Keeping Score

It is with some effort that I attempt to write an entry about the Orioles that remains somewhat positive, as I sit here twenty minutes since the game has ended, still in utter disgust. My cat, who granted is smart, could have predicted how today’s game would end. Hell, who couldn’t. The good news, I suppose, is that the Orioles put up a fight and the game ended with reasonable numbers 3-2 in the Red Sox’s favor, of course.

The disturbing news is that Guthrie, who was pitching a good game, left with an injury. I’m sure everyone reading this understands the impact of that. When it rains, it pours.

Despite the frustration at the Orioles for blowing another attempt to come back from behind, I still enjoyed today’s game. I got a wild hair the other day and decided to do a search for scorecards. I found these templates from Microsoft. Yesterday, I half-heartedly kept score using the basic template, but today I found the more detailed ones which have room for substitutions and boxes for tracking pitch counts, etc. (See for yourself.) They’re great.

I’ve probably mentioned this story 100 times before, but one of the joys of scorekeeping is watching the patterns that emerge. In 1976 (I had to look up the year and was surprised that it was so long ago -I’m old!), Reggie Jackson was briefly on the Orioles. (Wearing an Orioles uniform didn’t make me like him any better.) One day, before the game, he and Jim Palmer had a discussion that went something to the effect that Palmer could predict where the batters were going to hit the ball and Jackson didn’t believe him. (You’ll have to forgive me, since I was only nine at the time, I might not have the exact details of the argument correct, but anyway you get the gist. I looked online to see if I could find another reference to the incident, but haven’t turned up anything.)

In one inning, when the batter stepped up to the plate, Palmer turned towards the outfield and gestured at Jackson to move, waving him a little left, a little right. As a fan, we weren’t privy to why Palmer was doing this, but when the batter hit the ball, it went directly to Jackson. He didn’t move an inch. It was extraordinary! The next batter came up and Palmer again turned to Jackson and repositioned him. Once again, the ball was hit right to him. I think Palmer made his point, whatever it was. I guess Palmer always did his homework and knew his batters.

I’m sure with computers today, there are ever more sophisticated statistics. For the Orioles current bullpen, I’m not sure that memorizing the batter’s hitting patterns would be as useful as just remembering their role as part of the Orioles organization to try to to get the batters out instead of helping them to score runs.

Anyway, the nice thing about scorekeeping is that it keeps you focused on what’s happening in the game. I can’t keep score and do anything else and it forces me to relax and just enjoy one thing, a bit of a guilty pleasure to spend four hours just watching the game. What a luxury.

In life, they say that it’s not a good idea to keep score. Don’t make an effort to remember how many times you were the inviter or invitee, don’t keep track of the gifts given and received, how many times you were the one to say sorry first. Keeping these statistics in our daily lives is a guarantee for disappointing relationships. As I write this though, it occurs to me that our thinking on this is all wrong. Maybe the problem is that we don’t keep score accurately enough?

The thing is, whether we like to admit it or not, we do keep score. We may not realize that we keep score until the moment when we feel like there’s a great deficit, by then an accumulation of hurts and mistreatment enabling us to reflect back and recount every one of the events that lead to the imbalance. At that point, we realize that a part of our brain devoted itself to keeping this mental tally even against our will.

The problem isn’t with keeping score, it’s that our accounting is often inaccurate. In a moment of frustration after a grueling day, we might remember that our spouse has had to be asked to take out the trash the last five times. At that moment, we might not be able to see clearly enough to remember the things our spouse has done, like watering the landscaping the last 100 times, and stopping by Blockbuster every week to make sure there’s a movie to watch over the weekend. We may also conveniently forget our own frequent shortcomings, like not keeping up our agreement to keep the bathroom counter clean of makeup and hair products.

Maybe it would be better for our relationships if we did keep better track of our hits, runs, and errors. We would see more accurately the facts about the patterns in our relationships, the relationships that are bad for us and the ones that are good for us. We would know when a relationship is toxic and continues to be toxic, the bad far outweighing the good before we’ve invested too much of our precious life energy. We would see the big picture, instead of focusing so much on a moment in time and turning a strikeout into a .100 batting average, we would be able to see the true batting average of .700, seeing the strikeout in the context of a series of hits, RBIs, and homeruns. We would be able to notice and correct a pattern of poor fielding before it caused irreparable damage to the team. We wouldn’t be able to manipulate stories to suit our purpose, the facts always there, telling the truth. We would have to admit to all the times we overthrew to first, or worse, home, and barely ran to get to get the hit that resulted in a go ahead run for the opposing team.

I can’t say I’ve thought this through thoroughly, so I reserve the right to change my mind, but my first thought is that perhaps we could improve our relationships by creating a scorecard. Doing so would eliminate our ability to focus on what’s wrong with our friends and relatives, and would force us to evaluate ourselves more honestly, realizing our own imperfections when we would rather choose to downplay or ignore them. In our impatient moments, we would be able to see the big picture of a history of all the good things in our relationships and approach a mistake with more forgiveness and equanimity, keeping perspective about an event in time.

I had an older friend once who said, “Whenever you have a problem, first look in the mirror.” It was the best piece of advice anyone ever gave me. Sometimes unfortunately, we spend more time pointing the finger than looking in the mirror, and yet that mirror is such a valuable tool.

Cal Ripken, Jr. in his Hall of Fame speech talked about the life lessons and skills that baseball teaches: teamwork, practice, discipline, and patience. Baseball is known as the sport of statistics.

Is it possible that it can teach us something else, the value of keeping score and accumulating accurate statistics to improve our relationships?

One Response to “Keeping Score”

  1. Matt says:

    I really like this line: “The problem isn’t with keeping score, it’s that our accounting is often inaccurate.” I’m far from perfect, but it makes me think more of a relative who makes our family life particularly challenging. The reason? This person only keeps score when they feel that they’ve been wronged. The result is ridiculous accusations that, given a more complete scorecard, would be easily refuted.

    Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing. We could all benefit from an intensified focus on how to improve our relationships with other people.

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