Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Replay: My standoff with Florida Police
Jon Foreman

When I'm on tour, I try not to think about home too much. I write songs, write things for the Huffington Post, and watch a lot of Sports Center. Lately, ESPN has been running segments on whether instant replay should be used in MLB games. Blown calls like the one that ruined Armando Galarraga's perfect game brings this controversy to a head. Personally, I see both sides of the issue. On the one hand, life (like baseball) is unfair. Sometimes calls go your way, sometimes they don't. On the other hand, our sense of justice speaks up for the folks who've been robbed of victory of a good play by a bad call.

What are umpires after all? They're just folks like you or me. And yes, like us, they are only human. "To err is human, to forgive is divine" -- and to watch the instant replay on the big screen is pretty great too. I was thinking about how helpful this sort of instant replay would be for real life situations outside of the ballpark. For those close calls in life, it would be amazing to be able to review the tape and change your behavior accordingly. You could see things from a different vantage point, or see something you might have missed before. I'm thinking of one specific moment right now. A moment that still is fresh in my mind. A moment that made me angry and frustrated. I'm thinking about my run-in with the police in Tampa Bay Sunday night (which fortunately/unfortunately was videotaped from a few angles).

The day started off great -- our band played a few tunes acoustic at the radio station, caught a few innings of the Orioles/Rays game, and then played some rock 'n' roll at the local amphitheater. It was a beautiful night and I had a few songs left in me so I decided to play a couple tunes out in the parking lot after the show. I call them after-shows and they're exactly what they sound like. No tickets, no lights, no amplification, just a few tunes for whoever wants to listen. These moments embody much of what I love about music: spontaneous, communal and pure. A few old songs and a few new ones, nothing too planned out -- it's just a chance to see music bring people together.

The after-show had just begun when things got interesting. I finished my second song, a tune called "Against the Voices" (ironically enough), when I noticed flashing lights accompanied by a loud voice declaring the night to be over. Now I'm not a rabble-rouser by nature and I have a healthy respect for authority, but I was really disappointed at the way this was being handled. This peaceably established group of well-mannered kids were not violating any laws I could think of. The officer was yelling as though he had already asked me to leave, referencing telling me "one more song already," but I had never spoken with him before.

Sure, I want to get arrested for rock 'n' roll as much as the next guy, but I couldn't think of any crime we had committed. I couldn't figure out whose civil liberties this officer was protecting. The whole thing felt so silly -- so juvenile on both sides. I had no idea that singing in the venue's parking lot in the middle of nowhere would cause such a stir. I hate that kind of attention. I'd rather just sing these things with my eyes closed and enjoy the moment. I wanted to put this thing behind me, to write the whole thing off. But with ESPN's gentle nudge, I decided to review the tape, to see it from a different perspective.

So I went back to the instant replay on YouTube this morning to see what I could have done better. And after looking at the tape, I would have made a different call: I would have pushed for communication instead of one more song. I wish that I could have pulled the officer aside to hear his thoughts about the situation. I would have asked him why we were getting kicked out. I would have asked him, "Is there a more appropriate place to play one last song?" I wish I would have asked him why he was yelling at these kids. I wanted to understand the situation, to shake his hand and speak like grown-ups rather than being yelled at.

One of my best friends back in San Diego is on the police force. I've heard his stories; it can be a rough job with unexpected stress. The job of the police is to protect and serve the populace -- in this case, the folks of Tampa Bay. His badge is to be respected because of the service he provides to the community. I'm sure this officer was trying to do his best to serve us, but communication was not handled well. He could have explained why we were being kicked out. Surely he could treat the citizens that he serves with the respect that he also desires.

I'm still not sure why the officer wanted the music to stop. We were not the last to leave the parking lot, we were not blocking traffic, and there had been no noise complaints. The only reason he gave was that he wanted to go home. The only other question of mine that was answered was his name: Officer Fisher. I'm sure that if we sat down for coffee, Officer Fisher and I would find a few things in common. Maybe we could talk baseball, or Beatles, or Zeppelin. Maybe we could find some common ground to stand on. Yes, after watching the tape, I have reversed my decision: I would have gone for communication instead of one more song.

Every night, I play a song called "The Sound" and dedicate it to Mr. John M. Perkins, a civil rights leader and a hero of mine. Mr. Perkins believed (and believes) that love is capable of bringing people together from all sorts of backgrounds, no matter what race, religion, age, occupation, etc. Love speaks louder than hatred. Love speaks louder than even our fears. To be able to sing this song every night, I try my best to live it out with my actions every day. Mr. Fisher, if in any way you felt threatened or disrespected by my actions the other night, please allow me to apologize. That was not my intention. I was simply hoping to play a few songs out in the parking lot for some folks who wanted to listen. I'm hoping to close this awkward incident the best way I can. I would love to find out how to do this sort of thing better for the next time we pass through. We all need each other. We all need second chances. We all need to learn from the replay. The umps, the cops, and me.

I've got to say, Jon, you're one of the most inspiring 'famous people' around this globe. Its cool if we get a short replay of certain situations in life, although many of us would wish for a full replay in certain points in life when it gets difficult and ugly. There are always times and situations where we wished for things to be handled differently, where we 'should' have said different things or made a different choice; but well, Jon did 'rewind' and review his mistakes - although the situation can not already be corrected once again, it is possible to learn from it. Postmortem, right?

Good move here, Jon. You displayed the character of an admirable human. There are hardly anyone one left, with all that pride, that would not bulge in with a kick or a punch, especially when you have people (in this case, fans) on your side. Its definitely way harder to get 'kicked or punch'/insulted in front of your fans, but that shows us Humility. He had been in some frustration after obeying the officer, but the ability to forgive is commendable!

Ahh, how I hate living in this dog-eat-dog world. This read gave me a kicked in the ass after I've decided to play monster after reading various opinions of life-after-uni just yesterday - how underpaid certain jobs are, capitalistic world making the rich and richer and the poor get poorer; that I should still stand and believe in good things, they still exist, not everybody is nasty, and its takes a real hero with courage to Forgive.

I'm called to forgive a same man seventy times seven times; so even if somebody cheats me of all my hard work, I'd still have to cry out my frustration, and then learn to forgive. Well, ain't that a real heroic act. I wonder how many percent of me is the heroic side.

Love listening to their songs; reminds me that there are still Good songs around, there still healthy Fun people around, and also there are people that truly Inspire.

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