language or communication?

A week ago, as with most Hall of Famers, Phillies veteran Mike Schmidt found himself once again before a microphone, with another earnestly desiring his opinion. He was asked about the future of the Philadelphia Phillies, a subject upon which the twelve time all star would obviously possess a unique perspective. He was asked if the team could build around current outfielder Odubel Herrera. Schmidt’s answer, calmly articulated, was as follows:

“My honest answer to that would be ‘no’ because of a couple of things. First of all, it’s a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can’t be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game — or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game — or come over to a guy and say, ‘Man, you gotta run that ball out.’ [He] just can’t be — because of the language barrier — that kind of a player.”

Only a few hours later, the former third baseman found himself apologizing, seemingly sincerely from this blogger’s observant, albeit limited perspective. He apologized for the perceived disrespect of Herrera and Latin players in general. “I’m very sorry that this misrepresentation of my answer occurred and may have offended someone,” Schmidt added.

Still later that night, Boston Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy took his turn before the mic. During the game versus their New York rivals, when the Yankees pitching coach made a visit to the mound in the middle of the fourth, he was accompanied by a Japanese translator; they came to calm the momentary errancy of Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, also Japanese.

As play resumed, Remy averred about the translator, “I don’t think that should be legal. I really don’t. Learn baseball language. You know, learn; it’s pretty simple. You break it down pretty easy between pitching coach and pitcher after a long period of time.”

Like Schmidt, Remy calmly offered his opinion. Also, like Schmidt, Remy’s comments were met with immediate criticism on social media. The next morning, his employer said in a statement that it “does not agree with any such views expressed by Jerry Remy and we know from talking to Jerry that he regrets making them. The network sincerely apologizes to anyone who was offended by Jerry’s comments.”

An apology was made for Remy’s seemingly sincere opinion that speaking the same language was a necessary part of the game.

Great question. Is it necessary to speak the same language? Is it necessary to speak the same language in order to play the same game? Is it necessary to speak the same language in order to be a leader in the game? Again, great question.

I wish there was an easy answer. In our current, sensitive societal state, I often wonder if the intensity of offense and immediate apology strategy at times impede our ability to wrestle with the underlying issue. The issue here isn’t language; the issue is communication.

We don’t have to speak and write the same formal, linguistic structure. But we do need to communicate. Communicating is far different than language.

We communicate and connect via example and engagement. We communicate and connect via eye contact and touch. We communicate and connect via unspoken kindness and courtesy.

We communicate positively and lead effectively — both on and off the diamond, hardwood, soccer field, etc. — when others know via some connection that we expect nothing more of our teammates than we do of self… when our teammates know we are doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit… when our teammates know we value others above ourselves, typically looking to their interests first.

With all due respect to Schmidt, Remy, and likeminded others, we communicate via the nonverbals embedded in humility. That’s the kind of communication that spurs others on. That’s the kind of communication that’s powerful and effective. And that’s the kind of communication for which no offense nor apology is necessary.