Whose Ball Is It Anyway?

"That guy, the one over there. No, not him, the other one. Yeah, him. Well, anyway, it's his fault."
According to this story in today's Chron, Sen. John Whitmire, chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, was told of sexual abuse at one TYC facility in 2005. When asked why he didn't follow up one the info given to him by then-TYC Executive Director Dwight Harris, Whitmire was quoted as saying: "He was going to get with us. He never did,'' Whitmire said, adding later: "The ball was in his court." However, once I saw a copy of the "Criminal Justice Committee Chairman's Policy and Guidelines," it all made sense. Here are some good rules of thumb provided in the manual.

1.) Don't Act — React! (But don't always react, either) As a member of this Committee, you may from time to time be approached with information about heinous perversions of the justice system. But you must ask yourself this: Whose court is the ball in? Have you even given any indication that you want the ball? And maybe the ball should go to a different player, like the Transportation Committee.

2.) Make Sure to Prioritize: Even if you think a ball belongs in your court, you need to take stock of how many balls are already there. After all, you have only court, and it can handle only so many balls. Is information about state-employed jail guards butt-raping teenage boys a ball that you can really afford to take on right now?

3.) Remember: You're Just One Senator: Look, you're only human, and you're only one longest-serving Texas Senator and important committee chairman. There's only so much that can be expected. This is why it is important for those who testify before you to understand when the ball is in their court. If someone tells you about the butt-raping of children and then says he'll get back to you with more information regarding said butt-raping kids, then, ipso-facto, that person has clearly accepted custody of the ball. As a senator, you have no power but to sit there and wait for this person to come back with more information about butt-raping kids. What are you supposed to do — launch an investigation on your own? Again: Not your ball, not your court.

4.) Know How to Handle Your Balls: If and when you finally decide a ball does indeed belong in your court, then you must know how to manage it. You must handle your balls gently. Remember — you're a public servant, and it is, after all, the people of Texas who are paying you to handle your balls. It's a sensitive job, and you must treat your balls delicately, and with respect. Since you're not doing anything else, you obviously have a lot of time to "play" with your balls, as it were. If you need assistance, show your balls to your colleagues. Bounce your balls off them. Let people know when your balls are just too heavy for you to bear. And if someone comes up to you and suggests you take a ball marked "The State is Raping Our Children," just look them in the eye (or don't) and say: "I'm sorry. I'm just too fucking busy playing with my balls." -- Craig Malisow


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