Recall the familiar saying, “Hindsight is better than foresight,” which if cast in football terminology might translate as “It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.”
Picture in your mind a group of disappointed fans gathered around the office water fountain on Monday morning as they lambast the coach’s decision late in Sunday’s game which backfired, causing their team’s loss. In the final seconds the coach had decided to go for a touchdown that would have won the game instead of a “sure bet” 15-yard field goal, which would have at least tied the score and sent the game into overtime. It’s so easy to second guess around the water fountain after the fact.
Now in the grand scheme of things, the decisions made on the football field are not nearly as important as the decisions made in the White House Situation Room or in a hospital emergency room, or on a battlefield, where the lives of people are at risk. I dare say that many decisions made around your kitchen table are more important than those made during a football game (even though NFL and college coaches are paid ridiculously high salaries to make such decisions).
All decisions, whether major or minor, have to be made without the benefit of hindsight. For example, a hospital patient has a severe life-threatening condition, which “might” be corrected with a risky operation. The surgery “might” possibly result in death on the operating table or it “might” be successful. After the doctor hears the wishes of the patient and family, the decision is made to go ahead with the surgery. Unfortunately, if the surgery fails, in hindsight it’s all too easy to second guess that decision.
The following hypothetical situation is not all that much removed from reality. Imagine 10 Americans being held hostage by terrorists. The president must make a tough choice. After being informed by knowledgable advisors about how a successful rescue operation might be accomplished, he understands there are still risks and there is no guarantee of success. A rescue attempt might result in the loss of life (rescuers or hostages or innocent bystanders). Yet, with no rescue attempt at all, there is a chance that the hostages will be killed by the terrorists anyway.
The president weighs the pros and the cons and makes a call, knowing that either decision could easily result in a bad outcome. Sometimes, the choice is between the lesser of two evils. Sadly, if the decision results in a bad outcome, in hindsight some Monday morning quarterbacks will be quick to jump on the bandwagon of second guessers regardless of whether the president happens to be a D or an R.
Closer to home, each of us in our everyday lives are called upon to make tough choices. In recent months some of these decisions have centered around COVID-19. At times with hindsight it becomes clear that unwise decisions were made. Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes and are not scolded by a bunch of Monday morning quarterback second guessers.
It was Arthur Doyle who wrote, “It’s easy to be wise after the event.”
John P. Jones