by John Grooms
Its an odd juxtaposition, but if you look close enough, youll find there's a lesson to be learned from the perfect game brouhaha and Mecklenburgs budget mess. Theres a strange similarity in how two different kinds of commissioners Baseball Commissioner Bud Lite Selig and our own county commission deal with issues. What Im talking about is the cold, detached, sort of technocratic mindset people often slip into when theyve been in positions of authority too long.
Youve no doubt heard about Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, who was robbed Wednesday of a perfect game when an umpire botched a call at first base. Everyone and their mothers are sympathetic to Galaraga, and fans have clamored for Selig to overturn the umpires call, especially considering that the botched call came on what should have been the games last out. But Bud Selig, whose name is rarely placed near the words creative or imagination, will not reverse the call. Instead, Seligs reaction was to declare, Major League Baseball will look at expanding the use of instant replays in order to avoid similar situations in the future. In other words, to heck with the pitcher, the fans, or even a basic sense of whats just; the important thing is to protect pro baseball itself in this case, by tweaking the games inner workings. Did I say the important thing? I meant the only thing.
Now, think of the countys current budget slashing. Schools, libraries, parks, and other essential local government services stand to be wrecked if proposed cuts are enacted. Yet, the language used in this case by most of the commissioners not all, but most, especially King Harry Jones the county manager is all about contingencies, tax projections, impacting programs, clients, scenarios, and other nerded-out technocratic geekspeak. In other words, youll find precious little talk about the human or social costs of proposed cuts, nor a vision of any sort for the countys future, nor any real recognition that what the commission is dealing with is anything but numbers that need to be fit into specific bureaucratic niches.
My point is that its hard to serve two masters when youre in charge of things. In Bud Lites case, those masters are baseball fans vs. the institution of baseball. Over at the Government Center, its the flesh-and-blood citizens of Mecklenburg County vs. the county bureaucracy. Selig, Jones, theyre basically interchangeable, soulless technocrats, and both have been hanging around too long.