King IV: A lesson in ethics from umpire Dickie Bird.

The first draft King IV is going to be released shortly. And I have set myself a challenge.

Let’s package King IV in an E learning package that is understandable and interesting to all.  Yes, keeping the class awake in matters of stewardship and governance is just damn difficult. Almost impossible.

The first problem comes down to what is ‘ethical behavior?’ There are rafts full of material on the subject. And all of it is, quite frankly, aloof and boring. When lecturing the subject I always feel like a parson trying to drag a sermon out until the Sunday roast is burnt beyond recognition.

One of the the finest of examples of ethical behavior, legendary cricket umpire and Yorkshireman, Harold ‘Dickie’ Bird PhD, Honoris Causa, OBE.

Before Dickie Bird became famous he coached cricket at St John’s College Johannesburg. Not that St John’s contributed anything much in his subsequent fame.

The boys couldn’t understand a word he said, ‘Aye Lads, them wickets are so fine ya could hit fours with stickarubarb. Now butt un pad together.’ It was chaotic and he used to call us names like ‘Idle Jack’ and ‘Weary Willie.’

Today one can appreciate the humour in it. ‘Da finest of them all was Boycutt (Boycott). You would have to pay him sum, mind thee.’ He even labeled The Both (Botham) as the ‘Gorilla’ during the legendary Ashes of 1981.

I digress.

Dickie Bird had his own ways of dealing with controversial decisions. His particular specialty was the call on a grassed catch. Without today’s technology there is every chance that an umpire will get it wrong.

Dickie Bird would storm over to the fielder and face him down with the challenge ‘Da Good Lord is looking at thee, Lad. Didya or didn’t ya?’ Leaving it up to the fielder to make the call.

I bet any fielder who bull-dusted Dickie Bird lived with that on his conscience for the rest of his life. Few did.

We can read the writings about ethics and even write more PhD’s. But that won’t hit the spot.  Every decision actually boils down to the fundamental question ‘ Da Higher Being is looking at thee, can you live with yourself afterwards?’

Dickie Bird finally retired from umpiring, not because he was too old and tired, but rather because of the introduction of television reviews of LBW decisions.

He believed that no man can do to much wrong if he honestly did his best. Even if he occasionally gets it wrong.

Australian pace bowler Swervyn Mervyn Hughes could hardly ever bully a favorable decision out of Bird.

But in the end he had to admit ‘Dickie you’re a legend.’


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