Where Is the Judge: Part I

Where is the Judge:  Part I


     My grandson walked through the front door in his soiled baseball uniform with his hat in his hand and his lip dragging on the ground.  “How did it go?”  I asked even though his body language had already supplied the answer.  “They cheated!” was his reply. 


     Both teams had arrived at the field assuming that the normal rules of little league would guarantee a fair and fun contest.  However, the umpires were late.  The opposing team, by virtue of the fact that they were one year more advanced in the league or perhaps that their coaches were more aggressive by disposition, decided that the play should begin on time with or without the officials.  One inning and five runs for the other team later, the umps arrived, allowed the earned runs to count, and refused to hear any objection of “foul!”  Neither goal of fairness or fun was achieved that night.


     A sporting contest is actually one of many forms of relationship.  Simply defined, a relationship is an association whereby two parties relate; and all relationships are predominantly a form of contractual connection.  Some facilitate a task, i.e. a business affiliation, and serve mainly a practical function.  Other bonds foster and sustain emotional or psychological needs.   Whether pragmatic or quixotic, all relationships require the same key elements.  There must be clear description of each party’s role, a definitive set of rules, and unambiguous clarification of the outcome that each party can expect.  Finally, a means of conflict resolution or a court of appeals must be identified in case either party defaults upon the terms.


     In the case of my grandson’s ball game, the contract was altered jeopardizing the relationship.  The first “curve ball” came in the form of changed rules.  Ten-year-old boys play with more advanced regulations and equipment than that which is standard for the nine-year-olds.  The younger boys were out-skilled and under-trained for the changes.  Contractually or relationally speaking, the game they had agreed to play was on a whole new “playing field.”


     The second “change up pitch” was that the coaches became the umpires.  The nature of any contract is that the participants expect to receive a benefit.  Relationships are mutually binding and mutually rewarding.  Benefits flow because each party gives what has been agreed.  Neither party may coerce or extort.  When disagreements arise, the rules function to define “fair” or “foul”; but if either party defies the rules or disputes the application of the rules, an unbiased third party is called to make a judgment based upon the pre-set rules.  For either side to act as the judge is to introduce the possibility of partiality, prejudice, and ultimately extortion of the benefit.  Judges cannot be either party in the relationship.  Judges must know the rules.  Judges must enforce the rules or the relationship is at risk. 

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