Thursday, June 3, 2010

Life isn't perfect

"What a stupid post title," you're saying. "I know that!"

Do you?

I just came in from outside after sweeping up hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny glass shards off of my driveaway and the nearby grass. Last night, a gust of wind blew over our umbrella table, shattering a glass table and sending the remnants flying everywhere.

I suppose I could have demanded a complete investigation of the incident. How do I KNOW that a gust of wind blew over the table? Maybe it was the cat next door that roams the neighborhood yards at night. Maybe it was mischievous squirrels. Maybe my neighbor, in a fit of jealousy over our colorful umbrella pattern, reached over the fence with a rake and toppled the table.

I suppose I could have sued someone. The table maker, the umbrella maker, the glass maker, the last guy who paved our driveway, the previous home owner who didn't take care of that slope in the driveaway, the weather man who didn't say anything about strong winds last night, Pandora for making such a great music site that I thought that noise outside was fireworks going off, not the crash of glass spewing across the blacktop.

Or I could have blamed my wife for not closing the umbrella, or me for not closing the umbrella. Maybe a fine for one of us in order. Or a suspension. I could use a few days of doing nothing.

Of course none of this happened. Instead, I spent a quiet half hour cleaning up the driveaway after my wife spent some time before work cleaning up the driveaway. When we see each other next, we'll say, "oh, well," and "I guess we'll do something different next time" and eventually go out and buy another table, all the wiser. That will be the way we fix the problem.

No frothing at the mouth, no attempt to set up cameras in the four corners of my backyard so we can have automatic replay and super slo-mo access at any time, no attempt to fire the current homeowners and replace them with robots, no trip to the pharmacy to pump myself with drugs that will give me super Spidey senses.

Perhaps you think this isn't a similar situation to a pitcher who had a perfect game taken from him, or a player who could have set the all-time career home run record if a bunch of injuries didn't get in the way.

Maybe not. But maybe so.

People get a little too worked up about baseball -- and sports in general. It's just a game. Really. I know there is a ton of money involved, etc. But try not to worry your little heads about money. I know it's difficult. But just stop it. It's preventing you from seeing what's important.

An "official" perfect game does not mean more money for Armando Galarraga than the non-official perfect game that he threw. Unless it's written in his contract somewhere. And judging by his splendid reaction to the whole situation, I don't think it is. Sure injuries probably cost Griffey some money, probably a significant amount of money. But the guy isn't poor, and I've never heard him act like it's a problem.

So what all this noise comes down to is "righting a wrong."

I don't have too much of a problem with that. I'm all for "righting a wrong." If it's done the right way. If it doesn't lead to a series of unimagined issues that we're dealing with for years to come because we righted that particular wrong.

But I don't think a lot of people think about that. They just want something FIXED. "FIX IT," they say. "FIX IT NOW!" And they call for instant replay or umpire water torture or whatever.

I don't think that's the right reaction. If you made a mistake at work and your boss screamed at you, "FIX IT NOW!" and perhaps started installing cameras over your desk to make sure they caught you if you made another mistake and to make sure you got it "right," I think you'd have an issue.

A thoughtful evaluation of the situation, instead, is best. Calling the person's attention to the error and how it can be avoided in the future is an excellent idea. But sometimes, like with umpires, the same mistake is made over and over. And sometimes there's no cure for that.

Here's an example: as someone in the newspaper business, I know all about the pressure to be perfect. Like umpires, we are often thrust into an impossible situation: do a difficult job correctly 100 percent of the time or there will be hell to pay.

In newspapers, especially in the sports section, we deal with hundreds, if not thousands of names every day. It is our job to get those names correct every time. It is not easy. Believe it or not, sportswriters are human, too, and names are often misspelled. Readers call and complain and email and wail. They think we're sloppy and unfeeling and uncaring.

But if they were in the office with us for one night, they would see constant monitoring of name spellings. Checking of rosters, constant quizzing of coaches (who do not have the same attention to detail with names that we do), proof-reading copy over and over. Spell check. All under deadline. All in the name of getting names spelled correctly. The effort is there. It's just an overwhelming situation sometimes because, and here it comes:

That's life.

Armando Galarraga seems to know that. He gave Jim Joyce a hug after Joyce told him he screwed up. Mistakes happen, Galarraga said. Hopefully, there will be another opportunity. Good for Galarraga.

(By the way, I saw Galarraga's name misspelled about 100 times last night. But I'm not demanding an overhaul of the internet).

Maybe we get so fired up over mistakes in baseball because we like it so much and because it is a vacation from our mistake-filled lives. We want it to be perfect because that's our TEAM dammit. They try really hard and they deserve to have things go their way. Kind of like how we try really hard and we deserve to have things to go our way. But they don't. Because that's life. So how come we don't want baseball to represent life?

I'm not a fan of replay. Replay in baseball, as it stands now, is OK, I guess. If they want to institute replay in the case of a perfect game, then I suppose it's all right. Goofy. But all right. But universal replay? Boooooo!

Reversing Joyce's call for the sake of a perfect game seems a little unnecessary. I mean I was screaming on twitter about Joyce's bonehead call as much as anyone, but I think there is more value in this game as an example of the human nature of the game and the forgiving nature of Galarraga and Jim Leyland than whether it is an official perfect game.

Life isn't perfect. The important thing is: "how are you going to react to that?"

Ken Griffey Jr., who retired yesterday after 22 seasons, knows life isn't perfect. Injury after injury helped paint that picture for him.

I was never a huge Griffey fan. He's not someone I followed as a kid. I was 24 years old when his rookie card came out. I remember when his dad was a relative youngster.

But I do recognize how good he was. The crazy catches he used to make. His tremendous swing. During the early 1990s, people could not stop talking about him. He made ESPN for a couple of years there.

But then injuries arrived. Hamstring problems. Leg problems. Foot problems. Wrist problems. All of them arrived with the same message:

Life isn't perfect.

How did Griffey handle that? To the best of our knowledge, he handled that without taking performance-enhancing drugs. He rehabilitated naturally as far as we know. He didn't try to FIX IT NOW!

But Griffey's way wasn't how some other ballplayers chose to rehabilitate from injuries. Many took PEDs. Many took PEDs because they try really hard and they deserve to have things go their way. Sure, there is a lot of money at stake for ballplayers and that fits into the equation. But money isn't all powerful. Money is no match for life. Life will find you whether you're rich or poor. Because not only is life not perfect, but:

Life isn't fair.

Life deals you all kinds of things: broken umbrella tables, job loss, illness, broken hearts, hurricanes, oil spills, you name it.

The shock can cause people to lash out. It's human nature. No one is perfect. But maybe while we're on our way to fixing our mistakes, trying to learn from them, we can think about how maybe there isn't an answer for every little thing. Maybe trying to fix EVERYTHING takes us into areas we don't want to go.

Maybe we need to come to terms with an imperfect game, an imperfect people, an imperfect life.

Sometimes there's no perfect answer either.

Life isn't perfect.

Stop being so disgusted about it.

Galarraga and Griffey aren't.


  1. Excellent post. he funny thing is that all the parties involved with the call acted professionally and responsibly. Everyone outside the situation overreacted.

  2. Sorry, it was me that knocked over your table, I just did not see it there.

  3. I bet whoever broke your table was a damned Yankee fan. Probably even that evil Jeter character...

    I was at the game Greg. I thought that the ump was going to get carried out on a stretcher or in a body bag. That was a CRAZY situation...

  4. That was a particularly great post. I love how you tied those two events together and I agree completely!

  5. Another exceptional post. I would have had no clue about how to tie those topics together.

  6. Note to self: take down outdoor umbrella. If I get home and find that my table has blown over and shattered I'm placing all blame on you. Jerk.

  7. Awesome post. Its unfortunate that people tend to lose all perspective when it comes to a silly little game played by overgrown children for the purpose of what is supposed to be relaxation and enjoyment.

    Just ask Steve Bartman.

  8. Succccks about the table. That happened at my parents house 5 or 6 years ago, and led to something really cool actually: we put all of the glass into a bucket and then didn't know what to do with it. Said bucket was then filled with rain. Said rain then froze during the winter. It looked REALLY COOL!

    On a side note...I'm mixed on the Galarraga. On the one side, anyone who wants Joyce dead or fired is an idiot. The dude made a mistake and was really great about admitting it. I'm a bigger Jim Joyce fan after this, if anything.

    My issue with this whole thing is that while we as humans aren't perfect, there are certain parts of life that can be perfect. Especially in sports...bowling a 300 for example, QB-ing a 158.3 rating, and yes, throwing a perfect game. So to me this was all kind of really depressing - if a perfect game can't be perfect, what can be???

    But you know what? I guess you're right. Life ain't perfect, and life ain't fair. Well put.

  9. This was a beautiful post. Thank you.

    BTW- I had to go back on my blog and correct my incorrectly spelled Galarragas. I had to fix a custom card too... Of course, if I hadn't mentioned it here, I could have pretended it was correct all along. :)