We're more than halfway through the baseball season. It's been a good season — a bunch of tight pennant races are developing, starting pitching has been tremendous, and I didn't watch the Home Run Derby.
The most noteworthy moment remains the historic event that wasn't — the night umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base with two outs in the ninth inning that deprived Detroit's Armando Galarraga of a perfect game.
Six weeks later, it sticks in our memory because of the way Joyce and Galarraga handled the situation. Joyce was contrite, apologetic. Galarraga was tolerant, forgiving. We were emboldened by their grace under duress.
It was a rare moment in sports.
Why is it so rare?
We raise our children to be polite and respectful, even when they feel a need to disagree. Shouldn't we raise our athletes the same way?
Rather than demand that athletes behave like polite members of society, we fully expect them — and officials, too — to behave in ways that would get kids sent to their rooms. We don't just expect it, we're disappointed when they don't blow up.
(You can make the argument that if a player reacts with extreme anger when an official's incorrect call goes against the player, then the player should also point out when an official's incorrect call benefits him.
OK, I won't try to make that argument. But you could.)
We love the passion. We love the fire. We love the will to win.
Even though frequently it's none of those things. It's often just spoiled, pampered people acting spoiled and pampered.
Rage against oppression? Good.
Protect your rights? Check.
Fight the power? Outstanding.
Throw tantrums when you don't get your way? Not quite the same thing.
But it's an accepted part of sports, especially baseball.
Look at the manager scream at the umpire! He's drooling tobacco juice! Now he's kicking dirt on the plate! What an idiot! This is great!
If by "great" we mean "silly and pointless."
Why don't we expect more? I can think of some possible reasons:
* We wish we could act that way.
Sure, there are times when we'd all like to respond to an event at work by throwing our cap on the ground, jumping up and down and screaming at our boss or annoying coworker. We don't, because we know it's not the right thing to do (and because we'd be fired and we need the money). But we understand the urge to respond like a lunatic, and it feels good to watch someone actually do it.
* We like them to behave badly so that we can feel superior to them.
Most professional athletes make a lot more money than we do, a lot more than we can even imagine. They're supremely talented, they often hang out with beautiful people in beautiful places... it seems as if they live a dream life. But at least we know how to behave with a moderate degree of civility, so there's at least one way that we're better than the average athlete.
* We want them to act like they care.
Maybe we just want athletes to let their emotions go because it makes us believe that they care about the game as much as we do. There's nothing worse than watching our favorite team play, to live and die with its wins and losses, and feel like the athletes are disinterested in the entire process. At least when they flip out we believe that they're as passionate about the game as we are.
* We really believe that performing on the edge of insanity is the best way to become great.
Might be true, and it's a terrific rationalization for our own borderline crazy moments. I give it a 78.
Now, I shouldn't sound judgmental. I love a good meltdown as much as the next demented fan... although I feel guilty about it later. It's just that, in the sports downtime during the All-Star break, I was left to wonder if we sometimes confuse bad behavior with entertainment.
Actually, I don't wonder about it. I know we do, in all walks of life. Is that really a good thing?
I'm not an extremist, and I'm not irrational. I'm not expecting that we suddenly transform into a world of staggering ethics and honesty, like some Foundation for a Better Life commercial ("I touched it — I touched the ball before it went out, coach").
I just wonder what it would be like if athletes behaving correctly wasn't cause for astonishment.
Run 'n' Gun is The Eagle Sports staff's weekly look at the offbeat side of sports.