You immediately could see the honest reaction on the face of Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers. After losing his perfect game Wednesday night on a horribly bad call by first-base umpire Jim Joyce, the pitcher did not curse or scowl. He simply looked stunned and then his face slowly showed an ironic smile.
Galarraga could have had baseball's 21st perfect game against the Cleveland Indians if Joyce had correctly seen that batter Jason Donald was out at first base after Galarraga took the throw on a ground ball hit wide of the bag and fielded by first baseman Miguel Cabrera.
Instead, Galarraga gained -- though his honest and sportsmanlike reaction -- a greater fame. Aside from Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series, few casual fans can name many pitchers who have thrown previous perfect games. There have been two already this season. There will be more in the future.
But Galarraga, with his immediate reaction and his forgiving words after the game, showed generations of young athletes, as well as their parents, that one need not react to adversity -- and the unfair judgment of others -- with selfish tantrums and spasms of self-pity.
Faulty as Joyce's call was -- he admitted it quickly and apologized to the pitcher -- it served as one of those moments that again demonstrates why sports serve so well as our national theater and, at their best, teach lasting life lessons. Who has not made a bad decision in life? Won't we always regret mistakes we made on the spur of the moment?
In sports, things happen so suddenly and on such a bright stage that their impact is magnified. Sometimes, it's just a game and sometimes it is more than just a game. One sudden moment with two outs in the ninth in Detroit on Wednesday will out-live its participants and remind us of how, even in adversity, sports can bring out tour best.