From The Other Side Of The Bench
By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
Some of the greatest baseball managers in history were known not only for their genius on the field, but for their tantrums as well. They would charge onto the field, get face-to-face with an umpire, kick dirt, spit, and throw bases, all to the delight of the fans. Sometimes they would be ejected and forced back to the clubhouse. Sometimes their behavior would warrant a fine, and in extreme and rare cases they would face a suspension. By and large, however, it was considered part of the show, part of the game.
Legend has it that Bobby Valentine, when he was managing the Mets, was ejected, but instead of retreating to the clubhouse as per the rules, he donned a fake nose, glasses, and mustache and remained in the dugout. Part of the show, part of the game.
Now can you imagine if such behavior were accepted or commonplace in the courtroom? A ruling goes against me and I leap from behind the counsel table, rush the judge’s bench, and begin to wave my arms, scream and yell, and throw the judge’s gavel?
Such antics would be met with a set of handcuffs, flip-flops, and an orange jumpsuit. Hysteria is not always part of the show or game. Try it in school or in your office and see how long it will take you to graduate or how long you will continue to be employed.
Imagine the self-control it takes to sit across a debate adversary and not snicker and sneer and laugh or roll your eyes when you hear something you don’t like or don’t agree with. Some candidates are better at it than their rivals, as we witnessed over the last few weeks. In that setting, the proper reaction is to sit and smile while your rival pontificates, often lying and misrepresenting your record. Your only option is to correct the record when it is your turn to speak.
It is also very challenging in the courtroom as I listen to my adversary spew his version of the truth. I sit there and try very hard not to roll my eyes, not to shake my head in disbelief. Judges do not like such reactions. The courtroom is not the baseball diamond. It’s a different show, a different game.
Getting tossed out of a baseball game as the manager? No real damage to anyone. In other settings, however, harm does occur, and it is usually not confined to the person who acted out.
Recently I listened to an hour-long tape of a husband and wife engaged in a fight. She called him Hitler. He called her Ahmadinejad. They cursed with every profane word known to man and beast. They yelled and screamed and told each other to die. They made crude remarks about each other’s parents and about their own children. I was truly surprised that the fight remained verbal. For an hour I heard them yelling over each other, accusing each other of immoral behavior that would impact the legitimacy of their children. The insults and the venom with which were they were delivered were shocking even to me, and I have been practicing law for over 20 years. But there was more to the show, more to the game.
At approximately one hour into the tape, I heard a little girl’s voice asking for a snack. I asked one of the combatants whose voice that was. I was informed that it was the voice of their seven-year-old daughter. “Oh, she came into the room as you were fighting?” I asked. The response drove a knife through me. “No, she was there the whole time. She used to cover her ears and cry, but now she is used to it all,” said her parent.
“USED TO IT?” I screamed. “If she is used to it, it’s only because you made her used to it. If she is used to it, you are at fault for all of the pain she went through to get used to it and all of the pain she feels now, because believe me she knows this is not supposed to be part of her game, her show, as a seven-year-old. She is in a different league, and you made her play your sick game by your sick rules and you ruined her.
“You should have both gone to the clubhouse and continued your argument there. You should have ejected yourselves from your own game. You took a seven-year-old’s field of dreams and turned it into a field of nightmares.
“So go get help for yourself and help for your daughter and for the rest of your children who were witness to your antics.”
It is difficult, no doubt, to be in control of oneself to the point where we don’t react when buttons are pushed on the baseball diamond, on the debate stage, at work, at school, in court, and at home. Holding back what we want to say is hard. But it should be easier to hold back where we say things, where we react. Learning to do so will make the game more enjoyable for participants and fans alike. v
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.