It only takes a second for all you have worked for to come crumbling down and your life to completely change. That concept has fascinated me throughout my life and I have always been drawn to stories where people, by one incorrect decision, are forever labeled and branded. It happens most often in sports, where names like Bill Buckner, Steve Bartman, Fred Brown, TC Chen and Leon Lett are forever defined by their worst moment. Last night was yet another example as Dan Le Batard points out in this wonderful column in the Miami Herald. He sets out the two tremendous acts of humanity shown last night, one by the Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga, who rather than storm with rage at Umpire Jim Joyce, seemed to accept it with a bewildered zen-like smile. It takes a very particular type of person to forgive completely and instantaneously. And Gallaraga did both.
But as Le Batard points out in the column far better than I could, the actions of Jim Joyce are just as compelling. Yes he screwed up and yes the call will (at least until MLB potentially overturns it) rob Gallaraga of a place in baseball immortality. But who among us has not made a mistake? Joyce, who is considered one of the best umpires in the game (and one of the worst moustaches in the game) took full responsibility and recognized the life-changing nature of the moment immediately when he said, “it was the biggest call of my career and I kicked the shit out of it.” He apologized profusely to Gallaraga and later broke down, overcome with guilt.
I never watch baseball except to see the Braves, but turned on last night’s game with one out remaining, just in time to see the last play. I knew as soon as I saw it, that Joyce’s life will never be the same. Whenever he is brought up, it will be with the addition “he is the guy that blew that call in that pefect game.” I could tell his fate immediately and I am sure after he saw the replays, Joyce could as well. In today’s internet world, a man who 24 hours ago was unknown, is now not only known but a trending topic full of jokes on Twitter (most last night sent to me involved him being #wrongonpurpose). I am sympathetic to Joyce because his situation exemplifies the “but for the Grace of God go I” mentality that I try to always remember. We are all just one moment, sometimes from situations out of our control, from our lives totally changing. If that isnt humbling, I dont know what is.