Judge John Hodgman Episode 215: Great Balls of Ire

| 21 comments

Aron brings the case against his wife Molly. They recently moved into a new home, located next door to a public park. The kids playing in the park continually kick or throw balls over the fence, and the couple's yard is strewn with the balls. Aron and Molly can't agree on how best to return the balls and appease the kids. Who's right? Who's wrong?

Harish Krishnamoorthi named this week's case via the Judge John Hodgman Facebook page. Thanks, Harish!

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Comments

Engage the principal

Deliver collected balls to the principal on Mondays and Thursdays. You'll get to know your "neighbors" at the school. The principal can work with the kids on neighborliness. And maybe she has pull with the park department to install netting.

Two ideas

1) Take a queue from Brady & Co. and let some air out the balls before putting them back in play.
-or-
2) With a sharpie draw three boxes on the ball with an X in the first one. Each trip over the fence earns another X. After three Xs take a hand held plunger styled ball inflater, suck up about 2 Tbls of water and inject it into the ball. Send it over the wall.

Two GREAT ideas

Honestly, these are both amazing ideas, especially letting the air out. It's harmless, but effective for repeat occurrences that day and provides a nudge where kids will know that what happens when a ball goes over the fence.

Between the asps and the big blue meanies

It is time for a Hodgmaniac Call to inventors. Solve this not uncommon problem and you publish the most esteemed plans on tshirts pocket squares and coctail napkins.

Move the "goalposts" ?

As an occasional soccer player, the fences that the balls usually go over are the ones directly behind the goals. Moving the goals, if possible, may provide a relatively simple remedy.

Ball Bingo

I have a suggestion for Aron and Molly as they draft a new policy. Instead of placing balls in a public ball bin for thieves, deliver the balls to the school responsible for the park/yard. Surely, they have a lost and found (though they might need to get a bigger one). This could be done each Friday or on a schedule that best suits them. Post signs informing kids of the policy and schedule.

I was on the same train of

I was on the same train of thought, except instead of the lost and found, I'd donate all balls to the school.

Totally agree

I was thinking the same thing as I was listening!

Moat

I had to look up what an Asp was. I think that Aron and Molly are overlooking the strategic benefit of the area between their fence and the city fence. Everyone knows any area large enough to accommodate the jimmying of a 7-15 year old is large enough for a traditional moat. I think the obvious solution here is to fill the small space between the two fences with asps (which are snakes). This would prevent both fence climbing and wedging. You would need to prevent the asps from getting free and attacking your family, but I think that could be easily accomplished with asp repellent.

An alternative solution would be to get a scary pet. This would require a bloodhound named Hercules and a baseball signed by the great bambino.

gentrification

I think this couple should not be so quick to assume that the kids are not aware of the shift in the demographics of the neighborhood. As an ex-Brooklyn resident (completely priced out of the entire borough), it saddens me to see what has happened to these neighborhoods. As an educator, I rejoiced to hear that there are still kids that are able to function outside of the hyper-structures of current Brooklyn parenting and their problem-solving skills in retrieving their stuff from those oh-so-precious new wave of Brooklynites.

Trees? Roses?

Options:
- Plant some roses or other thorny plants along the fence.
- Put the "ball bin" in the little channel between the school and your fence so people on the street do not steal them. Only do this at a consistent time
- I like the idea of putting a mark on a ball if it comes into your yard as well.
- Put a small door on your fence so the kids can just come in and take the balls
- Plant some tall trees to help prevent the balls from coming into your yard

Install a gate in the fence

Install a gate in the fence. Let the kids retrieve the balls themselves without having to climb and risk injury. Lock the gate at sundown. -Andy

EXACTLY. I had the same

EXACTLY. I had the same thought. What is the point trying to keep kids out, or train them? I was a kid once and when you lost the ball it was like your LIFE PURPOSE to recover it. The greater the difficulty to retrieve it the greater the hero points.
As for training them... Even if you could (which I think just ain't gonna happen), it's a school yard and one year later you get to train the next batch all over again.

Just put in a gate and let the kids get their own ball, or heck just leave a gap in the fence.

EXACTLY. I had the same

EXACTLY. I had the same thought. What is the point trying to keep kids out, or train them? I was a kid once and when you lost the ball it was like your LIFE PURPOSE to recover it. The greater the difficulty to retrieve it the greater the hero points.
As for training them... Even if you could (which I think just ain't gonna happen), it's a school yard and one year later you get to train the next batch all over again.

Just put in a gate and let the kids get their own ball, or heck just leave a gap in the fence.

Subject line

JJHo is definitely correct about making a consistent, comprehensible system. Kids don't understand anything else, and they sometimes don't even understand that. That said, I think the ruling was a little too gentle on the kids. As a parent I am comfortable being a jerk to my kids and their friends when the situation calls for it, and I think this is just such an instance. Here's a proposal, which includes some of the really great ideas the other commenters have also put up.
Definitely intruder-proof your yard. Consider putting up a security camera (does not need to be hooked up to anything, just has to look like it is. Put one by the front door for those soda-throwers, too).
Keep a sharpie around to mark the balls with a tally or X each time they come over your fence. Any ball that comes over the fence with 1 or more (specific number depending on how generous you want to be) marks gets deflated completely and thrown back. Any ball coming over 4 or 5 or whatever number you decide on times is punctured and mounted on a spike. Glitter spray can go somewhere in between if you want to really break it down and love glitter. There's a chance older kids will consider getting more X's as a symbol of badass-dom and make it a game, but that's a risk you have to take.
Put up a sign or 2 somewhere conspicuous that explains the system.
Get some balls of your own and spike them up, and add other balls to it as the system provides. Or put them in an artistic display in front of your house. Make sure to mention protecting the children (the children!!) in any literature or signage you have for this display, to throw off any angry parents that might come by.

X X X X X

So I think I have a happy medium suggestion. Definitely put up signs with the friendly tone but danger message suggested. Then, add that if a ball comes over more then 5 (or however many times), you will keep or destroy the ball. Keep a big sharpie around to X the balls as they come over. I imagine the kids will occasionally accidentally/intentionally let the balls over, but will be more careful as the number of X`s adds up. Optional: Then maybe on Halloween, you can set up a soccerball graveyard of all the balls you collected. The kids will probably be pissed, but will probably understand you're not dicks.

I spent the first two decades

I spent the first two decades of my life in Kensington! I'm glad to hear my home neighborhood represented on JJHo!

I'm not sure I would have been as generous as Aron and Molly. I think kids are great but in this situation I would have been so angry that I would have kept the balls forever. Ultimately, I agree with the Judge's ruling on this one. Signs are a great idea; keep the message simple and clear. Maybe start training some thorny plants to grow all over your fence. Or is there any way to rig up some sort of motion-detecting alarm in the yard? I like the previous commenter's spray paint suggestion too.

The decision...

I was thinking that it would be a good idea to return all the colleted balls at a specific time on a weekend just once each week. Put a sign up stating that that will be the policy. That way the kids know when to be there if they want their balls back, and it might keep random people from having a chance to take them.

Alternative Game of thrones solution

I think the family could go out and buy their own used soccer balls and prominently put them on spikes as a warning to the kids.

That way they can get the reputation as a curmudgeonly family that will kill the soccer balls without actually having to go through the trouble of taking and destroying kids' property.

Perhaps the warning will be enough.

Alternate solution: Spray

Alternate solution:

Spray paint every ball that enters your yard with pink sparkly glitter paint.

This will either discourage the kids from kicking the balls into your yard, or shatter gender norms among the community's kids.

Sparkly balls

YES! Amazing