Sunday, November 6, 2011

Get Out of the Way

This past weekend, during a college football game I saw on the tube, a referee got knocked down by a player.

He might have been hit by a speeding locomotive. The player, a running back at full speed, got pushed out of bounds along the sidelines, directly into the hapless referee. The collision first knocked the ref backward, and then down on his caboose.

It surprised me, but shouldn't have, that the running back didn't bother to help the ref back to his feet. Let alone say anything to him. Let alone apologize for what was clearly an accident.

The ref probably didn't expect anything like that. These things happen. It's an occupational hazard. Comes with the territory. A trainer from one of the football teams ran over to check on the ref, a side judge. He was shaken up but able to continue his whistle blowing.

This incident reminded me of another televised sporting event I saw, from long ago, as a kid. It was a baseball game, live from Japan, two Japanese teams. Probably on the Wide World of Sports.

A batter was hit by pitch. Immediately, the pitcher ran to home plate and bowed apologetically. The batter accepted the apology before trotting down to first base.

This apology impressed the hell out of me. That's how they do it in Japan. At the risk of demonstrating my cultural ignorance, it seemed like hitting a batter brought great shame to the pitcher.

The contrast between these two incidents exemplifies something to me. I'm not sure what, but some sort of American macho bullshit. As if an apology by that football player would have shown weakness. The Japanese pitcher demonstrated you can respect your opponent (or ref), and acknowledge his humanity, even in the midst of competition.

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