resized_spongebob-ugly-barnacle-meme-generator-that-s-not-even-fair-de7449I can’t roll the videotape, but I’m pretty sure that our middle child’s first fully formed sentence (somewhere south of age 2) was “That’s not fair!”  It was likely because her older sister had a bigger juice cup. It was sobering for me, because I learned something about her in that moment that was probably going to be inevitable about at least one of our kids, but I didn’t want to resign myself to say the words out loud so early in her life. They came out though, albeit involuntarily. “She’s just like me. Damn.”

Clarity of that truth reared its ugly head (yet again) this week when a guy jumped in front of me just as I was going to check out in the express lane at the grocery store. I’m 52, but I still can’t control my (admittedly positive spinning here) sense of justice. “Seriously?” came out of my mouth within full earshot of those around me before I could hold it back. “There a problem buddy?” was the equally loud response from the cutter-offer. This of course was when I made that classic “deflection by sarcasm” move. “You mean other than you cutting me off and then taking the items out of your cart in slow motion? Nah, no problem here.”

It wasn’t a proud moment. The guy muttered “you’re a jerk” under his breath and walked off. He was right. Actually though, I’ve seen “growth” (hate that word) in my life in this area. My most classic meltdown occurred 22 years ago while standing with my wife in a two-hour line to check out of a hotel. There were six people behind the counter and only one person helping the guests. We stood there for about a half an hour before the blood boiling inside of me could no longer be contained. My miscalculation was that I thought I would have the crowd on my side. The result was a classic public meltdown, the likes of which most marriages would struggle to survive, but my wife was and is, well, the best.

9781476777177_custom-eb8b2d897f0ca97de196154c2f543498c0b4e288-s200-c85NPR recounted the most classic on field player meltdown in Major League Baseball history this week (ht CB). In the piece, Becky Sterling retells a segment of (’80’s Yankee beat writer) Flip Bondy’s book about the famous “pine tar” incident in a game between the Yankees and Royals in 1983:

The two teams kept meeting and clashing in the playoffs, where four years out of five they faced off for a berth in the World Series.The Yankees usually won, but the Royals were very good. Their star was a third baseman named George Brett.

“George Brett is one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. I don’t think anybody could debate that,” Bondy says. “[In] every traditional statistical measure, George Brett was, I think, the greatest hitter of his generation.”

Brett had a favorite bat: a particularly well-made Louisville Slugger with a handle covered in pine tar. He didn’t like batting gloves, so the pine tar allowed him a better grip on the bat.

But there was a catch: an old rule banned pine tar from going up more than 18 inches on the bat. Not because pine tar is advantageous, Bondy says — but because pine tar smudges were ruining baseballs, and the owners didn’t like having to frequently replace them.

Brett and his “illegal” bat hit a home run in the 9th inning to put the Royals ahead. Immediately after the home run, the umpires convened and called Brett out (the 3rd out) and declared the game over – a 4-3 Yankee victory:

In the broadcast, Yankees announcers Bobby Murcer and Frank Messer, along with the crowd, explode with excitement as the umpire gives the signal that Brett is out.

And Brett explodes, too. He came tumbling out of the dugout, arms flailing and his face getting redder and redder with each step as he sprinted toward home plate.

The ensuing insanity is well summarized here:

The umpires’ decision was overruled a few weeks later by American League president, Lee McPhail:

The Royals protested the game to the American League office, where the league president, Lee MacPhail, upheld their protest. He reinstated the home run and ordered that the game restart from that point — the Royals up 5-4, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.

“He decided that it was [a] ridiculous rule. If the pine tar did not really affect the flight or distance of a baseball, then it shouldn’t be considered an out,” Bondy says. “It was only fair that that home run be a home run.”

…Bondy remembers the game fondly. Today, he says, cheating in baseball has a different meaning. It means steroids, performance-enhancing drugs. Or it means the Cardinals hacking into the Astros’ internal database. That, he says, makes him want to turn his TV off.

But on July 24th, 1983, he says, “the worst thing that you could do was have pine tar above the 18-inch mark.”

“So we tend to smile at it, and think of it as this wacky, funny, episode in baseball history.

“That’s not fair!” was expressed more publicly and more colorfully by (Hall-of-Famer) George Brett than anything I’ve ever expressed….I hope. I mentioned earlier that I hate the term “growth” when attached to the assumption that my morality and virtue (and temper control) might be ascending. The reality is that I’m merely more self-aware of my behavior, and I’m softer now toward the people that offend my sense of justice than I used to be. I was still a jerk though, this week.