The Late Night Buddhist

Do ya wanna be right, or do you wanna be happy?

By Scott Taylor
Reader Columnist

You may have heard the above question posed by one spouse to another amid a relationship spat (in the standard joke it applies to the husband, who learns the correct response in any argument is “Yes Dear, whatever you say, Dear”). There are many hills on which one may choose to die, but most of those hills, in retrospect, turn out to be unworthy of our martyrdom. If we choose to walk a path that leads to happiness for ourselves and others, there are times when restraint and calm acceptance are the steps to take.

As a teacher and parent I used to coach and umpire high school, junior high and youth league baseball and softball. In my capacity as an ump, I had to learn the rule book thoroughly (not that my dad, a semi-pro baseball player who played in Japan, hadn’t already drilled it into me). But knowing the rules inside and out doesn’t necessarily translate into winning every argument that arises.

After one Babe Ruth League game I had called behind the plate, an acquaintance asked, “How do you maintain your composure when people are sitting behind you calling you names, yelling and complaining, and coaches are berating you and screaming in your face?”

My simple reply was, “Because I know I’m right.”

But, there were two occasions as a coach when knowing I was right — and everyone else on the field and in the stands was wrong — didn’t do any good, and the frustration I felt led to a state of mind that definitely wasn’t happy.

In one instance, during a summer-league softball game, there was a collision involving my team’s second baseman, who was attempting to field a grounder, and the runner who was moving toward second base. Cries of “Interference!” went up from the stands and the teenage umpire, succumbing to the suggestion, agreed. So did I. But to my astonishment, rather than calling the runner “out,” she awarded the runner second base, and the crowd applauded.

Being that I was apparently the only one in the park who knew the rule, and was outnumbered 60-to-1, no amount of explaining the difference between interference and obstruction had any effect and I returned to the dugout, defeated by majority rule.

In another episode during a high-school baseball regional playoff game (the stakes being ostensibly higher than a summer game for 11-year-olds), our opponents pulled the old “hidden ball trick” and picked our potential game-tying runner off of second base. 

I explained (OK, argued) to the base ump that, first of all, after a timeout was called and the meeting on the mound had ended, the pitcher hadn’t stepped on the pitching rubber nor had the plate ump signaled the ball in play, therefore “time” was still “out” and the runner couldn’t be tagged out; and, secondly, if anyone wanted to claim that “time” was “in,” then the pitcher was guilty of a balk because he straddled the rubber and looked in at his catcher for a signal without the ball in his possession.

I knew I had him, even offered to show him the rule book (not really a good tactic to pull when he’s standing in full display of everyone on the middle of the diamond), but he refused to budge. I could see on the plate ump’s face he knew I was right but wasn’t going to overrule his crewmate. We lost the game and I spent a few days in a frustrated snit (though the base ump did call me at school the next day and admit I was right). 

So, when we come to that impasse — whether in a personal interaction, in public or online — we can make a decision. Whether we listen to The Who sing, “The kids couldn’t hurt Jack/ they tried and tried and tried/ …/ But they couldn’t stop Jack, or the waters lapping/ And they couldn’t prevent Jack from being happy,” or Tom Petty vowing, “You can stand me up at the gates of Hell/ but I won’t back down,” we can consider whether it’s worth our (or someone else’s) happiness to continue the fight. Choose happy!

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