John Wooden Quote

Whenever we hear about the illness of a giant like John Wooden, we get scared an era is ending. That is true for “The Greatest Generation”, any bad news about Vin Scully, Walter Cronkite’s death – you have your own list of people that you admire and their (possible) loss marks a point of no return in your mind.

While I’m very saddened to hear about John Wooden’s grave illness and hope for another 99 years of his wisdom, we should never forget that every day new heroes and new giants are born: Hard-working people. Decent human beings. Case in point: Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga.

Now, most of you know the story already: Baseball umpire Jim Joyce made a bad call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. (To put this in perspective: Almost 400,000 baseball games have been played in the history of the MLB. 20 were perfect games.) Two remarkable things happened: Unlike most umpires (and most human beings in the modern age), Jim Joyce took full responsibility and apologized. He said: “I’m sorry. I had a great angle and I missed the call.”

He received death threats, his Wikipedia page declared him dead and a webpage “Fire Jim Joyce” popped up almost immediately. And what did he do? He apologized in person to Galarraga, answered all media questions, went back to work the next day as the plate umpire and received the lineup card from Galarraga. By apologizing, by being upfront about the mistake, Joyce became a beloved umpire. Even the site says now: “You know after hearing all the talk from both the pitcher and umpire Jim Joyce today, I have only one thought: They are both classier than I am.”

Jim Joyce was only overshadowed by the other hero of the story: Armando Galarraga. And, frankly, without his initial reaction the story might have played out differently. When Joyce blew the call, Galarrage didn’t do the exepcted: He didn’t rant, he didn’t rave, he didn’t kick the dirt. Instead, he just smiled.

And that smile turned a possible game for the ages into a life lesson: Galarraga had all the right in the world to be selfish. He chose to be empathetic. He was perfect that day but he understood that nobody’s perfect. He said: “This happens every day. We’re only human. We make mistakes.”

Armando Galarraga, just brought up from the minors, could have been the 21st pitcher in Baseball history to pitch a perfect game. Now he’s just by himself as an example of forgiveness, kindness and human spirit. On that day, Armando Galarraga was perfect, both on the mound and in his human response to misfortune.

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. – John Wooden

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Oh, and a little note to BP: Buying media adjacent to the video of a real hero makes it even more apparent that you have no clue. How many millions of dollars have you spent on buying media, coming up with PR tactics to improve your image? Three small words would be a good start. You don’t need to have a big balance sheet, a PR department, an agency to say “We are sorry.” But you need heart.