1. There was one of those moments in a Major League Baseball game yesterday that teaches life lessons in character, and ethics for anyone who is paying attention.
The Boston Red Sox were playing the Toronto Blue Jays in an afternoon game at Fenway Park. Boston led 3-1 in the second inning, but the Red Sox pitcher, veteran Doug Fister, was struggling with an uncharacteristic control lapse: he walked his third batter in the inning, and also had given up a couple of hard-hit balls that suggested that a gaggle of runs and a blown lead were inevitable. Then, mirabile dictu, Fister caught a break. The next Toronto batter swung mightily and lofted an easy, lazy pop-up to the infield. If there had been one out rather than two, it would have been called an automatic out under the Infield Fly Rule. Everyone, including Fister, who is fighting to preserve his spot on the Sox roster as well as his flagging career, breathed a sigh of relief. The Toronto batter slammed his bat to the ground. Settling under a pop-up not any more difficult than those he had successfully caught as a Little Leaguer was Red Sox utility man Brock Holt, a second baseman this day. He is much admired for his versatility, energy and reliability. Holt is also trying to revive his career after a frightening, season-long battle with vertigo, as well as to show the team that he can fill a yawning void at third base.
Holt dropped the ball. It bounced off his glove, as the Toronto baserunners were charging around the bases at the crack of the bat, since there were already two outs. Two of them scored, and later two more after Fister surrendered hits in te lengthened inning, making the bounty bestowed by Holt’s muff four runs. Fister was soon out of the game, and was charged with his team’s eventual two-run loss by an 8-6 score. (Today’s headline in Boston: “Doug Fister’s Future As Starter Uncertain After Loss To Jays”).
Yet Fister never shot an angry glance at Holt. He’s played the game; he knows how mistakes and random bad luck can turn everything around in an instant. He probably has dropped a similar ball in a crucial situation: I know I’ve done it, at second base, losing a company soft-ball game. Holt trotted to the dugout, got supportive pats on the back and fanny from his team mates, and played the rest of the game with his head high and his skills on display. There is no doubt that he felt terribly about the play, but Holt didn’t hide under a rock, rend his garments, or make a big display of anger and frustration to signal to the hometown crowd—which didn’t boo or jeer him at any point in the game.
That’s life, as my father used to say, and this is how ethical people handle life. Disaster strikes out of a confluence of factors (a very bright sun undoubtedly helped Holt miss the ball, but professional ballplayers learn to cope with the sun) and all we can do, if we are competent at life as well as fair, responsible and brave, is to accept responsibility, not make excuses, and not allow such events to diminish or destroy us. Both Fister and Holt displayed the character necessary to do that. Neither blamed the other, and no one blamed them. Tomorrow is another day.
2. Professional troll Ann Coulter is having a public spat with Delta Airlines that reflects badly on both of them.
Coulter, flying on the airline over the weekend, unleashed a series of nasty mid-flight tweets when she was moved from the aisle seat she had pre-booked (and paid extra for) to a window seat in the same row to accommodate a late arriving passenger. Coulter then continued her angry anti-Delta barrage for nearly two days. Coulter even attacked the other passenger who was given her seat, calling her “dachshund-legged” and apparently denigrated her based on her appearance, tweeting, “Immigrants take American jobs (& seats on @Delta).”
Coulter’s acid tweets went viral on Twitter. Delta issued a blog post noting that it was trying to contact the conservative harpy about her complaints. Then, in its own tweets, Delta apologized for moving Coulter and said it would refund the $30 she had paid to guarantee her aisle seat.
Then Delta wrote, “More importantly, we are disappointed that the customer has chosen to publicly attack our employees and other customers by posting derogatory and slanderous comments and photos in social media. Her actions are unnecessary and unacceptable.”
- Delta was wrong to move Coulter. Delta, like all of the airlines now apparently, has badly trained staff with the improvisational ability of lemmings. Why would it ever be appropriate to move a passenger who was already seated, if another seat was empty? The late passenger was uncomfortable in window seats?
Too bad! Arrive sooner next time.
- If everyone is going to make every daily conflict into the Civil War, we are going to have a civil war, and not that civil either. Coulter could have been nice. (Someone explain “nice” to Ann.) This was a minor inconvenience at worst. She could have, and should have, written Delta, registered a complaint, and received an apology and a refund without insulting everyone in sight on social media.
Coulter also, via the magic of cognitive dissonance, made many people sympathetic towards Delta, which the airline does not deserve.
- Delta chose to stand up for its employees who were being abused by an angry celebrity customer. This is admirable up to a point (and also the only way to avoid a spat with the union), but nothing Coulter tweeted was “slanderous.” Stop making Americans and twitter-users dumber and more ignorant than the schools and the news media has already made them! “Slander” is a civil tort, and actionable in court. Nothing Coulter tweeted was anything but her opinion, expressed obnoxiously, as usual. It’s not actionable. Moreover, slander involves oral false assertions; written statements, as on Twitter, are libel.
Goooood lawyers you have there, Delta! No wonder you keep sucking.
- Delta’s performance in this matter is signature significance for an arrogant, badly-run company, but we knew that. Coulter’s conduct is signature significance for a mean bully and jerk without a sense of proportion or restraint.
We knew that, too.