What Jim Joyce's bad call teaches us
Soon after Jim Joyce made what is now being called “the worst umpiring call in the history of baseball,” the event was labeled a teachable moment. This is almost always an attempt by adults to justify their interest in what is, after all, a mere game by imbuing baseball with importance. In this case, though, the robbing of Armando Galarraga by the inept Joyce of his perfect game did, indeed, teach children everywhere certain lessons.
First, life is not fair. Galarraga threw a perfect game. Of this there can be no dispute. Not a single Cleveland player got a hit. It was Joyce, the umpire, who made a mistake -- not Galarraga, the pitcher. Nevertheless, with the solemn agreement of sportswriters everywhere and approval of the august commissioner of baseball himself, someone named Bud Selig, it was decided that even though an injustice was done, nothing was more important than the unwritten rule that a wrong call is as good as a right call.
In this, baseball is like a panel of reactionary judges who are forever turning away appeals by innocent people because they have been filed late. Here again, the rules are more important than fairness or justice, and if sometimes an innocent man must swing, that is too bad. The system must prevail. This, kiddies, is an important lesson, and I hope you learn it well. It is as important to be prompt as to be innocent.
Second, we come to this matter of what is called grace or pride or something like that. The umpire, the inexplicably klutzy Joyce, has been praised for acknowledging his mistake. What else he could have done is beyond me because his foolish call was captured on videotape -- and it was not even close. How he could have insisted that he, in fact, made the right call when the tape showed otherwise would not only have made him look like a fool, but insane enough to warrant incarceration for mental feebleness?
So this is another lesson for children: admit the obvious. The applause will be deafening, and I guarantee a spot on the Today show, although maybe not in the first hour. It goes without saying, though, that if there is any doubt, insist on your correctness. This is an unstated rule, but I think everyone understands.
Third, apologize for your actions. In so doing, the apology will overshadow why you made the mistake in the first place. Just by saying he was sorry, Joyce was spared any explanation of how he could have gotten the call so wrong. After all, it was clear to everyone in the ballpark that the runner was out.
Finally, children everywhere already understand that these so-called teachable moments are overwhelmed, overshadowed and overlooked by the money in the game of baseball and the heedless and hedonistic lifestyle of so many players. You want some real teachable moments? Talk to an agent.
| June 4, 2010; 11:17 AM ET
Categories: Cohen | Tags: Richard Cohen
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