can throw curves with a WIFFLE ball, but please, play straight when referring to our valuable brand.”

With that nod to the truest American past-time, we close the punditry portion of this posting.

bases loaded
the rookie pitcher
blows a bubble

…………. by ed markowskiBaseball Haiku (2007); Haiku Sun (Issue X, Jan. 2004)

BaseballHaikuCover We didn’t expect to feature more baseball-related poetry again (most recently covered here), but the Young Wiffle Ball Heroes in Greenwich have inspired us to find a few whimsical haiku and senryu for our joint enjoyment:

the toddler
runs to third base

all day rain infielderG
on the playing field
a stray dog

……. by Tom PaintingBaseball Haiku (2007); from the chapbook piano practice


empty baseball field
a dandelion seed floats through
the strike zone

……. by George SwedeAlmost Unseen (Brooks Books, 2000); Baseball Haiku (2007)

my so-called friends
send in my sister
to pinch-hit for me

….. by John Stevenson

late innings
the shortstop backpedals
into fireflies

April rain
my grandson practices
his infield chatter

sides chosen
the boy not chosen
lends me his glove

at bat neg …….. by Ed MarkowskiBaseball Haiku (2007)
“sides chosen” – bottle rockets (7:1, 2005)

rumble of thunder
the boy still looking for the ball
in the grass

…………………………………. by Lee Gurga – Baseball Haiku (2007); Too Busy for Spring, 1999 HNA Anthology

in the shoe box
attic light from one window
and the creased Willie Mays

……………… by Tom Clausen – Baseball Haiku (2007); Bases Loaded, a renga chapbook

rolls into the mud –
painted lady flutters up

…………………………. by randy brooksBaseball Haiku (2007)

calm evening
the ballgame play-by-play
across the river

… by jim kacianBaseball Haiku (2007); Past Time (Red Moon Press, 1999)

afterwords (July 14, 2008): Thanks to Jeffrey Mehalic at the West Virginia Business Litigation weblog, for pointing to this posting in Blawg Review #168.


  1. You did just fine – although noise is often not the only or most serious concern of many of my clients [or, me]. For example, an adverse change in the character of the neighborhood or community (which may include noise) is a common and pervasive concern.
    To prove there are no hard feelings, I’ll even point out a typo for you to correct: in Ed’s poem, should be “…the boy not chosen…”

    Comment by Arthur J. Giacalone — July 12, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

  2. Thanks for the insight and moral support, Bro. And for pointing out the typo, which I just fixed.

    For almost 6 decades, you’ve been most conscientious about pointing out my mistakes. I’m much more grateful these days than when we were kids.

    Comment by David Giacalone — July 12, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

  3. […] This particular dispute, over noisy kids’ recreation in an otherwise quiet neighborhood of famously expensive Greenwich, Connecticut, might have led to legal ramifications in almost any day and age. Opponents of the wiffle ball, though, get a lot of mileage from everyone’s awareness of the case a few years ago in which the town was ordered to pay $6.3 million to a doctor who broke his leg while sledding on town land with his 4-year-old son. (Peter Applebome, New York Times, Jul. 10; Patrick Healy, “Town’s Downhill Pastime May Face an Uphill Fight”, New York Times, Apr. 26, 2004). More: Giacalone. […]

    Pingback by Overlawyered — July 13, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  4. David, this is a fascinating case. As a mediator, and an optimistic one at that, I can only hope that some day when issues like this arise, the first call will be to the local community mediation center, and not to lawyers or cops. As a homeowner, and as a one-time kid who played many a summer ball game in vacant lots, I have a lot of empathy for all sides in this. I hope that they are indeed able to sit down and talk this through to the mutual benefit of all.

    Thanks for your thoughtful commentary.

    Comment by Diane Levin — July 14, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

  5. You are very welcome, Diane. Like yourself, and as a former mediator, I have empathy for all sides, and believe reasonable people should be able in good faith to reach an agreement and that they think of community mediation first. Of course, the mediation center will need to be flexible enough to begin the process ASAP.

    Comment by David Giacalone — July 14, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress