When the Whole Crowd Is Against You

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.1

Several years ago, I went to see a law partner’s son play college baseball. Of course, most people brag on their children, but this young man really was talented. He was one of those players that made the game joyful.

I ended up getting to the game late as the second inning started. Something happened during the first inning that had turned the crowd against the umpires. From the parking lot I could hear the yells of “boo” and every other imaginable criticism and obscenity. Unlike some games I had attended, the rage against the umpires wasn’t one sided. Both teams apparently hated these umps.

What was worse, the unified rage had unsettled the umpires. Their calls were no longer confident or timely. When they could, they avoided making calls which enraged the fans even more.

I was a little concerned about where this was headed. If this kept on, would they call the game? Would a fight break out? What about the players, they came to play ball?

It was then that I witnessed something amazing. Billy Earl Cook walked up to the fence behind home plate, directly behind the home plate umpire. Mr. Cook was an attorney from south Alabama who had practiced probably thirty years. He was white headed with his long shirt sleeves rolled up  —  most likely came to the game right from his office. The boy that I came to see was his grandson.

A soft word in a hard world

In a soft but firm voice, Mr. Cook said to the home plate umpire, “O.K., let’s just start from the beginning.” His voice  sounded like he was in his backyard talking to one of his sons, “from the beginning. A strike is over home plate from the bottom of the kneecaps to the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants.” The pitch came, the umpire called a strike. Mr. Cook said, “good call.” This went on for a while with the umpire making calls and Mr. Cook, when he could, saying, “good call.”

Had Mr. Cook stood behind the umpire and yelled at him, I suspect the result would have been different. Rather, he lowered his voice. He also changed his tone. He sounded like he was talking to someone he cared about  —  even though he might not have even known the umpire.

Find a place of agreement

There was plenty going on that everybody disagreed about. Mr. Cook and the umpire could agree about the definition of a strike zone. For the moment, the umpire had gotten lost in the wave of rage coming from the stands. As soon as Mr. Cook started talking with him about the strike zone, he could refocus on the game.

As the umpire settled back into the game, the crowd calmed. As the noise went down, you could hear the occasional “good call” from Mr. Cook. Then one man in the stands joined him and said, “that’s right —  strike  —  good call.” Slowly, the focus shifted off of the umpires and back on the game.


As Mr. Cook encouraged the umpires, and the players, those young men played some real baseball. The encouragement was a game-changer. The game ended up being great and the crowd – both sides – was cheering.


Acts of personal nobility aren’t just found on the ball field. The next time the whole crowd (or even just one person) is against you, ask yourself:

  1. Is there anything, no matter how small, that we can agree on?
  2. Can I lower my voice or change my tone?
  3. Is there anyone or any thing I can encourage?

The answers to these questions might turn out to be a game changer.2

Nobility. Nobility in Action. What’s your story?


Read More. Share.

privacy We value your privacy and would never spam you

  1. 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
  2. Brandon L. Blankenship ©2015 All rights reserved. CC Image “Baseball” courtesy of im_a_gina_tion on Flickr
About The Author

Brandon Blankenship

Brandon L. Blankenship is a continuing legal education presenter and business educator. He is the author of Unmasking Hour. He writes weekly posts on the legal industry and is a contributor to the Nobility Academy. He and his wife Donnalee live on their hobby farm south of Birmingham, Alabama.