As I've noted on here before, the profession that keeps our family in San Marzano tomatoes and Apple products is media relations, and as a longtime student and practitioner of this work, I'm always fascinated by public events on the big stage. How they develop, what the players do and say and how their actions and words are perceived by the public.
So this week I've been intrigued - like many others - by this Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga blown call/perfect game that wasn't situation and, particularly, how well and admirably Joyce (the umpire) handled himself in the aftermath of an event that had the potential to turn him into an enduring national demon, fair or not. I'm not getting into whether his wrong call should have been reversed, the record corrected and the achievement formally awarded, that's a debate for another blog.
Here is a link for anyone who doesn't know what I'm writing about.
No, what struck me on Wednesday night was Joyce's stark and perfect reaction to a moment that was rewound and replayed, over and over again, his error more glaring with each passing frame, infuriating millions.
"It was the biggest call of my career and I kicked the *#+&$ out of it," Joyce said, after basically fighting his way off the field at the end of the game and immediately asking the clubhouse attendant to show him a video replay. "I just cost that kid a perfect game ... I thought he beat the throw, I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay."
In the world of after-the-fact public messaging, you can't do much better than that - full acknowledgment and ownership of not only the mistake, but also the impact it had on the other guy, stated clearly and with obvious emotion and empathy. Now, to be fair, this was a relatively simple and straightforward situation - one official, one play, an event without complex or developing machinations, impacts or other directly-involved participants.
But there are still about a thousand other ways it could have gone. "I don't watch replays ... I don't comment on my calls ... I saw what I saw and I've been doing this for 25 years, so back off!" He left the stadium immediately following the game, after refusing to speak with the media. Can't you imagine the lingering impact of this one moment if Joyce handled it differently? You wake up, go to work and before the day is done become a national pariah, as a result of throwing your arms open, yelling "SAFE," being wrong and getting truculent about it.
And the pitcher, Galarraga, who achieved perfection on the field and then took it to another level in his own gracious and accepting response to such a clear injustice. Denied the ultimate mark of personal performance for his position, a rarefied spot in the record books - wrongly and unfairly, for everyone to see - he chalked it up and moved on. If a player ever had cause for a wild-eyed Robbie Alomar-style freakout it was Galarraga, but he didn't go there. "He probably felt more bad than me," the pitcher said after the game, when the shock had passed and his sense of bitterness could have been assumed to have been cresting. "Nobody's perfect."
Everyone did and said the right things in the aftermath of the call. Throw in the events that followed - Joyce rejecting an offer from MLB to sit out the last game of the series and instead taking his spot yesterday behind home plate in a hostile ballpark, Galarraga bringing him the line-up card at the start of the game and formalizing his forgiveness with a friendly tap, which was returned to produce an organic and emotional moment - and you have all the icing on the cake needed for co-produced ESPN/Lifetime Original Movie.
"The Pitcher, The Ump, And The Imperfect Game"
Check your local listings.