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This
week’s sports controversy – with
a blown call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce
costing Detroit Tigers pitcher
Armando Galarraga a perfect game – ended with
a level of class and authenticity that is virtually unmatched in modern sports
history, especially with the huge egos so common in professional athletics
today. 

 For me, this rare event is one of life’s great teachable moments. 

 I hope we do not blow the opportunity to learn something very important
far beyond the raging debate about whether the baseball commissioner should
reverse the call ( highly unlikely) or the future role of instant replay, an important debate for the purists of the game, but certainly not the most
important issue here.

 George Will, columnist and baseball fan of the first order, summed up
these events with great clarity: “
Perfection
is the enemy of good.”

 This
story has a special interest for me.  I
am a former amateur baseball umpire.  I
officiated high school and community college baseball games in Northeast Texas
in the 1990s.  During my tenure, there
was no process for undoing a blown call. 
There was certainly no instant replay.  The umpires I worked with hustled and worked
hard to get the call right for the players.  Everyone knows that umpires make mistakes –
they are very human – but they rarely discuss them publicly.  Until this week. 

What
happened in Detroit – as the talking heads of
ESPN and local sports broadcasts
were rehashing the bad call – was nothing short of amazing and uplifting for
the human soul.  Mr. Joyce publicly
admitted he had made a mistake.  He did
not blame it on anyone or anything else. 
He did not slip away in the dead of night to “umpire rehab.”  He went to the Tigers’ dressing room and
apologized.  To his enormous credit, Mr.
Galarraga accepted
the apology with incredible grace and a very-to-the point comment:  “Nobody is perfect.” 

 The next night, Mr. Joyce worked the game as the home plate umpire.  Mr. Galarraga represented his team at the
home plate meeting with the umpires.  Mr.
Joyce clearly showed his emotion.  Again,
Mr. Galaraga demonstrated his forgiveness. 
They both showed their class and sportsmanship to their teammates, to
the fans, and the rest of the world. 

I do not know how Mr. Joyce performed on this night calling balls and
strikes after his emotional roller coaster ride.  Frankly, I do not think that is
important. 

 This teachable moment is what is important.  I hope players from the Little League
diamonds and youth soccer fields to the professional ballparks and stadiums around
the world will reflect on the responses of Messrs. Joyce and Galarraga and
convert this moment to an extremely relevant life’s lesson.

 It would be nice to think that our politicians, who have perfected an
excuse or blame for everything done wrong, would give this moment some thought
as well.  The civility these two men showed one another is what a great many Americans want to see in the halls of
government, from the county courthouse, the statehouse, and the chambers of
Congress.

Pay attention.  Blind and mean spirited partisanship is the enemy of good.

© John G. Self, 2010

Mr. Self is the President and Founder of JohnGSelf Associates, Inc., a healthcare executive search and human capital advisory services firm in Dallas.  He has represented clients recruiting from Asia, Africa, Australia, Middle East and North America

A  highly rated speaker, Mr. Self has more than 30 years of healthcare experience, 16 years in executive search, and his record of talent selection is one of the best in the industry.

He is the 2010 Regent Award winner as the senior healthcare leader of the year in North Texas, an honor bestowed by the American College of Healthcare Executives.

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