Last season, Detroit pitcher Armando Gallaraga had a perfect game going. No hits, no walks, no base-runners through two outs in the ninth inning. Then came a routine ground ball to the first baseman, and Gallaraga running to first base to catch the ball. The throw clearly beats the runner and the perfect game is secure. Well that’s what should have happened, but for some reason umpire Jim Joyce called him safe. He thought he was safe, but replays showed he was clearly out.
That blown call would change Joyce’s life. Check out this article on the aftermath of blowing such a call. The article is helpful for a number of reasons. Here are several of my “takes” on the article and situation.
1.) The situation could be harder for this umpire. Gallaraga came up to him after the game, have him a hug, and received an apology. I don’t know if Gallaraga is a believer or not, but he sure is acting like someone who has been shown lots of grace. Grace received should move us to show grace to others. Something I need to remember all of the time, as a parent, pastor, friend, neighbor, and spouse.
2.) Umpires and referees carry a heavy burden. They do affect the outcome of the game. While the only professional referee I’ve ever met actually did prison time for fixing games, most probably try their best without bribery. From a fan’s perspective, its hard when officials blow a call and don’t own it. But it in this article you hear from other officials, that this is probably not the norm.
3.) Caring and caring too much. That people would give death threats for blown calls is unbelievable. That a blown call should or even could change or alter someone’s life is sad. Sad, but inevitable when following sports moves from hobby to idolatry.
4.) The support from imperfect people. Outside death threats, it is fascinating, but also obvious, how broken people attract support from broken people. From other referees who’ve blown calls, to airline workers, to children with cerebral palsy, it is cool to see a fellowship of the broken develop. That’s also one picture of the church of what the church should be.