SPORTS WATCH | Will Sleeping Beauty’s $10 Million Lawsuit Work?

07/09/14 | By | More

If it’s public ridicule that Andrew R. Rector is afraid of, perhaps he should have thought first before he filed a $10 million lawsuit against Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees and ESPN for defamation and mental anguish related to a sleeping incident caught on camera during a Red Sox-Yankees game last April.

It was on April 13, during what a not-completely-boring game when television cameras caught Rector,  a rather large man, soundly sleeping in the stands for what seemed like several minutes. ESPN announcers John Kruk and Dan Shulman, like any announcers during slow baseball games, decided to poke a little fun at Rector’s impressive sleeping display. A YouTube video that’s gone viral shows it all.

“It’s only the fourth inning,” Kruk exclaimed.

“Did he sleep through the Beltran homer? I mean 45,000 people stand up and cheer, and he sleeps through?” Shulman questioned.

“I think it would be tough to,” Kruk answered, “but he seemed pretty comfortable. It didn’t look like he just started to sleep.”

As both Kruk and Rector are large men, Shulman then poked fun at their size, by asking Kruk of Rector, “Not a cousin? Not a relative?”

“No, I don’t think so, but you never know,” Kruk answered. “I didn’t get a good look at him because of the head tilt. But I mean physically, he could be, yeah.”

While it may have given TV audiences a chuckle at the time, it wasn’t the kind of laugh that hurts your stomach. I would imagine those who the actual ESPN broadcast didn’t think too much about it, much less remember it.

But Rector has not forgotten.

In a lawsuit filed in the New York State Supreme Court last week, according to The New York Times, Rector claims that Shulman and Kruk suggested he was stupid, overweight and “unleashed an avalanche of disparaging words” against him. Rector’s complaint also states that Major League Baseball, which posted the clip of him sleeping online the next day, was responsible for “vituperative utterances;” it is also named in the suit.

While the viewable clip of the sleeping episode doesn’t seem to indicate it, Rector believes the announcers used words like “stupid” and “fatty” to describe him. Rector is demanding $10 million in damages for defamation and mental anguish.

As if Rector’s claims aren’t weird enough, the language in the complaint only adds to the entire story as well. The New York Times dubbed the complaint, which abounds with spelling and grammatical errors, by attorney Valentine A. Okwara, “highly idiosyncratic.” Now I know Okwara, a lawyer from Jamaica, was admitted to the bar in New York last year, but I would think a complaint asking for $10 million is damages would be a little more cleaned up. It’s full of errors. The whole thing stinks of a frivolous lawsuit, and it makes me wonder what’s really going on.

Perhaps the video clip caught Rector in the middle of some sort of lie? Maybe the used car dealer was supposed to be on the lot, selling pre-owned Chrysler LeBarons, and now his boss knows he really wasn’t sick? Maybe his wife or girlfriend gave him the classic “it’s-baseball-or-me” talk, and he chose baseball? Maybe he was in a tough spot.

Whatever the case, it’s hard to take it seriously, which is why ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys called it “frivolous.”

In all honesty, it could have been worse. Rector could have been caught picking his nose on television. He could have been caught gorging himself on an ice cream sundae like Seinfeld’s George Costanza. Seriously, he could have taken a ball or broken bat to the face. That would have been not only embarrassing but painful.

And maybe the video clip really is embarrassing, and adversely affecting his life. According to The Times report Rector was ridiculed online after the video’s posting. Angela Sun, writing for Yahoo sports, made fun of him for being less than thrilled by the age-old rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees. (That seems more like a dig at the Yankees and Red Sox rather than Rector himself.) Twitter users put Rector’s picture in various situations, including one depicting him as “Sleeping Beauty.”

I guess what’s ironic and even sad about this whole story is that the complaint is based on the perceived ridicule Rector received for sleeping during a baseball game. It was not harsh ridicule, from what I can see, but ridicule nonetheless. Now that he’s asking $10 million dollars in damages in this crazy lawsuit, he’s really getting ridiculed. Rector and his attorney’s statements have been on every newspaper, blog, sports broadcast and TV news show from here to Ireland. Savannah Guthrie and the rest of the Today Show crew couldn’t stop poking fun at the lawsuit.

If it’s ridicule that’s  ruining Rector’s way of living, he now has even more widespread ridicule. I hope he wasn’t duped by his attorney in thinking this lawsuit is a fail-safe way to make a quick $10 million. If that is the case, he needs to find a real attorney and file a lawsuit against his current attorney for $20 million.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find ESPN and Major League Baseball  settling this out of court for a cool $300,000. That’s chump change for them. For Rector, it’s a new house.

I doubt Rector will see a full $10 million, but you never know in this country. A year from now, you could be reading on this page how Rector was able to rake in $10 million by falling asleep at a Yankees-Red Sox game. If that’s the case, I’ll quit my day job and will begin a regimen of sleeping pills and Rockies games.  Although with the Rockies as bad as they are, I probably won’t need the sleeping pills.

Twitter: @Gus_Jarvis

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Category: Commentary, Opinion, Sports, Sports Watch

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