Bill Buckner And Moral Luck [Updated]

Bill Buckner died today.

Even many non-baseball fans know his name. The first baseman gained cultural infamy in 1986, when Mookie Wilson hit a slow bouncer that found its way through Buckner’s legs, winning Game 6 of the World Series for the New York Mets after the Boston  Red Sox had appeared certain to finally win their first Word Series tittle since 1918. Buckner became an object of ridicule nationally and a scapegoat in Boston, which had reached its limit in close calls and near misses after dramatic final game  defeats in 1946, 1948, 1949, 1967, 1975 and 1978. (Game 6 wasn’t the final game in ’86: the Sox had to blow a three-run lead in Game 7 to lose that Series. Never mind: the surviving narrative was that it was still all Bill’s fault).

Knowledgeable and fair Red Sox fans—like me—never blamed Buckner, and condemned those who did. Indeed, Buckner’s late season offensive heroics probably got the Sox to the Series in the first place. Playing on fragile, oft-injured legs, he endured painful daily therapy to allow him to stay in the line-up, even though he was barely mobile. Boston manager John McNamara routinely replaced him in the late innings with defensive specialist Dave Stapleton. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Ex-Washington Redskins Holder Hunter Smith

The Washington Redskins and their fans thought they had made a last second comeback to tie last Sunday’s NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All they needed to do to send the game into overtime was to make the extra point,  the virtually automatic seventh point of a touchdown that is successfully kicked in the pros about 99% of the time. It wasn’t to be, however: the ‘Skins long snapper snapped the ball high, the holder couldn’t hold it, and the game was lost.

After the game, the holder, Redskins punter Hunter Smith, told reporters that it was his job to catch errant snaps, and that he took responsibility for the loss. “If anybody needs to lose their job it’s me,” he said in the locker room. “I certainly accept blame.”

Sure enough, the Redskins, who are having yet another in a long line of disappointing seasons, fired him. Continue reading