Every time I see this story on the tube, I tear up a bit. Not only did Joyce assume complete responsibility and take his lumps like a man, but the aggrieved pitcher, Galarraga, was unbelievably gracious in response. He almost felt sorry for the umpire. He didn’t cry like a baby. He didn’t bitterly complain. He acted like an adult, like a mature human being, like a grown-up. How rare in this world!
We live in a world where we build up heroes just so we can tear them down.
Tiger Woods is a perfect example of imperfection exposed. He put himself on a pedestal: the perfect golfer, the perfect family man, the perfect husband, only to have his infidelities eat away at him inside. Tiger wasn’t the first or last unfaithful husband, but the special relish that the media took in destroying his reputation was a wonder to behold.
Mark Souder, the Republican congressman from Indiana (and by all accounts, a perfectly fine fellow), resigned abruptly from the House, because he was unfaithful to his wife. His stellar career destroyed because he was not perfect. Of course, nobody is.
The marriage of Al and Tipper Gore, seen from the outside as the perfect political union, ends after 40 years. Official Washington is crestfallen, but at the same time, it notes the ultimate irony. This perfect marriage can’t outlast the obviously less-than-perfect relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton. But in retrospect, can you imagine being married to Al Gore for 10 years, let alone 40? The problem with big Al is he still thinks he is perfect. In actuality, he is the perfect bore.
The same fall is awaiting Barack Obama. Obama’s presidential campaign was unique in that he didn’t hide his imperfections. He admitted he snorted cocaine — did so in his own autobiography. By putting his flaws in plain sight, he was able to hide them. And now he has been caught in the perfection trap. Everyone expects him to be perfect. And everyone is looking to bring him down a notch.
Bill Clinton was the last president who really got away with not being perfect. You could just tell that he had no pretense of perfection. He was the perfect rogue, which gave him plenty of running room to be imperfect. That is the only way you can explain how he survived having an affair in the Oval Office with one of his interns, which is a firing offense in most corporate boardrooms.
Unlike Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Clinton’s Republican twin, consistently tried to convince people he was perfect, but luckily for Newt, nobody took him seriously. His history was too apparent for all to see. But that didn’t stop Newt from going after Clinton for his infidelities, just as Newt was engaging in his own. Gingrich believed (and believes) that the best defense is a very strong offense. So he attacks the imperfections in others, while ignoring his own. Well, it’s a strategy.
Politicians, sports figures and Hollywood stars all too often live in a fantasy world of their own making. And that fantasy usually revolves around the idea of their own perfection. Now, everybody who is in any way self-aware knows that human perfection is impossible, but that doesn’t stop these folks from letting the media print the myth of their perfection, and some even start to believe the hype. But that is a very dangerous trap.
The refreshing thing about the umpire Joyce is he didn’t hide his screw-up, he didn’t try to spin his way out of it, he didn’t try to blame others. And the refreshing thing about the pitcher Galarraga is that he accepted the imperfection of Mr. Joyce as being an essential part of life. Nobody is perfect, and the more we can all start to acknowledge that fact, the better off we will all be.