February 2022 Criminal Waste of Space – Botox, Camels, and the 2018 Astros

by Justice William W. Bedsworth

T.S. Eliot famously said, “April is the cruellest month.” Forget the word “cruellest,” which is underlined in red when I type it and would get your twelve-year-old a B- on her middle-school English assignment, Eliot was just wrong about April. And any month in which you had to read Eliot was cruel.

Here are the opening lines of one of Eliot’s masterworks, one of the poems that won him a place in the pantheon of English literature: “Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table.” These are the opening lines of The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, which I was required to spend two days examining and discussing during my second year of college. Somebody owes me two days.

I’m sorry, anyone who contemplates an evening sky and concludes it looks “like a patient etherized upon a table” is not someone I’m going to trust with scissors, much less ask for an opinion. And sure enough, he was absolutely, incontrovertibly, 100% wrong about April.

April is the best month of the year. April is the month in which baseball season begins. “Life begins on Opening Day.” It is a month filled with hope, joy, and crackerjack. There is nothing cruel about it.1

So why am I talking about it in February? Because February is when I start anticipating April. April—and Opening Day—is right around the proverbial corner. And until then there will be exhibition games—games that have no meaning whatsoever but that I will nonetheless watch more closely than I ever watched my children riding their bikes in the street. I am a happy camper.

I’ve had to do without baseball for three whole months. And now I finally hear those magical words, “Pitchers and catchers report in thirteen days.”

In thirty-five years on the bench, I have never yelled at an attorney during February. You don’t want to appear before me the day after the Angels are mathematically eliminated from contention, but in February I’m a sweetheart.

Mom was a baseball fan. One of two daughters born to a man who wanted sons, she taught me all about the game, took me to ballparks to see it played, kept score at the Little League, played catch with me in the front yard. Mom always said the only reason I learned to read was that I found out there was baseball news in the paper.2

I learned a lot from baseball. I got the best advice I ever received about being a judge from a former minor league umpire. When I was fourteen, I signed up for an umpiring job. Took a class from a guy named Jim Rhoten. We had a guy in the class who could not remember the infield fly rule to save his life.

One day, Rhoten, tired of the young tyro getting it wrong every time, exploded: “Teddy, if you can’t remember a rule, just ask yourself what it’s meant to prevent! The infield fly rule is meant to prevent easy double plays; if you aren’t sure whether it applies, ask yourself if there would be an easy double play.” Sixty years later, when I’m not sure what the law is, I sometimes ask myself, “Teddy, what is this law meant to prevent?”

Baseball has a ton of rules. Anyone who’s played softball or baseball is undaunted by the complexity of the California Rules of Court. If you’ve been an umpire, the California Administrative Code is a day at the beach.

And learning the rules teaches you valuable lessons. I was five years old when I learned you had to touch every base . . . in order. And I was six when I learned the umpires do not get every call right. I was eight when I learned that some people will cheat to win. And I was nineteen, umpiring a high school game, when I learned how satisfying it is to be able to prevent that.

Most importantly, once you’ve had the experience of being paid for calling balls and strikes and getting to watch the ballgame for free, you’ll spend the rest of your life looking to get back to that job. It took me twenty-five years, but I got there. And thirty-five years later, I’m still doing it.

They don’t have baseball in Saudi Arabia. I know this because my friend Gary Watt turned me on to this headline: “Camels ejected from beauty contest over Botox use and other tampering.”

Honest. That’s how it was reported by CNN—an organization not known for its sense of humor.

This doesn’t happen in a society raised on baseball. Nobody in this country would stoop so low as to rig a camel beauty contest. Baseball has made us a nation of rule followers. In our long and storied history3 we have never had a camel beauty contest scandal.

But in Saudi Arabia, they’ve had to eject dozens of camels from the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival4 for cheating. How do you cheat in a camel beauty contest? I’m glad you asked; good to know someone is still reading.

One way is to inject Botox—which somehow makes the camel’s head bigger.5 Another is to inject collagen—because droopy lips and big noses are point-getters. Another involves rubber bands and the size of the camel’s hump.6 I really don’t want to get into the details on that one.

Why would anyone do these things? Well, the 30,000 camel owners who come from all over the world to compete in this pageant of dromedarian beauty7 want to impress the judges. And they want to impress the 100,000 camel fans who come to watch. And they want to win some portion of the . . . wait for it . . . $66,000,000 in prizes that are up for grabs in this Camelpalooza.

Okay, now re-read that paragraph and pause to think about every number in it. None of them are typos. Those are all legitimate numbers reported by someone other than the National Enquirer. One of them is SIXTY-SIX MILLION dollars.

They’ve had this problem in the past, and the stakes have just gotten so high that they had to resort to X-ray, ultrasound, and hormone testing. There have been 147 cases of tampering, and 43 camels have been disqualified.8 King Abdulaziz has demanded that his name be removed from the pageant,9 and the naming rights are now the subject of a bidding war between Nike and L’Oreal.

But, to their credit, the Saudis have learned their lesson. In an attempt to reclaim the high ground, and in recognition of the role baseball has played in instilling a high regard for rules and ethics in American culture, next year’s pageant has recruited new judges. From baseball.

The events next year will be judged by Barry Bonds and members of the 2018 Houston Astros.


  1. Eliot thought it cruel that April replaced the lovely “dried tubers” of winter with lilacs. Honestly, I shouldn’t have had to read him unless I was taking a class in abnormal psychology.
  2. Talk about bait-and-switch! I was sold Mickey Mantle and given T. S. Eliot and Antonin Scalia.
  3. Well, relatively long. The Ming Dynasty lasted 276 years, and we’re no better than even money to last that long. But by dynastic standards, it’s not bad. We outlasted the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), the Mongol Empire (1206-1368), and the Broadway Run of Cats (1982-2000). Cats might have done better had it not been based on a book by T. S. Eliot.
  4. Honest, I am not making this up. And I’m not going to mention in the text that the festival lasts forty days and forty nights because I know your credulity has already been badly strained, and I’m just getting started.
  5. I have no idea; I’m an umpire, not a veterinarian.
  6. The contests are judged by members of my gender. Guess which is better: a big hump or a small hump?
  7. I’m not sure it’s a word either, but I couldn’t resist.
  8. The others were fined. And forced to wear a scarlet A on their neck.
  9. Posthumously. You have to be truly outraged to make this demand 68 years after your death.

William W. Bedsworth is an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal. He writes this column to get it out of his system. A Criminal Waste of Space won Best Column in California in 2018 from the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA). And look for his latest book, Lawyers, Gubs, and Monkeys, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Vandeplas Publishing. He can be contacted at william.bedsworth@jud.ca.gov.