June 13, 2021

Life and MLB strike zones are not fair.

If you’re a baseball fan and watch Major League Baseball games on TV, you’ve seen the overlaid strike-zone box at the plate that indicates to the viewer where the “strike zone” is for that batter. If the ball is within the rectangle, then it’s assumed to be a strike. Outside? It’s a ball. Pretty simple, huh?

Three people are involved in this transaction, which unfolds as follows: 1) The pitcher throws the ball toward the strike zone. 2) The batter predicts whether or not the sphere flying at him will be in the strike zone and decides to swing or not. And 3) If the batter does not hit the ball, the umpire yells to the scorers that the throw was either a strike (penalizing the batter) or a ball (penalizing the pitcher).

Here’s where fairness falls apart sometimes.

The televised strike-zone is a fantasy. It’s where the producers of the broadcast have decided the ball must go in order to be counted as a strike. The producers are NOT the umpires. And while the strike zone exhibited by the producers may in fact be just the right height and width and located perfectly in front of home plate, it is still not the official strike-zone.

Consider this: Bottom of the ninth. 2 outs. Bases loaded. 3 balls and 2 strikes on the batter. Our team is down by one run. Here comes the pitch! The TV shows us the ball flew just beyond the lower outside-corner of the overlaid box. OMG. HE WALKED IN  A RUN! We’re TIED!  There’s HOPE! But wait! The ump makes a 90-degree turn and, with a grunt, rings the batter up. STRIKE THREE!  Game over.  We lose.

Not fair! But it’s the game.

The pitcher and the batter don’t have the luxury of a perfect rectangle. They have the one that develops over the life of a game. Maybe this ump sees a zone that’s half a ball higher… or tightens it on the outside to right-handed hitters. However he sees it, both the pitchers and the batters adapt through the game to how the ump calls the pitches. He’s a human being with perceptions and, while the broadcasters may grumble about a pitch (referring to their producer’s nice little rectangle), the final outcome is totally up to the umpire and his different perceptions.

Where’s your strike zone? We’re all umpires. We judge every pitch that comes at us. We’re also all batters. We feel good or bad about pitches that are inside or outside our perception of our strike zone. And we’re all pitchers, throwing concepts at others’ strike zones. And none of us has a handy little rectangle to help us hit within each other’s strike zones.

People interacting—carrying on conversations and negotiations—are like pitchers and batters but with no umpires! I have my interpretation of reality, my strike zone. And I can see it clearly as if it were the producer’s version. When you throw a fact at me (something your strike zone interprets as clearly accurate), and it hits mine (i.e., I agree with your accuracy), we’re in sync. If it doesn’t, then one of us will most likely be unpleasantly surprised. NO FAIR! IT IS NOT A STRIKE!

Politics. Religion. View on masks. Privilege. Race. Status. DISC profile. Any set of knower/judger (K/J) rules establishes what I think the strike zone is. And I guarantee you that I don’t think the same way that you do in all of these realms, so your strike zone could be anywhere from a half a ball off to over in the visitor’s dugout. And you can have an equally difficult time figuring out where mine is. We do have the ability to modify our pitches and test each other’s strike zones, though. If we can’t do that, then it’s going to be a long game of walking batter after batter.

There is no producer’s strike zone—it doesn’t exist. The real strike zones are established as the game of life unfolds. I will learn how to hit yours and you will learn how to hit mine (if we want to get along or be productive or stay married or run a company). We adapt our pitches to the calls of the day. Or we just storm off crying UNFAIR! Until we realize there is no FAIR strike zone—no universally correct TV producer’s rectangle—disappointment is the general outcome. Recognizing that strike zones are often not where we think they are can allow us to adjust our pitches.

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