The Wrong Way - Shawn Loughlin editorial
We should all be giving credit where credit’s due to North Huron Council on its decision to revisit the Blyth fire hall issue, ultimately finding a solution in the face of nearly universal public outcry. The fact is that people/governments/corporations don’t always change their mind and often have a hard time admitting when they’re wrong.
To recap, council, admittedly between a rock and a hard place due to a looming deadline and very limited land options in Blyth, proposed building a new fire hall and public works shed on Gypsy Lane, wiping out a memorial ball diamond and taking land away from the annual reunion of the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association, not to mention pitching a location across from the village’s only park.
Councillors made it clear this was far from their first choice, but, given limited options and very little financial flexibility, they felt it was the best choice under the circumstances. Members of the public, however, rose up and made it clear they didn’t want the hall there.
Council saw what I saw that night and went back to the drawing board, seeing no way to proceed with the Gypsy Lane option. Whether you agree with me or not, that took guts.
When I was a teenager, one of my consistent summer jobs was as an umpire in my local Pickering Baseball Association. I started with rookie ball (little kids, a pitching machine and a parent or two in the field of play) though they must have thought I was a real mover and shaker, because I skipped right past tee-ball.
To become an umpire, you had to complete a two-day course at the Pickering Recreation Centre. It covered everything from the rules of baseball – from the simple to the impossible to comprehend – to positioning, to how to physically call a strike or call out a runner.
One thing they didn’t cover was humility. The instructors told us that, under no circumstances, were we to admit a mistake or reverse a call, even if proven wrong. In fact, if a coach was angry about your mistake, you were to throw him out of the game. If a coach brandished a rule book on the field, you were to throw him out – no questions asked.
To a roomful of young, cocksure baseball up-and-comers who all thought they were the next Ken Griffey Jr., this was music to our backwards, fullback hats and Oakley Radars, but it didn’t make for very sound life advice.
As an umpire, you have to command respect and, above all, you have to demonstrate control over the game. Unfortunately, in sports, admitting a mistake is like throwing a chum into a shark tank, whether it’s with fans or players, so that advice isn’t wrong, but it trains you to shy away from admitting fault and, in some cases, be aggressively defiant.
That was, of course, long before the days of video review, challenges and slow-motion replays. Now, umpires and referees are shown to be wrong all the time and much to my surprise, the earth hasn’t cracked open and swallowed us all whole. It’s O.K. to be wrong.
So, thank you to North Huron Council. Councillors and staff could have been so prideful and unwilling to admit a misstep that they could have forced a fire hall down our throats in a location we’d all hate, but they listened and adjusted course accordingly.
It can be hard to admit when you’re wrong. That particular flaw has been known to challenge friendships and marriages and even manifest itself in the worlds of business and politics. However, honesty and a willingness to revisit a controversial stance should always be on our to-do lists – unless being the best dictator you can be is also on your to-do list.