Screaming doesn’t always help

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — Last week a truly amazing event occurred in the world of sports. Detroit’s Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game. He threw to the minimum 27 hitters and didn’t let anyone get to first base. It had only happened 20 times previously in the 134-year history of Major League Baseball.

There was only one catch. Umpire Jim Joyce called the final batter safe at first. Baseball doesn’t have instant replay as pro football and basketball do, so the decision stood.

Fans screamed. So did the Detroit manager. But that doesn’t change things. And what was Galarraga doing? He was standing calmly on the mound, readying himself to retire the next hitter.

We have come to expect far less of professional athletes. John McEnroe’s and Kobe Bryant’s fits of anger are now the norm.

And what did the umpire do? When he watched video of the play after the game, he admitted he blew the call, cursed himself and went to find Galarraga and apologize for costing the kid a perfect game. Galarraga replied that no one is perfect — although he had been that night.

It was an amazing action on the part of Jim Joyce too. Umpires are never wrong. Players and coaches can be thrown out of a game for questioning them.

And what of Major League Baseball itself? Stuck in 19th century tradition, Commissioner Bud Selig refused to reverse the call despite its injustice.

To top it all off, the same two teams played the following night and Joyce was the home-plate umpire. Managers deliver their lineup cards to home plate before the game. But who delivered the Detroit Tigers’ lineup? Armando Galarraga. And the Detroit fans cheered.

There is no telling what will happen with Galarraga in the future. He isn’t even a steady member of the starting lineup yet. He may never get close to a performance like this again.

But people are still talking about it. And using it for analogies. And as you may have suspected, that’s what I’m getting ready to do.

Americans are very proud of such behavior. Detroit is known for some very rabid fans. Yet they stood and cheered the following night when Galarraga and Joyce shook hands at home plate.

So why doesn’t that happen all the time? We’re a good nation of good people. Why don’t we always reward good behavior?

I’m speaking, of course, about negative political campaigning. Americans overwhelmingly say they don’t like it. Yet, at this moment, there are people in back rooms preparing attack ads.

Why are they doing it? Because the people in the business say the evidence demonstrates that attack ads are necessary in order to win. We don’t like them but we let them influence us.

Two of the five candidates in the recent GOP gubernatorial primary ran negative ads. They garnered 79 percent of the vote. There are a few exceptions to the rule however. Gov. Gary Johnson stayed away from negative ads during his two successful campaigns.

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While we’re on the subject of unusual human behavior, I can’t resist telling you about a resolution that was working its way through the Hawaii Legislature when we were there this spring. It recognized the cultural merits of cockfighting in the long history of the islands.

Cockfighting is now illegal in Hawaii but is still honored by enough residents to get it through some legislative committees.

I don’t know if there is a connection but the fellow who lives across the street from where we stay in Hawaii has recently quit raising game cocks and now just has chickens.

In New Mexico, cockfighting isn’t faring as well. Federal Judge Martha Vasquez has said that a suit brought by the Kiowa tribe and the New Mexico game fowl breeders has shortcomings that are insurmountable.

The two groups claimed New Mexico’s law making cockfighting unlawful violates their constitutional rights.

E-mail Jay Miller at insidethecapitol@hotmail.com.