The Perfect Game That Should Have Been

June 6, 2010 at 6:54 pm (Sports)

What happened at Comerica Park on Wednesday night will live on forever.  As I watched the events unfold, all I could think about was that I would one day tell my kids that I was privileged enough to watch the first-ever 28-out Perfect Game.  They would then go on to tell their kids.  And so on, and so on.

As a Tigers fan, I feel both enraged and proud at the same time.  As a baseball fan, I feel a sense of hope.  I was angry that a Perfect Game could be stolen from somebody.  I was angry that an umpire could possibly make a mistake of that importance, when they are supposed to be of big-league caliber.

As Armando Galarraga said: “Nobody’s Perfect.”

Sadly, on that night, that statement wasn’t correct.  You, Armando, were perfect.  You had earned a place in the record books.  And it was taken from your grasp.  That statement however, while untrue, was just the start in turning an awful situation into something that we can all learn from.  What Galarraga and Joyce showed in the aftermath of the controversial call, is what I will stress to my kids when I tell them the story.  There are bigger things in life than the game itself.  When the call happened, all you could do was feel bad for Galarraga.  However, as the situation unfolded, all you could do was feel bad for Jim Joyce and his family.  They had to deal with threats of violence coming from insecure idiots, who had nothing better to do with their time than harass Jim’s children and his wife.

To those morons: why?  Why is that necessary?  Why do you feel the need to kick a man while he’s down just because you have no meaning to your life?  Jim Joyce already felt as bad as he possibly could, as we could see by his admission that he had blown the call.

“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the shit out of it,” Joyce said.  “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

Jason Donald was called safe. You be the judge.

Joyce felt it necessary to call Galarraga into the umpire’s room for one reason — to apologize.  He had seen the replay, he knew he blew it, and he felt really bad about it.  It isn’t common for an umpire to apologize for a mistake, but Joyce isn’t just any umpire.  He prides himself on being one of the best and he  had been voted the best twice in his career by a Sports Illustrated player poll.  This call was tearing him up.

“He feels really bad — probably more bad than me,” Galarraga said.  “But nobody’s perfect.  I give a lot of credit to that guy because he needed to talk to me and say, ‘I’m sorry.’  His body language said more than a lot of words.  His eyes were watering.  I gave him a couple hugs.  There is going to be a couple more — I hope so.”

Don’t get me wrong — I’m still angry that Galarraga had a perfect game stolen from him.  But the more I hear Joyce talk, the more I realize this isn’t just your typical stubborn umpire.  He actually cares.  The class that he has shown throughout the situation has been refreshing to see.  He has admitted a mistake publicly.  He has apologized to Galarraga in person.  And he did not back away from the criticism.  In fact, he welcomed it because in his mind, “he deserved it.”  Joyce’s admission of guilt didn’t just make it hard to hate him, but it made it impossible not to forgive him.  Apparently Galarraga felt the same way.  The next day, Joyce was behind the plate.  And of course — Armando Galarraga was the one delivering the lineup to him as a way of a peace offering and a way for both parties to move forward.  Galarraga could have argued the call.  Instead, he smiled.  Galarraga could have protested the call to Major League Baseball.  Instead he celebrated with his teammates as if he was credited for a Perfect Game.  Galarraga could have been pissed, but instead he was understanding and even went as far as to tell Joyce “I am proud of you,” after Joyce had delivered his apology.

The class that was shown between these two unbelievable men was something that everybody should have been able to witness.  It was something that everybody should try to learn from.  It could not have been handled any better.  And the majority of the Tigers fans at Comerica Park, the very next day, must have noticed as Joyce was showered with cheers when he stepped on the field.  There were a few boos that rained down, as was to be expected, but they were in the minority.  With the way the whole situation unfolded, I was not the only one to be proud to be a Tigers fan.

Galarraga and Joyce handled the whole situation as well as they possibly could.

“I’m so proud of the fans,” Leyland said.  “I really am.  I just thought it was handled extremely well.  I thought the applause and the greeting for Galarraga was tremendous.  I thought the greeting for the umpire was great.  I’m proud to be the manager of this franchise, and I’m proud to manage for these fans.  They showed a lot of class, and it was a hard thing to do.”

Even Bud Selig has been amazed at the level of sportsmanship that he has witnessed over these last few days:

“First, on behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Armando Galarraga on a remarkable pitching performance.  All of us who love the game appreciate the historic nature of his effort last night.

“The dignity and class of the entire Detroit Tigers organization under such circumstances were truly admirable and embodied good sportsmanship of the highest order.  Armando and Detroit manager Jim Leyland are to be commended for their handling of a very difficult situation.  I also applaud the courage of umpire Jim Joyce to address this unfortunate situation honestly and directly.  Jim’s candor illustrates why he has earned the respect of on-field personnel throughout his accomplished career in the Major Leagues since 1989.”

Selig continued, acknowledging that he can not expect the situation to be handled with that sort of class every time, and therefore it is now his responsibility to make sure that mistakes like that do not happen again:

“As Jim Joyce said in his postgame comments, there is no dispute that last night’s game should have ended differently.  While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed.  Given last night’s call and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features.  Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties, including our two unions and the Special Committee for On-Field Matters, which consists of field managers, general managers, club owners and presidents.”

I was of the belief that replay did not belong in baseball.  The human element was a piece of baseball history that I cherished.  That view changed at approximately 8:50 PM on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010.  That view changed when I realized a Perfect Game could be taken from somebody that had earned it.  That has nothing to do with being a Tigers fan; it has everything to do with being a baseball fan.  As a Tigers fan, I was angry and upset that Galarraga did not get the Perfect Game he deserved.  As a baseball fan, I forgave Jim Joyce and turned my attention to the direction that Major League Baseball may be heading — the era of Instant Replay.  Every other sport has already gone in that direction, but baseball has relied on its history and has rejected the idea of moving away from the human element.  I was fine with that until now.  But the bottom line is that the mistake that happened on Wednesday night was a wake-up call.  That mistake can happen once, but must not happen again.  And now it is Selig’s turn to ensure that  it does not happen again.  If this kind of situation should ever repeat itself, I doubt the parties involved will handle it with as much class as Galarraga and Joyce did this time around.

If this kind of situation should ever repeat itself, I blame you Bud Selig for not making a change when the opportunity presented itself for the whole world to see.

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Collegiate Sports Result in Shameful Acts of Violence

November 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm (Sports)

What started with a blatant late hit ended with an eye-gouge……..

That is the disgusting nature of college football these days.  Sportsmanship has gone out the window in favor of brutal acts that do nothing for the sport itself.  However, the violent acts are not even the worst part of the sad story that is college athletics.  The worst part is the lack of response by the NCAA and the coaches that are responsible for setting an example for these misguided college kids. 

How on earth can people make an excuse for a player trying to eye-gouge another?  Let alone that this is happening to a college kid?  How can someone possibly defend that?  Without coming out and actually defending the actions of Brandon Spikes, Urban Meyer’s actions spoke louder than any words ever would be capable of.

The legendary coach, who has won 2 national championships in the past 3 years, did indeed suspend Spikes.  For 1 game!  1 whole game against Vanderbilt University, the doormat of the SEC.  The best part was that he originally suspended Spikes for only the first half of the game, but not until he faced tremendous criticism for his lack of response did he extend the suspension.

Meyer Changes Length of Suspension

I wonder if he actually believes that the fact that he extended the suspension makes him look better as a human being.  I’m amazed that the NCAA has not stepped in, but I guess they don’t want to interfere with Florida’s national championship run.  So instead, Georgia’s running back became the “sacrificial lamb.”  The stunning thing is that the running back, Washaun Ealey, defended Spikes afterward, saying he should not be suspended.

Ealey apparently has taken one too many hits to the head.

“He really didn’t gouge my eyes,” Ealey said. “He really didn’t get a chance to get close to my eyes.”

So because he wasn’t successful means his attempt should go unnoticed?  Interesting…

Then this piece of gold when he was asked if similar accidents happen:

“I’m pretty sure it goes on back and forth,” he said. “We probably do it and other teams do too. It’s all football. We’re just out there trying to have fun.”

So let me get this straight…he is defending the person that “attempted” to eye-gouge him because “everybody” does it, including his own team?  Well that makes sense…!

Mr. Ealey just admitted that his team is full of thugs as well, whether or not that is what he intended to say.  Sorry, but “it’s all football” does not fly.  It is not football.  That is extracurricular activity that has no place on the football field.  Just because everybody does it does not mean it’s right.  When I was a little kid, my parents taught me that “2 wrongs don’t make a right.”  That seems to be the perfect phrase for this situation.  Going right along with Ealey, Urban Meyer is going about defending Brandon Spikes by sending a video of the late hit to the NCAA, showing that it was not just his players committing thuggish acts.

Meyer sends video to NCAA

Fine — it was a late hit and should have been a big penalty.  But comparing that hit to an eye-gouge, successful or not, is ridiculous.  Much more harm comes from an eye-gouge.  Period.

Meyer tried to take the high road by suspending Spikes, but he ended up looking like a coach that only cares about one thing — winning.  So that I don’t come off sounding completely irrational, I will point out once again that I put more blame for this situation on the shoulders of Urban Meyer, not Brandon Spikes.  Brandon is old enough to know what he did was an embarrassment not only to himself, but to the sport as well.  But when you have a coach that is setting the example that Urban is, these things do become just a part of the game, like Ealey said.

Brandon since has apologized:

“I accept responsibility for my actions and I accept the consequences of my actions,” Spikes said. “I would like to apologize to my team and the coaching staff and Washaun Ealey. Football is a very physical and emotional game, but there is no excuse for my actions.”

Good for him.  It was the necessary thing to do.  Part of me even wonders if he was the one to talk Urban Meyer into the full game suspension instead of the half game, understanding that he needed to face the consequences.  Hopefully from this day forward Brandon will no longer resort to violence on the football field, and instead he will let his play do the talking.  He is a very talented young man, with a bright future in the NFL, who hopefully has learned a valuable lesson that will stick with him for the rest of his life.  It doesn’t matter what kind of emotion you face on the field, that scoreboard is the best method of payback you can give.  I can promise you the end result of that Florida game hurt Ealey much more than his eye-gouge attempt did, or even could.

To end on another disturbing note…I’m going to show one more clip that just happened, which once again shows violence in collegiate sports from the New Mexico women’s soccer team.  Bottomline, this isn’t just a football problem, this is a culture problem.  Win at all costs…

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UC: You’re Still the Small Fish In a Big Pond

September 23, 2009 at 6:08 pm (Sports)

Both helmets

Lately, there has been a lot of commentary on The Ohio State University, specifically the Buckeyes football team as college football has gotten off to a very entertaining start to the 2009 season.  That start has included a high profile matchup as the Buckeyes were looking to avenge last year’s 35 – 3 thumping by the USC Trojans.  While the Bucks played well, they still ultimately lost, giving up a 7 minute touchdown drive at the end of the 4th quarter.  Since that game, they have received many compliments throughout the media, just because they played “competitively” when many expected it to be another blowout.  What those same people do not realize is that Buckeye Nation is sick of these moral victories.  The “W” is all that matters, and we have failed in that category lately, when it comes to big games.

Now it seems that some like to add insult to injury.  While we are recovering from another heartbreaking loss, another school from the state of Ohio is off to a great start.  They are 3-0 and are destroying anybody in their path.  That team: The Cincinnati Bearcats.  They have clearly positioned themselves as the favorite in the Big East, although that may not be saying much.  Still — they were impressive in a 47-15 victory over Rutgers.  They followed that up with a 70-3 victory against Southeast Missouri State.  Yes, I know.  It’s just Southeast Missouri State.  But no matter how you slice it, 70 points is impressive.  A 67 point margin of victory!  Could you ever imagine Tressel doing that to a team?  Some people like the fact that he does not run the score up, but based on the way the ranking system is set up, a 67 point margin of victory does count for something, whether it is right or wrong.  In any case, Cincinnati then made the cross-country trip to play at Oregon State, one of the top teams in the Pac 10.  The Bearcats responded by winning 28-18, a victory that has opened some eyes in the college football community.

That’s great and all, but it seems that their 3-0 start has also created some big heads on the UC sideline.  I hope UC has a great year, and they have certainly gotten off to a great start.  But why do so many players now-a-days feel the need to talk?  I grew up with the attitude that you let your play do the talking, not your mouth.  It seems many do not follow that kind of thinking.  Meet Isaiah Pead.

Buckeyes vs. Bearcats

Isaiah Pead

Mr. Pead should concentrate on making more plays like the one he made against Rutgers, instead of concentrating on the team in Columbus.

“Hey, if we ever have to strap it on with them, we’re going to win.”Well Mr. Pead, lucky for you, you won’t need to “strap it on with them” this year.  In fact, your team won’t get to “strap it on with them” until 2012, after you have already run out of athletic eligibility.

I miss Barry Sanders.  You know the quiet running back that never opened his mouth until it was time for his Hall of Fame speech?  He didn’t need to, his play did the talking for him.  Mr. Pead, if you really believe Cincinnati is the best team in the state of Ohio — fine.  You are entitled to that opinion.  I differ strongly with it, but you are still entitled to your own view.  However, why do you feel the need to talk about it and guarantee a victory in a game that you know has no chance of happening?  The only possibility of that game happening is if there were an all-Ohio BCS game.  And, we know all too well, there is no chance that will happen.  What BCS game is going to want two Ohio teams?  They pull from the same market!  And even if they did want two Ohio teams, you really believe they would even be presented that option?  I mean we are talking about the BCS, where bowl picks are based not only on the individual team, but the money and fans that they bring as well.  Ohio State brings more money and more fans than any team in the country.  And Cincinnati — well — doesn’t.  Ohio State will be one of the first chosen, if they aren’t already scheduled for a trip to Pasadena.  Cincinnati will be one of the last.

So of course you can talk a big game when you know you won’t need to eat those words later.  Of course you can talk a big game when you know you won’t have to face an Ohio State linebacker coming up, with his sole purpose of knocking your teeth out.  On the off chance that we do meet this year, I would recommend telling your coach that you have the Swine Flu, so that you are unavailable to play.  Otherwise — I feel sorry for your parents, because they will be watching a team try to hit their son as hard as anybody has been hit before.

Maybe you guys are better than Ohio State this year.  Again — I doubt it, but maybe you are.  But why do you feel the need to talk?  We should just be happy that there are two good, or even great teams in Ohio, which hasn’t been true for a long time.  Don’t ruin that by opening your big mouth.  I hope, more than anything, that we see you in the near future so that we can settle this nonsense.  And believe me, we would!  Cincinnati wants to be considered a “big boy.”  Fine, but in order to be a “big boy” on the national stage, you must be consistent, year-in and year-out.  That consistency is judged by your play on the field, not by your talk off of it.  For a running back and a team that has not accomplished anything, there sure is a lot of talk coming from that young group of men.  The last time Ohio State and Cincinnati squared off, it was a 37-7 Buckeye blowout.  I realize that these are two completely different teams.  And yet, without any proof that Cincinnati is more than just a team in the middle of its 15 minutes of fame, this is just a bunch of talk from a player that knows he will never need to back up his big mouth.

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