Seeing Both Sides Of The Ball

With all of the lockdowns and safety precautions, team sports have obviously taken a back seat this year. As a side gig I umpire youth baseball, and this would have been my 16th year doing so.

I also had the luxury of playing baseball throughout my school years, so taking up umpiring came naturally strictly for the love and understanding of the game that I learned as a player.

Officiating in any sport comes hand in hand with potential criticisms and scrutiny, but I am thankful for the opportunity gained in perspective from seeing both sides of the ball as a player, and as an umpire.

What always amazes me in sports and in life is that people can look at the exact same play, or the exact same event, and see something completely different. It’s the gift and the curse.

In baseball, the umpire obviously has the final say on what the call is, and lucky for me I’ve had instruction from some of the best in the business so over the years I’ve learned ways to put myself in positions to give myself a chance to make the best possible call.

Am I saying that my calls are always correct? Of course not, but can I honestly say I make an effort to POSITION myself in a way to effectively PROCESS what I am seeing? Absolutely.

Amidst all of the great teachings and advice I’ve received over the years, the one piece that stands out the most was given on my VERY FIRST DAY of umpire training. It was simply 3 words:

PAUSE.READ.RESPOND

This was the formula given on how to process the action that was coming your way, and begin the process of learning how to let the game come to you.

The parallels to the game of baseball and the game of life are many, but I feel like something as simple as “pause, read, and respond” has limitless application.

Patience is absolutely a form of action. I know there is nothing wrong with taking time to learn, observe, and be calculated with the decisions you make.

On the grounds of decision making my time in the Marines served me well in further enhancing a personal code of morals and ethics, but also equipping me with leadership tools that would obviously apply to high stress and combat situations, but also apply in business and life situations.

In my early years as a young Marine John Boyd’s OODA-Loop was another teaching that resonated particularly well.

To simplify, the OODA-Loop represents a learning system and systematic method for dealing with uncertainty and developing a strategy.

OODA stands for:

Observe

Orient

Decide

Act

It’s like a fancier version of “pause, read, and respond”.

The loop implies that this system is continuous with various measures and systems of feedback.

The more experience and understanding you have with the loop, the easier it is to use the system to your advantage in making timely and CALCULATED decisions.

So what is the point?

In times like this, personally and professionally, there is nothing wrong with being PATIENT and being CALCULATED.

I SEE the comments.

I HEAR the arguments.

I am WATCHING the response.

I FEEL the pressure.

I UNDERSTAND the pain and the anger.

Speed does not always equal efficiency, and I’ve made it a point to not let emotion force my hand in making a decision that would be deemed as Knee-Jerk or miscalculated.

My simplified response to what I’ve watched unfold with CrossFit HQ and the CEO Greg Glassman is a mixture of embarrassment, confusion, and disappointment, but also a mixture of patience, due diligence, and loyalty.

Glassman’s words and actions were absolutely insensitive, abrasive, ignorant, abusive, and ultimately irresponsible considering his position and what he is supposed to represent. Do I believe him to be racist? I do not. I am seeing that is the unpopular opinion, but I am ok with that, and happy to engage constructive dialogue with anyone who wishes for more clarification.

What I am not ok with is the idea of cancel culture, and the bullying I am witnessing that is attempting to pigeon hole gym owners and affiliates into a seemingly “good guy” vs “bad guy” designation. Just days before “Glassgate” broke the news, gym owners and affiliates world wide were preaching messages of empathy, love, understanding, and patience. Do those sentiments only apply to certain situations? I told someone that Glassman is the father of CrossFit and has done amazing things for the brand, but when it comes to his politics he is very much like the eccentric uncle that shows up during the holidays, gets drunk and disorderly, and gets people riled up. In that analogy, either way he is family. Why would we not at least engage in a process to fight for our family before just giving up?

It absolutely takes courage to disband, to walk away, and to de-affiliate. But it also takes courage to show patience, to show restraint, to create dialogue around uncomfortable situations, AND call for constructive action to fix those situations.

So when I say I’m embarrassed, confused, and disappointed. That is all in regards to Glassman’s words and actions, and neither are reflections or representations of me, my gym, the way I coach, or the community I foster.

However, when I say I am patient, I mean I am patient enough to watch the situation unfold before I speak and before I act. I am calculated.

When I say due diligence I understand that de-affiliation is A step…but in my opinion it’s not the FIRST step. I am not a high profile company or a big name athlete with massive clout and a large following, but I would have liked to see some of the heavy hitters get in their OODA-Loop and create dialogue with Glassman before going straight to the chopping block.

When I say loyalty I am NOT talking loyalty to Glassman. In my original message to my members I told them Glassman has never had an influence on how I run my gym or how I treat the athletes I am privileged to coach. That is where my loyalty lies. The time and energy I’ve put into my gym and my members is what I feel a loyalty to fight for. The brand does not define my gym, but I have found success within the brand, and my intention is to wait and see what CrossFit HQ does to make amends, and stop the bleeding. I truly believe they will.

Back to baseball.

The anger originated when CrossFit stayed silent as protests around Black Lives Matter began to increase. I am not sure who has the rulebook on how and when someone is obligated to respond to something on social media, but I understand the frustration behind what was seemingly a lack of support.

When CrossFit finally did issue a statement, there was already so much resentment built up that I feel it was not well received at all.

So let’s say they were up to bat, at the plate, but let the first pitch go by.

Strike one.

The apology that was posted wasn’t bad, but given the amount of damage inflicted before the apology, the words were not poignant enough to fill the void, and it certainly left a lot to be desired, and again, was not well received.

Strike 2.

So now here we sit.

As mentioned before, I am most definitely feeling the pressure, I am seeing the bullying, I am reading the comments, the jokes, the memes etc.

Affiliate owners are in a compromised position, and for me, a lot hangs in the balance of what HQ does next.

I feel like they are on their last strike, and although it is their last strike, my intention is to at least give them a chance to make things right.

I’m in my OODA-Loop.

I’m in position to process what I am seeing so I can make a well calculated decision.

Pause.Read.Respond