It doesn’t take much to get the sports world’s collective dander up. We love to witness history. When something happens in sports that is so rare, we even root against our own team even if we are a victim to it.
Wednesday’s not-perfect game thrown by Detroit’s Armando Galarraga is one of those moments. Of the (seemingly) millions of people up in arms over the “robbery” of the perfect game, 99.9999% of those who complain didn’t even know that Galarraga existed prior to last night. And of those that heard the name, they probably thought “Andres Galarraga still plays ball?”
I’m glad I had a chance to absorb the situation before reacting. If you could have seen my Facebook last night, many of my FB friends were near catatonic over umpire Jim Joyce’s call. And in the media world, the baseball analysts and pundits were also coming unglued. Some called for Joyce’s job and some even recommended (and still are after several hours) that Commissioner Bud Selig “restore” the perfect game by overturning the call.
Both are dumb suggestions and go counter to what the game of baseball and sports are all about. These are games played by people. People who can do amazing things. And people who can make amazing mistakes. It is the human element in sports that is so appealing. We love watching people succeed where we cannot. We live through the emotions of the players. Whether it is in moments of great achievement or moments of great failure, sports is all about the human element. The physical. The mental. The emotional.
Yeah, through some stroke of an executive’s pen, we could strike away the Jim Joyce call. Make an “out” where there was a “safe.” Will that make everything right? Will we all live through some vicarious dog pile that Galarraga will be embraced in by his Tiger teammates? Too late. The dog pile moment has passed. The beer shower in the clubhouse has passed. That moment is gone forever. In its place will be collective hand wringing, continued arguing and wondering “what if.” That, in and of itself, is another enjoyable element of sports – the debate.
We cannot turn back time. But what we can do is celebrate what did take place instead of the dogpile and the beer shower. Because after the game ended, after the on-field arguing had stopped, we got to witness an all too rare moment in this “human drama of athletic competition.” We witnessed a victimized pitcher showing compassion for the man who “robbed” him. We saw an umpire acknowledge his mistake – not only to the athlete, but to the world. And the following day, when that same umpire had to face the same hostile crowd, it was Galarraga who represented the Tigers in the pregame exchange of lineup cards. It was a public display of forgiveness that we don’t see enough of these days. It moved the umpire to tears. It was a moment that only two humans can share. It was better and more unique than even the rare achievement than is retiring all 27 batters in a baseball game.
It was perfect.