“April is the cruelest month,” T. S. Eliot has informed us. And this April has indeed been cruel to me. My beloved New York Rangers did not make the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in eight years. But I have to admit that the dark cloud that rained April showers on me to mix with my tears did have a silver lining. In the past I could not make a playoff bracket prediction because I could not let my head rule my heart and eliminate the Rangers at some point down the line. But this April, using all the hockey knowledge gained by night-after-night of couch-potatoness, I plunged into into the prediction business with full use of my head and with no interference from my heart.
As of today, with all eight of the first-round series completed, my score is four wins and four losses. A monkey—blindfolded and throwing darts—could do better. As far as the prediction business goes, I am a bust. And I don’t advise anyone to ask me for a hot stock tip either!
A good number of years ago a friend asked me, “Doc, why do you always have to be right?” The question penetrated to my inner core, and I thought hard about it. I realized that the question wasn’t posed right. There was the implication in it that whatever claim I made had to be right just because I was making it. The reality was that I absolutely hate saying anything that is wrong, false, or alternatively factual. It was not a matter of asserting that truth is on my side—but that I want to be on side of truth.
In all my years of teaching nothing bothered me—indeed ate away at my insides—more than the recognition that I had said something wrong in class. And it always seemed that the error was made on a Thursday, the last day of my teaching week, so that I had to stew about 95 hours over the weekend until I could stand in front of the class and offer a correction. So, yes, Doc always has to be right. (Or hate himself when he has been wrong.)
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I have complete disdain for people who cannot admit their mistakes, but rather attempt to throw a blanket of self-protection over their poor easily-bruised egos. For example, many years ago the New York Times briefly had a feature in its sports section in which a staffer answered readers’ questions. I discovered an error in the answer given to the esoteric baseball question, “Is a run scored on a sacrifice fly an ‘earned run’?” Without going into detail (and boring everyone to tears*), I wrote to the staffer to inform him that his blanket answer of “Yes” was incorrect and cited the exceptions. He wrote back and instead of acknowledging the mistake, he huffed and puffed that he wasn’t being asked about exceptions and thus he wasn’t wrong, and so on and so forth.
The Times shortly afterwards ended the question-answering feature—and I’m glad to say that I never saw that writer’s name again in print.
As far as owning up to one’s errors, there has never been an admission as worthy of praise as Fiorello LaGuardia’s:
“When I make a mistake, it's a beaut!”
*But in case anyone really cares, a runner who got on base on an error, or who advanced on an error, cannot be scored as an “earned run” if he does score. It, of course, only matters statistically.