The Sanely Funny Humor Magazine


The American Umpire.
Conducting The American Empire In A Way
That’s As Fair As The Calls In Yankee Stadium.

We were sitting here trying, as usual, to figure out how today’s America, saddled with the burdens of inadvertent empire, could conduct itself in the world so Americans are happy about how we’re doing and the rest of the world might actually either approve or have a hard time disapproving of our behavior. We finally hit on an answer that’s so moronic we knew right away it has real potential.

We behave as if we’re the American Umpire, that is, we call the balls and strikes in the global games based on the principle we’ve all grown up with, can understand, and most of the world even admires: fair play.

And, being the ump, we expect the players to respond with good sportsmanship, no matter which way the calls go.

Needless to say, part of this easily understandable and highly commendable modus operandi requires us to call the balls and strikes fairly on ourselves, too, even when Uncle Sam strikes out.

Of course, you can advance more intellectual principles by which we should conduct ourselves as the world’s super-duper power. But we think behaving as if we’re the American Umpire is the principle that most Americans can understand and be proud to be part of and that can lead to conduct on the part of the USA that encourages other nations to cheer us on.

In the land of Yankee Stadium, we learn from the time we’re children about the necessity for fair play and the demands of good sportsmanship. What American kid hasn’t had to make terms with the fact that the ump just called strike three, maybe even with the bases loaded, that roughing the kicker just resulted in a penalty, or that committing the fifth foul of an important basketball game landed the player on the bench, like it or not.

Even if we moderate or lose our interest in sports when we become adults, most of us still retain our sense of fair play.

Of course, many other nations have a highly developed sense of fair play, particularly, we think, England, which may help explain why the UK and the US often agree on policy.

But look high and low around the globe and tell us how many countries you detect with an allegiance to the principle that is more ingrained than it is in America. At any rate, it’s so much a part of the persona of the gringo that it qualifies as an inviting alternative to our present uncertainty and ineptitude.

In fact, if you look at a lot of the world, particularly its “cleverer” locales, you notice that as an operating principle fair play doesn’t have much of a place. The frequent modus is trying to win by hook, crook, or even murder. What prevails is thinking small quickly, instead of big fairly, sort of like a scurrying bug on a table top. What the wise onlooker knows to do is watch and, at just the right moment, brush it away or outright swat the critter.

The concept can also guide us away from our worst international missteps. When we see ourselves as calling the balls and strikes as fairly as we can, we’d know to let the batters swing the way they want to. We wouldn’t reach over, grab the bat, and demonstrate how we think he or she should swing. In other words, we’d shy away from intervention, except when the player breaks the usual rules of the game or becomes excessively rowdy. Then we might give the offender a warning and, if that fails to moderate the behavior, invoke whatever legitimate power we have to eject the troublemaker from the game.

We’d also know, like any competent ref, to let the overall game go on as best as the players can perform, while we may, if we choose, cast a smile at the winners or a sympathetic look at the losers. And when another nation hits a homer, we certainly wouldn’t attempt to trip the runner while he rounds the bases.

And coincidence of coincidences. No sooner did we approve the cartoon to illustrate this simple but super principle than we saw confirmation that it has real possibilities. The following headline, from the Associated Press, appeared on Yahoo: “Bush To Referee Karzai, Musharraf Dinner.”

No matter what our feelings are about Bush’s overall performance, we sensed he would do well. Although we doubt he had the specific inspiration in mind of being the ump, just having grown up with a sense of fair play would help make him comfortable in such a role.

Apparently, he refereed admirably. The three agreed to increase their cooperation in fighting terrorism.

As Musharraf said, "The meeting that I held with President Bush and Hamid Karzai last night was very good. It was decided that we should have a common strategy. We have to fight terrorism. We have to defeat it, defeat it jointly."

That’s quite a departure from the usual ways Musharraf and Karzai have pointed their fingers at each other. But the players still had a hard time making nice. At the press conference that followed the dinner, the two shook the ump’s hand but couldn’t bring themselves to shake each other's. What was missing? You guessed it. A little more good sportsmanship.

But a couple of days later, we noted that Hamid Karzai announced that he and Musharraf will jointly lead a series of tribal meetings along their common border in an attempt to decrease attacks on Afghanistan by the Pakistan-based Taliban. Is that progress or what? And the American Umpire played a positive role.

Lest you believe we are mindlessly advocating a problematic solution, we can only say that the very idea that it presents any semblance of superiority over our present international conduct says more than enough to justifiy mountains of enthusiasm.

So, whatever you do, do not underestimate this idiotic principle. Remember the saying, whether or not Wellington actually coined it, “Napoleon was defeated on the playing fields of Eton.” And we’ve got at least as much training as the limeys do on playing fields all across the land of the Yankee.

The preseason warm ups are over. It’s time for the regular season to begin. So let’s hear the American Umpire call, “Let’s play ball!”

It would be especially winning to see the President throw out the first ball.

By Tom Attea