Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Perfect Call for This Day and Age

In case you've missed it, this past week a perfect game was lost because of a bad call.  Pitcher Armando Galaraga of the Detroit Tigers pitched a game that was one bat away from history.  Then Jim Joyce the umpire missed the call with the Cleveland runner and called him safe at first, when replays clearly showed him out.  For those who don't love or get baseball who say it's just a game, I say "Yes and no." 

Yes.  The game is just one of many.  Yes, it ultimately does not change the world. Yes, there are countless other more things, more exciting, more important, more vital. 

And No. This was an opportunity at history, at perfection, marred by human events.  So I feel for the pitcher who just gave 26 perfect performances only to have the 27th robbed as the umpire clearly muffed the call. 

And No because the real story was the next day.  It's part of why Baseball still matters and still means something, because there are moments like this that the broader world gets to see and given the level of vitriol, preening and self righteous puffery that we witness on a daily basis, having real people on a big stage matters immensely.  

The Umpire (Joyce), went to the locker room immediately after the game to apologize and Galaraga hugged him and accepted it.  He also apologized again the next day when Galaraga came out with the line up.  He shed tears. He even said, "I cost this kid history."

And No again, it isn't just a game because Galaraga did not call for a reversal of the call.  He did not demand his perfect game, he did not demand a pound of flesh for the loss of his moment. 

There is a lesson in this moment of baseball, about the way we return to civility and class as a society, as modeled in the Pitcher and the Umpire. A mistake was made. It cost the pitcher permanently. The umpire apologized, heartfully. The Pitcher accepted. The game went on and life went on and baseball was all the richer for the absence of a perfect game that was perfect; when perfect gentlemen responded as gentlemen should.

I know there are cries for the call to be reversed, but this would be a disservice to baseball and to my way of thinking, all of us. There are bad calls. The game goes on. Life is like that; the content of our character is revealed by how we respond to bad calls, to unlucky breaks, to perfection not being recognized; to not making history.

The fact is, that there are far more men like Jim Joyce the Umpire and  the pitcher Armando Galaraga than we know.  They just don't make the news because peace or the lack of open conflict isn't a news item. There are far more moments when we don't make history, when we are asked to accept apologies or our own sense of right and wrong requires us to give them. The little story of a blown call gives me hope for our society as a whole.  As long as good women and men keep coming forward with quiet dignity and fighting to do or say the right thing despite having the Kitchen sink thrown at them and people did boo and in some cases, threaten the umpire and his family despite calls from Armando not to be angry; civility will eventually be welcomed as a relief from the constant preening spinning, bickering and self righteous acid throwing that currently pretends to be this nation’s discourse. 

Given the fact that men like Armando and Joyce exist, I can hope.   Play ball.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!