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Comparing Crime to Baseball

I read the insightful front-page articles `` `Three Strikes' Laws Strike Out With Law Enforcement Experts,'' Feb. 1, and ``US Governors Vie to Be the Toughest on Crime,'' Feb. 2, with great interest.

If profanity is the lazy communicator's way to be emphatic, then the ``three strikes you're out'' campaign is the lazy politician's way to be anticrime. In the 1988 elections, many governors campaigned on the capital punishment issue and were aptly portrayed as running for ``executioner'' rather than governor. Now politicians are seeking to be more respectably portrayed as umpires in a baseball game.

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The metaphor is unwittingly instructive, however. A functional society might encourage government to take the role of coach and teach its players to hit before they are confronted with an umpire. Batters could be ``schooled'' on the sliders of drug abuse, the curveballs of child abuse, the knuckleballs of unemployment, and the fastballs of access to guns. ``Making a hit,'' accordingly, would then resume some of its pro-social resonance as an act that helps a team, even a community - instead of alluding to the slang for murder.

In New York, Gov. Mario Cuomo's call for the ``three strikes you're out'' legislation places a rhetorical fix on the problem of crime. This fix does an injustice not just to America's favorite pastime, but to America's future. Robert J. O'Connor, Stormville, N.Y.

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