Not a Perfect Game, but a perfect ending…

Perfection is elusive.

There are not many places where we are judged against a standard that allows observers to conclude that something was “perfect.” Usually we judge perfection against some subjective standard that allows us to make that assessment. Usually it is in reference to something we treasure — the perfect day, hamburger, sunrise.

It seems that sports is an arena that has established standards for judging  perfection — bowling a 300 game; and yes pitching a perfect game. Education also contributes to the chase for perfection — 100% on an exam, and the 4.0 average are , but those “perfects” have as much to do with the difficulty of the questions as  the answers given. In sports the competitive edge and structure of the game, creates a truer objective standard against which to measure perfection.

It occurs to me that the recent baseball “imperfection” is a good opportunity to consider that it is not how we handle “perfect” that counts, but rather how we handle “imperfect.”  What was interesting was the outrage of the fans, coaches, media and other players who were outraged in defense of the perfect game, while Armando Galarraga stood and smiled.  What was apparent to the world was that the pitcher pitched a perfect game, but Jim Joyce, the umpire, did not call a perfect game.

A lesson here is that is takes more than on pitcher to create a perfect game. It takes the whole team to play their error free best, and each umpire to call an error free game. One missed call behind the plate, could result in a walk. One dropped or booted ball from a teammate could result in an error. So we were left with an a perfect game played by Galarraga, his teammates, and the umpires, except for the one missed call.  Near perfection that caused outrage.  Because the call was so obvious, the outrage was well placed.

But, what we did not recognize at that moment is that  Jim Joyce did not see the taped replay. We had more information, in slow-motion and freeze-frame, than he had. Of course he defended his call, because he only knew what he perceived at that moment.

What happened next was something that will forever re-write the way the story of the 28 out perfect game will be told.

Jim Joyce looked at the tape, saw his mistake and admitted he blew the call. He knew that he had taken away from Galarraga something that eluded all but 20 others in the history of the game. Joyce showed a true sense of remorse and self- criticism. There was no attempt by him to defend the call. It was the perfect confession – I blew it. I was wrong. No excuses.

The tearful events at the beginning of the next game demonstrated how two people who have suffered through a problem, where the behavior of one hurts the other, can decide to accept what happened as unchangeable, but to restore a relationship that will endure beyond that one game.

It took two people to make it happen.

They did it on their own.

Two men, each of great character created a new perfect for the world to talk about…..

A perfect ending.


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