Friday, June 4, 2010

Harry Jones and Bud Selig: Separated at birth?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 3:59 PM

It’s an odd juxtaposition, but if you look close enough, you’ll find there's a lesson to be learned from the perfect game brouhaha and Mecklenburg’s budget mess. There’s a strange similarity in how two different kinds of commissioners — Baseball Commissioner Bud “Lite” Selig and our own county commission — deal with issues. What I’m talking about is the cold, detached, sort of technocratic mindset people often slip into when they’ve been in positions of authority too long.

You’ve 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 umpire’s call, especially considering that the botched call came on what should have been the game’s last out. But Bud Selig, whose name is rarely placed near the words “creative” or “imagination,” will not reverse the call. Instead, Selig’s 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 what’s just; the important thing is to protect pro baseball itself — in this case, by tweaking the game’s inner workings. Did I say “the important thing”? I meant “the only thing.”

Now, think of the county’s 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, you’ll find precious little talk about the human or social costs of proposed cuts, nor a vision of any sort for the county’s 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 it’s hard to serve two masters when you’re in charge of things. In Bud Lite’s case, those masters are baseball fans vs. the institution of baseball. Over at the Government Center, it’s the flesh-and-blood citizens of Mecklenburg County vs. the county bureaucracy. Selig, Jones, they’re basically interchangeable, soulless technocrats, and both have been hanging around too long.

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