Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sportsmen of the Month: Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce


So I must be weird or something. When I first saw the realtime replay (meaning no slo-mo) of Jason Donald's foot meeting the bag at roughly the same time as that of Armando Galarraga, I thought it was a close play. Probably out, but a close play. However, first-base umpire Jim Joyce extended his arms to signal a safe runner.

Subsequently, the Detroit Tigers raised their arms and opened their mouths in bitter shock. Jim Leyland was apoplectic. The Tigers radio announcers went berzerk. The fans at Comerica booed effusively. The boys in Bristol cued up the replay to be reshown 3,000 times from 28 different angles. The nation's columnists and talking heads prepared their outrage, and so did the nation's sports fans.
And Armando Galarraga smiled.

He just stood their and smiled. Out of disappointment, out of frustration, out of hard luck, out of whatever emotion he was feeling, who knows. But the point was, he acted in such a foreign manner that 99.9 percent of us could never fathom expressing under the circumstances.

In the aftermath of Galarraga being, well, cheated out of joining the elusive MLB perfect game club, he never said an ill word toward Joyce, toward the umpires, toward Miguel Cabrera (who had tossed Galarraga the ball perhaps a tad casually), toward God, toward karma, toward anyone. He just took life as it happened, like a gentleman.

In the aftermath of Joyce's bang-bang call cheating Galarraga's perfection, he never uttered an excuse. Never got on the defensive. Never tried to stammer some half-baked reason for his call. He simply saw the replay, knew he screwed up, and dug into his internal resources for something that way, WAY too many people in this world don't comprehend.

He was accountable. He made a mistake, he owned up to it, and he apologized.

Isn't that what sports is all about? Nay ... isn't that what LIFE is all about???

I'm also weird for thinking that this story was completely overblown. If Joyce had made a bad call in the 12th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, I'd be screaming for universal instant replay like everyone else. But this, to me, doesn't fit the bill. Wins and losses and championships count more than personal achievements.

I'm also weird for thinking that Bud Selig did the right thing by upholding the call and not reversing Joyce's decision, thus officially keeping Galarraga out of the archives as a perfect-game pitcher. Talk about opening a can of worms the size of Mongolia if Selig had done that (and I'm not a Selig fan by any means).

So this was a story that filled the airspace for a good week or two. But what's splendid is, it only lives on not in a negative light by Joyce's mistake or the instant replay controversy.

It lives on because of the sportsmanship, the integrity, and the high character two men showed on and after June 2. Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce had a beautiful story written about them by Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci in June.

Wouldn't surprise me if there was another story penned in 6 months. One of the SOTY variety.


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