As fate would have it, both my vocation and avocation are in fields where people expect perfection from me from the moment I get dressed. From the time I put on my collar in the morning I am expected to be a paragon of virtue, with no vices, making no missteps, preparing to deliver perfect sermons that touch every person, and dealing with every crisis and circumstance with grace, dignity, and wisdom. From the moment I put on the stripes I am expected to be in perfect position to make every call correctly, properly enforce every foul, and deal with every irate coach, parent, and fan with grace, dignity, and wisdom.
This came to mind on Sunday while I was watching the Rams/Saints NFC Championship Game. Late in the game there was an obvious and egregious pass interference foul that was also a foul for targeting a defenseless player. And as I and millions of others watched it unfold, we waited for the flag to come. But this time there was no flag. Millions of people saw this play, and millions of people did not need slow-motion replay to determine if it was a foul. And yet, the two people who mattered the most, the Back Judge and Side Judge, somehow missed it.
I get it. This should not have happened. But people do make mistakes. Several years ago, MLB umpire Jim Joyce blew a call that wiped out a perfect game. When I was in Montana, the place that changed my oil forgot to put the oil cap back on, so I drove 90-some miles with oil spewing out of the engine. In a former job, a salesperson wrote down the wrong number and my company ended up delivering, and then re-ordering at no charge, some 100 office panels. Mistakes happen.
Those two officials (and maybe three if you include the Down Judge) will most likely be downgraded and kept out of the playoffs for a few years. They may or may not lose their jobs. They may need to seek counseling to deal with the emotional impact of that missed call in a business that generates billions of dollars, as well as the forthcoming hate mail they will receive.
Mistakes happen. Sometimes they are really big and have far-reaching consequences. As the person making the mistake: Will we own the mistake? Will we make appropriate apologies, amends, and/or penance? Will we come to forgive ourselves? Will we learn from the mistake?
Mistakes happen. As the person (or people) on the receiving end of the mistake: Will we recognize people are fallible? Are we willing to accept the apology? Can we come to a place of forgiveness? Or will we continue to hold a grudge and accept nothing less than revenge?
In the end, I wish I had thrown the flag for that illegal hit. I wish the New Orleans Saints had won the game. I hope those two or three officials aren't destroyed by this incident. I hope we learn.