Goon here- I feel really bad that this guy got hurt and I keep trying to wrap my head around it. I asked Meesh what she thought about this whole situation since she is a former party patrol member.
I guess it's time I chime in on this whole t-shirt situation...
I have to admit, I'm empathetic to this man's injury, but also baffled at the same time. As someone who operated t-shirt cannons in both Shea and Citi, for over 5 seasons, I've seen things go well, not so well, comically for all parties involved, but never tragically; unless you're considering the amount of beers spilled on account of rushing to grab the infamous t-shirt.
When I first read about the incident, on wcbs880.com, I read that the man was 20 feet away from the canon. I envisioned him sitting/standing within the first few rows of field level, and being hit face-on. The article also stated that the man was throw backwards by the velocity of the t-shirt hitting him, hit his head on the steps as he fell, and was knocked unconscious. That is a nightmare, I cringed when reading it, and feel so so bad. As I continued to read various articles I am now learning he was not on the field level, but was in fact up in the the CocaCola Corner (even though some sources call it the Pepsi Porch. It hasn't been called that since 2015). I may not be very good at math, but I do not believe either of those locations (even the front row of field, which is mostly behind a net now, anyway,) are 20 feet from the field/top of the cannon once lifted. Unless the canon was on that level of the ballpark, and the employee operating it was actually the "15-20 feet from Mr. Swanson," that the the WCBS article is claiming, (which historically they never have been,) and the canon gassed as high as possible, I am very confused by all of this.
I've also found a discrepancy, I overlooked this when originally reading the WCBS article; I just wanted to get down to the story. The Daily News titled their article "Mets fan knocked unconscious, nearly blinded by t-shirt cannon..." When I saw this article title this morning, I second thought the entire situation, thinking to myself, "he got hit in the face with the cannon itself?! That makes more sense," simultaneously envisioning the entire cannon leaving the employee's grip, flying towards Mr. Swanson' face, the round hard plastic front of the cannon traveling at the maximum velocity, going right into his one eye. How he didn't end up with a broken eye socket, I didn't know. (Goon here- This paragraph is so Meesh I love it. I want her to write more posts for this blog. Make sure you guys tell her that you like her work.)
I continued to read and was led to the sentence, "the tightly wrapped jersey into Swanson's face from 20 feet away," oh. So my initial read was correct. It was the article of clothing, not the plastic/metal cannon itself. So let's clear the air on that -- he was not injured by the cannon itself, it was the object which came out of the cannon they are claiming caused the injury. The articles also state that he walked down to the railing to try to catch the shirt. Could he have been hanging over the railing? Absolutely, we'll never know, unless a video surfaces.
Here's what I am comfortable sharing, from my experience and from now being a fan:
- The cannons are heavy
- They can not be "shot" until they are fully gassed up with CO2
- My method was to always lift the cannon, then gas it up, aim carefully, fire; although, I can not attest to this employee's method
- There is a warning written on everyone's tickets stating to be alert at all times due to flying objects
- There is also a warning on the screen in center-field pre-game informing fans to be alert for the same reason
- Most people don't pay attention during the t-shirt tosses, and those are the people who end up with beer spilled on them, fries in their lap, being elbowed by their neighbor who is jumping to catch the shirt, or hit in the head because they're staring at their phones
- The t-shirts are rolled at the ball park and tied with balloons, not in a factory by machines. Depending on the person who rolled it, they vary in their level of hardness. I was one who liked my shirts rolled tightly because they would go further, as opposed to those that were done more loosely, and had a chance of bursting open upon being released from the canon, which definitely happened
- The canons are tested during the off season for various reasons, one being to gauge how much gas is needed in order to reach a certain height. Once we know that number, the guns are "set." They have a mechanism/feature that locks the gun to only go up to a certain "mph," (or whatever the term is) and does not allow it to go past that "mph." This is done to avoid injury, in hopes the shirts do not launch too high up (to avoid injury,) and do not go over the stands (but the wind can do some tricky things to a flying t-shirt)
- The "Patrol" are trained during pre-season on how to properly operate the gun and are given restrictions on where to shoot and where not to shoot, to avoid injury
- Occasionally there was a glitch with the cannons, but, I've only seen those revolve around the canon itself and the CO2 inside it; the CO2 tank would ice over and the canons were unable to perform. In that event, the gun would be placed out of the way on the field (you could not predict this, so it was a heat-of-the-moment, be ready just in case, issue,) and the shirts would be tossed by hand
As for his claim:
Envision this... you're standing on the field, ready to launch a t-shirt into the CocaCola Corner. Unless you're standing off to the side (in front of the bullpen, on the grass in front of 101-103, or next to 105/106,) head-on, that's a really tough shot. The WCBS article reported Swanson saying, "he's supposed to aim it upwards but in the middle of aiming it upwards, he hit the trigger and fired it..." Ok. If you are standing in those three locations mentioned above and are launching from the mid-way angle (roughly 45 degrees) you would have to angle the cannon at about 67.5 degrees to even reach the CocaCola Corner from any one of those three locations.
If the cannon is aimed at about 45 degrees the people receiving the t-shirts are sitting in 101-103 (remember those seats are elevated so you need an angle,) not in the CocaCola Corner. If he was sitting in the front of those areas, and the cannon accidentally launched towards him at the maximum velocity, yes, I can see someone being knocked off their feet, but that is not where he was sitting. (Please note: I am terrible at math, so these angles might be a bit off.)
I feel like I'm on some true-crimes podcast or show trying to figure this out in my head. (Goon should I do a quick podcast with Meesh like Serial?)
The employee would have had to have been standing right under the Porch (101-103) to have hit Swanson directly in his face, the cannon held between a 70-90 degree angle. BUT...how would it have reached his face, head-on, from down there? That's a straight shot upward.
Answer: Swanson would have also had to be hanging over the railing looking downward. I believe, pre-game warnings specifically state to not do this.
This seems a bit unrealistic. I never took Physics, but I watched a lot of the Big Bang Theory, so based on Physics (I think,) shooting the cannon from a 70-90 degree angle would result in the t-shirt going up in the air, and coming directly down, like when you hold a garden hose up and the water arches, and comes right back down all over your hand; unless there was obstruction (like Mr. Swanson) in the way. (Not sure if this makes sense or not, I hope it does.)
I can believe there is a chance he was not paying attention and as a result got hit in the face by the shirt. Maybe someone near him caught the shirt and their finger went in his eye or their finger nail tore something (I've seen that happen in real life with a tear-duct... Halloween 2009... Bell Blvd.... *cue flashbacks and a trip to the ER*.) I can believe in a freak accident where the corner of the shirt, the tag, or the balloon that the shirt was tied with got into his eye and maybe that caused the damage. But, I am not a medical professional, so what do I know. I think we've all been in a situation where a child stuck their finger in our eyes, we've danced with a mixed drink and accidentally taken a straw to the eye (ladies, you know what I mean...'I wanna dance with somebody',) a rogue eyelash gets in there, or a freak accident where something went flying (maybe a toe-nail) and got into our eye.
I have seen some crazy things with those canons, one may or may not have involved a BigMac (Goon-I am so curious about this one now). I've seen fans in suites come to games with oak-tag paper and a giant red target drawn on it, and we would aim for the target, hitting it equaled a successful t-shirt toss (I miss those days.) I have seen people leap over an entire row to catch a shirt, resulting in grown men falling on top of one another. I have seen people get hit, beers and hot dogs go flying because the person was bumped into, and many a vendors dropping pretzels. What I have never seen on any level of the ballpark is a person get hit so hard with a t-shirt that they fell over, hit their head, and were knocked unconscious, resulting in a retinal detachment. Again not saying this didn't happen this time, just that I have never seen this type of injury with all my experiences at the ballpark.
Regardless of my personal feelings, bewilderment, and experiences with the canon, or my true-crime analysis; which may or may not have mathematically made sense, I do feel terrible that this man could potentially lose his vision, and is suffering with such discomfort. I also hope they find out a way to re-attach his retina, it's terrible and probably extremely painful.