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Posted at 12:20 PM ET, 06/ 5/2010

About that baseball apology

By Valerie Strauss

If you need evidence that kids aren’t learning some of the most basic lessons of human courtesy, consider umpire Jim Joyce’s now-famous baseball apology.

I refer, as you must know, to the mistake that Joyce made at the end of a game between Detroit and Cleveland, when he wrongly called someone safe on first base, thereby wrecking Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga’s exceedingly rare perfect game.

Galarraga kept his cool though others around him shouted at Joyce, who quietly accepted the invective, and then, right after the game, realized his huge error and quickly took responsibility and apologized for it.

The reason I assume you heard about it is because this became big, big news all over printed and digital media -- including the front pages of The Washington Post and the New York Times on Friday -- as reporters and columnists and commentators and editorial writers wrote about how remarkable it was that two people actually acted the way they should have acted.

Yes, yes, I know that there is a unique context to this event: The last play of a perfect game, an accomplishment reached only 20 times in 135 years. The pitcher handled it with extraordinary grace.

But it isn’t just the pitcher being praised. It’s the guy who ‘fessed up to the mistake. We don’t apologize much in America.

BP oil company can’t seem to issue a heart-felt apology for the gulf oil leak, politicians don’t apologize for anything until after they’ve been convicted, doctors don’t apologize until after they’ve consulted with their lawyers, and Tiger Woods didn’t apologize until after he huddled with his sponsors.

So it becomes unusual when a regular guy says “I blew it” right away in a game of significant stakes, at least in the world of baseball.

What I keep coming back to is why two people behaving well -- even exceptionally so -- should be such singular news.

If I were a kid, I might come away from this episode thinking that acting like a boor is normal and well-accepted, if a single display of restraint and humility becomes the talk of the town.

We are not teaching our kids some very basic lessons if this story really belongs on the front page alongside environmental disasters and the U.S. secret war against terrorists.

Maybe we can take comfort knowing that they are getting plenty of standardized test prep. How-to-be-a-decent-human prep … well that, I guess, will have to come later.

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By Valerie Strauss  | June 5, 2010; 12:20 PM ET
Tags:  armando galarraga and jim joyce, baseball and apology, baseball and perfect game, baseball apology, galarraga, jim joyce, perfect game, umpire and call and perfect game, umpire apologizes, umpire blows call, umpire misses call  
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Where have you been? Of course it is front page, above the fold newsworthy. In the world today, this behavior has been remarkable, and certainly exceptional. it is, of course, too bad for us that it is so.

Posted by: Geezer4 | June 5, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I also wondered, is it a bad sign that I was actually almost shocked that Galarraga was acting like a gentleman about it? I love baseball and the Tigers. A lot of credit should go to Joyce and to the Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, for making sure everything stayed calm.

Galarraga, when compared to players who throw things at fans or reporters or cuss out tennis judges, is a great role model for kids and adults.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 5, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

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