I’ve listened to countless opinions today on the radio. I’ve been involved in several conversations on the topic. I’ve weighed the merits of instant replay vs. the way it is. And I’ve concluded? Absolutely not. The game of baseball is beautiful because in so many ways it is a microcosm of life. We are human. Humans make mistakes. Lots of them. And sometimes those mistakes have terrible consequences. And what counts most is how we respond to the mistakes we make. The game reflects that with a beauty unrivaled in any professional sport. Did Armando Galarraga get robbed of a perfect game last night because of a botched call by umpire Jim Joyce? No denying it. But I think we learn more about real life the way it is. We learn lessons about how to deal with the mistakes of other imperfect people. We get to watch examples of men handling an unfair situation with grace. We get to see men step up and act like men, as the umpire did in admitting his mistake and apologizing to everyone involved. We don’t get instant replay in life. And I don’t think we need it in sports either.
The missed call was a real low point for baseball, an epic performance; a perfect game pitched by Galarraga erased by human error, an umpire’s error. Both Galarraga and baseball were deprived of history and the injustice rankled.
And yet, the aftermath of human error included all the parties involved displaying some admirable human qualities. Joyce seemed to be truly penitent. Galarraga acted with consistent grace and dignity. Leyland had enough generosity of spirit to offer kind, consoling words for the umpire.
The human mistake would not be erased; the injustice would not be reversed. But the aftermath offered some displays of human dignity that reminded us not of a major mistake but of baseball’s best traits.
Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think most baseball fans will always believe that. But, more than anything it seems that Galarraga will always believe it. The way he handled himself after the game, well, that was something better than perfection. Dallas Braden’s perfect game was thrilling. Roy Halladay’s perfect game was art. But Armando’s Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.
And when my young daughters ask, “Why didn’t he get mad and scream about how he was robbed,” I think I will tell them this: I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because Armando Galarraga understands something that is very hard to understand, something we all struggle with, something I hope you learn as you grow older: In the end, nobody’s perfect. We just do the best we can.
Or put another way, as much as Galarraga deserves official credit for perfection, I’m not sure I want to live in a world where his achievement is remembered as just another rare-but-not-that-rare sporting feat, rather than what it was — something more extraordinary and more memorable, something that brought out the best, in a strange way, in everybody involved, and something that will still be talked about long after the season’s other perfectos have faded into trivia.