Saturday, January 7, 2012

Touching the Ball

When one is recovering from surgery, such as total knee replacement (TKR), one tends to watch more television than normal. One even watches commercials. (How bored am I?) The other day, one commercial actually got my attention. It’s been around a couple of years, but I usually ignore it. Perhaps you’ve seen it. It’s about a championship basketball game, presumably high school. At a critical moment near the end of the game, the ball goes out of bounds. A time out is called. A player on the team that was given possession of the ball tells his coach that he actually touched the ball before it went out of bounds. Possession should go to the other team. The player’s teammates get mad at him for speaking up, but the coach looks him in the eye and says “Good call”.

The commercial is sponsored by the Foundation for a Better Life. The foundation was created in 2001 and entirely funded by a wealthy evangelical Christian, Philip Anschutz. The messages are not overtly religious, but focus on morality and doing the right things. I’m all for it and applaud Mr. Anschutz for putting a big chunk of his considerable wealth into this program.

But, I must admit that I struggle with this particular example of honesty and sportsmanship. The referee is part of the game. If he blows the call, it’s part of the game. The blown call hurts one team and helps the other…it’s part of the game. So here’s the big question…when “the system” makes the wrong call, are we obligated to correct it? If the batter takes a 3-2 pitch in the strike zone, but the umpire calls it a ball, should the batter feel bad about it and try to change the call? Before instant replay how many bad calls were made in football? How many times did the player who benefited from the bad call know it was a bad call? Was the player wrong to benefit from the bad call?

It’s pretty clear to me that referees and umpires are part of sports and their calls, right or wrong, are part of the game. You win some and you lose some. But what about the cashier who gives you change for a $20 when you actually gave them a $10. What about the buyer who pays your full asking price and never ask questions about the merchandise? What about the promotion you get that really should have gone to someone else? Are undeserved wins offset by undeserved losses somewhere on a great cosmic scoreboard? Should we care and if so, should we try to change the score?

The reality is that most of us will tell the cashier that they gave us back too much change. Doing the right thing over an extra $10 feels better than keeping the $10 (unless you’re flat broke in which case you’re more likely to keep the $10 and deal with guilt later.)But most of us will not go out of our way to tell a prospective buyer the “warts and all” about the product. Caveat emptor is the game. And we’re not likely to push someone else ahead of us for that promotion. If the boss thinks I’m better qualified and more deserving, that’s just my good fortune.

So when do you call a foul on yourself? They say that our character is revealed by what we do when no one is watching. That may be true, but it is not complete. Our character is further revealed by what we do about a wrong even when others say it is right. When we touch the ball and no one else knows it. Someone else's call? That's your call.

No comments: