Bill Mueller is one of my all-time favorite baseball players, even though he does not know how to pronounce his own last name.
He says it as if it is spelled “Miller.”
However, Bill can go by Mueller, Miller, Mac or Buddy as far as I am concerned.
That’s because he produced one of the biggest hits in Boston Red Sox history. Everyone talks about the Dave Roberts steal in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, and rightly so.
It was Mueller, though, who hit the shot right back up the middle, knocking down the great Mariano Rivera and driving in Roberts with the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
That led to the David Ortiz walk-off blast, and the Red Sox went on to the greatest comeback in the history of sports. Yes, the history of sports.
Mueller also hit a walk-off home run off Rivera to end the game when Jason Varitek beat up Alex Rodriguez that July.
Unfortunately, Mueller is also the first person to commit one of my great hatreds.
(To borrow a line from the great George Carlin for the first of two times today, I do not have pet peeves. I have major, psychotic hatreds.)
On July 29, 2003, Mueller had a great game in Texas. The switch-hitting third baseman hit a grand slam from each side of the plate in that game. He also hit a solo home run, driving in nine runs as the Red Sox beat the Rangers 14-7.
After the game, Mueller was interviewed on television. He said the success he had in that game was “humbling.”
It was the first time I heard someone use the world “humble” incorrectly and not be called on it. I have heard it used that way almost every day since.
When a golfer wins a tournament, he or she is “humbled” by the victory.
When a citizen is recognized for bravery or excellence, he or she feels “humble.”
When a politician wins an election, that person has a great sense of “humbleness.”
Again, this is a case where somebody wanted to use an alternate word to sound smart, but he or she picked the wrong word. Other people fell for that, and copied.
Then it was copied again, and again, and again.
Down the line, everyday conversation has changed the meaning of the word, and “humble” has become an acceptable replacement for honor.
That is the world they are looking for, “honor.” They are honored by the recognition of their success.
About 25 years ago, the same thing happened to the word “irony.” People thought they sounded smarter when using that word when they meant funny, strange or a coincidence. They were wrong.
Here is the definition of irony, according to dictionary.com and people who paid attention in school: “The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.”
Carlin explained irony and the misuse as only he could.
“If a diabetic, on his way to buy insulin, is killed by a runaway truck, he is the victim of an accident,” Carlin said. “If the truck was delivering sugar, he is the victim of an oddly poetic coincidence. But if the truck was delivering insulin, ah! Then he is the victim of an irony.”
In 1996, crazy Canadian singer Alanis Morissette released the song “Ironic.”
In that catchy little ditty, she listed things she thought were ironic, and the masses followed.
Rain on your wedding day? Not ironic.
A free ride when you’ve already paid? Nope
The good advice that you dust didn’t take? Wrong again.
In fact, there is only one thing ironic in the whole song “Ironic,” and that is nothing at all is ironic. I would like to give Alanis credit for being really smart in that one, but she is probably way to “humble” for that.
At least Tim McGraw got the meaning of the word “humble” right when he released that stupid song “Humble and Kind” three years ago. And McGraw stinks.
Humble has about the exact opposite meaning as it is used by too many people these days.
A home run does not “humble” the hitter. It humbles the pitcher.
An election does not make the politician who won an election feel “humble,” but his or her opponent is another story.
Getting the key to the city is not a “humbling” experience. In fact, it probably gives one a big head, which is 180 degrees different.
And that leads us to today’s topic. We need more sports officials.
We need them for all high school sports. In football, for instance, the Butte pool that officiates high school games around Southwest Montana — and sometimes beyond — only has 23 officials.
That is not even close to enough.
At last count, Butte had exactly one official for soccer, so Butte High has to bring officials in from out of town to work the Bulldog games.
Somehow, the opposing fans still say they get “homered” when they come to the Mining City.
That football is short on officials is hard to even fathom. Everybody loves football. Everywhere you go, you can start a conversation or a fight just by talking about the National Football League.
If you really are a fan of the sport, you should try officiating it. Whether you are a man or a woman who loves football, there is not a better place to be on a Friday night than on the field watching a game.
You get a better view of the action than the people sitting on the 50-yard line, and you get some exercise along the way.
Contact the Montana High School Association to get started. Longtime Butte official Ned Ellingwood would also be glad to you get started. Call him at 491-0641.
All you need is a strong pair of legs, some decent eyesight, integrity and the love of the game to be an official.
Without officials, the games will go away. The day when games are canceled because of lack officials is coming. It is only a matter of time.
So, give the idea of becoming an official some thought.
Sure, you have to have some awfully thick skin to be an official. People will call you names. They will question your vision and intelligence.
Officiating is a very “humbling” experience in the truest sense of the word.
While officials who do the job for the right reason must leave the field every night with a great sense of self accomplishment, as they should, even the best officials will be humbled by the crowd from time to time.
When a crowd points out your shortcomings, it is hard not to feel a little sheepish.
Perhaps some of those acknowledging the flaws in the officials should step up for the game and don the stripes.
Most of those fans really could use a piece of that humble pie that officiating serves up, too. They are starving for it.
With the cockiness some guys display while yelling at officials, you might think they just hit a pair of grand slams to beat the Rangers.