About a year ago, I wrote a piece expressing disdain at NHL referees and linesmen, as well as their boss at the time. I labeled them Club Two-Minutes and slammed the pomposity, arrogance, and the lack of accountability among them.
Yesterday in Major League Baseball, there was a little event in Detroit during a game between the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. A botched call cost pitcher Armando Galarraga a place in MLB's history as the 20th pitcher in the league's 134 year history to throw a perfect game (27 batters faced, 27 batters retired).
A botched call. The point to this post is that it was an admitted botched call from the official who made the call:
"It was the biggest call of my career and I kicked the (expletive) out of it," Joyce said. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay."
In defense of umpire Jim Joyce, he saw his error and he confessed it. Not in years from now retrospect, not days or weeks in the future, but immediately to the press following the game.
He confessed it to the press. An umpire, confessing he screwed up and screwed up big.
People, this alone is a monumental feat that you likely won't see again for ages.
At one point in the coming hours or days, MLB commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig will make a ruling "in the best interest of baseball" that either overturns Joyce's ruling on field and officially awards Galarraga with a perfect game... Or he'll pull a Stephen Walkom and attempt to stand up for the infallibility of the ruling on field at the time.
They say that it takes a big man to admit he's wrong. It takes an even bigger man who is an umpire (or linesman, or referee) to do the same and face up to his mistake. Joyce will be working today's Tigers game as chief umpire, behind home plate, catching hell for the mistake he made yesterday from the crowd as well as the players. He had teh option of ducking out, but instead he faces the music, willingly.
It is ultimately in the best interests of the game (and for pro sports in general) for on field officials to drop the appearance of infallibility. It won't lessen the scorn that they earn for their mistakes, but it makes it easier for the fans to see them as what they are: human, just like the rest of us.
What Jim Joyce did was the biggest botched call in years... But what Jim Joyce did immediately after the game, confronting Armando Galarraga and apologizing to him, is why I forgive him.