Loris Karius is a very good soccer player. He is the number one choice goal keeper for English Premier League soccer team Liverpool. That means that the young man is a very wealthy young man. Wealthy, talented and good looking. Unfortunately for Loris, all his talent, wealth and good looks could not save him from having a really bad day last Sunday. He wasn’t brought low by the death of a loved one… or a financial crisis… or a personal health problem… or a relationship issue… and he didn’t have a serious accident. None of those things caused Loris’ shocker Sunday. Loris was completely floored, not for all the usual reasons, but because he played really crap in a game of soccer!
Everyone has crap days
Everyone plays crap every now and then. Even the best athletes. Michael Jordan had crap days. So, did Michael Schumacher. Muhammad Ali had super crap days, too! Unfortunately for Loris, he picked the worst possible day to play the worst he has ever played in his life. Loris had his worst ever day on the same day that his team, Liverpool, were playing against the best soccer team in the world, Real Madrid, in the European Champions League final. Loris didn’t just have an average crap day. Real Madrid are good. They can make excellent goal keepers look pretty crap through their outstanding offence. No. Loris didn’t have one of those bad days when outstanding opponents make you look bad. He had a bad day so bad that he would have looked crook even if he had been playing against a team of fourth division regional basketballers playing a bit of soccer just for the fitness benefits. Poor Loris. It was one of those days that, blessedly, only happen once in your life. Why, oh why, did it have to be on European Champion’s League final day!
In soccer, the experts call bad goal keeping errors “howlers.” Loris’ two errors were not only “howlers” they were “howlers” to beat all “howlers.” His very bad day started when he attempted to roll the ball out to one of his team mates but managed to hurl the ball into the knee of an opposition player. The ball, fortunately for Madrid, but tragically for Loris, ricocheted off his opponent’s knee into the goal. If it wasn’t so serious it would have been hilarious. A piece of slapstick genius. Unfortunately for Loris, the Liverpool supporters were not laughing. They had no senses of humour at all.
Later in the match, just to drive the final nail into Liverpool’s coffin… just to ensure that there could be no heroic comeback for the Reds… Loris managed to fumble a drive that came straight to him from forty meters away, into the back of the net. An unpaid amateur keeper from any Z Division competition could have gobbled up that kind of save. On a normal day, Loris would have managed it with his eyes closed and one arm tied behind his back. But this was no normal day.
An even bigger fuck up!
Enough putting the boot into Herr Karius. Now I’d like to talk about Captain Kohei Asoh. Capt. Asoh was not a soccer player. Well, not that I know of anyway. Like Loris, he also had a well-paid important job. In fact, his job was way more important than Loris Karius’ job. Capt. Asoh was the man in charge of an international airliner. He was a highly trained professional person, so skilled that he was entrusted with the lives of hundreds of airline passengers every single day of his flying career.
Captain Asoh, despite his high level of training and enormous skill, had a really bad day at work once, too. Not just a bad day at work. A really bad day at work. A really really bad day at work. We are not talking about a spilling coffee on the instruments bad day… or a bouncy landing bad day.. or even a having a row with the chief purser in charge of the cabin crew bad day. We are talking about the landing of a multi-million-dollar international jet airliner, smack dab in the middle of San Francisco Bay bad day! We are talking about a missing the runway on a landing by a couple of miles bad day! We are talking about landing an aircraft, designed to land on nice hard tarmac, on water bad day. Bad days at work can be worse… but not much. Back in 1968, Captain Kosei Asoh landed his flight JAL002, DC-8 with nearly one hundred passengers and crew on board, two and a half miles short of the San Francisco International Airport runway, right in the middle of the Bay. The upside for Capt. Asoh was that not a single person died in the crash. Remarkably, also, his DC 8 jet was declared repairable and was back in service less than a year later.
When the air transport authorities questioned Asoh about the accident, his answer was blunt. “As you Americans say, I fucked up,” he said. When all the analysis was done, it was found that several contributing factors led to the landing of Japanese Airlines flight 002 into San Francisco harbour, but when all is said and done, the bottom line is that Asoh fucked up! He fucked up big time.
What do you think happened to Kohei Asoh? Was he fired from Japan Airlines, in disgrace? Was be banned from flying commercial aircraft for ever more? Was he charged with negligence by the air transport authorities? Was he hounded by the press and the public to the point where he felt a need to save his family from any more humiliation by running away or taking his life. Nup. None of those things happened. Asoh might have fucked up but he was forgiven!
Capt. Kohei Asoh was temporarily grounded while he completed a program of retaining. When he returned to flying he was forced to sit in the First Officer seat for a period, until he was finally reinstated as an international captain. Asoh served as a Captain for another twenty years before retiring after a distinguished flying career. He didn’t fuck up, big time, ever again. Captain Kohei Asoh is the patron saint of all of us mortals who fuck up.
No doubt you can see where I am heading here. In effective, intelligent, competent, well-managed, moral and decent organizations, forgiveness is part of the culture. Since his really bad day Karius has been bullied, abused and slandered by soccer supporters, the press and any number of “experts” on organizational effectiveness. “He’s gone,” they say. “That’s the end of his career.” “Liverpool must find a new keeper more in keeping with their lofty position as a major EPL franchise.” Social media has gone wild with vilifying and hateful remarks about Loris. There are even reports that the keeper and his family have received death threats.
All of this is not only morally repugnant, but it is not even organizationally intelligent. The claims that big sport is big business and there is no room for sentiment (and that mistakes must not be tolerated) is simply incorrect. Loris, statistically, sits well inside the top ten best-performed keepers in the English Premier League. The guy can play. He is only twenty-four years old which means, if he continues to work hard, will continue to improve for at least another ten or fifteen years. He may even have the talent and skill to play for Germany some-day. When it comes down to tin tacks, Loris’ bad day was nowhere near as bad as Capt. Kohei Asoh’s bad day.
How should Liverpool FC respond?
A little bit of Capt. Asoh treatment may not be inappropriate in Loris’ case. Like Asoh he has owned the fact that he fucked up big time. A temporary demotion might be in order. Some serious retraining including some psychological work on his handling of pressure might be in order too. If Loris does well, as he recovers from his bad day, then he should find himself back in the EPL or some other major league doing what he obviously does well. If Liverpool stick by Loris they will be nourishing a valuable team member and, at the same time, sending a message to their supporters and the rest of the world what kind of organization they are. If they don’t they will be demonstrating that their theme song, “You’ll never walk alone,” is an awful lie.
Good organizations forgive their people who have bad days. It is part of their culture. The knowledge that you will be forgiven for your bad days is part of what makes an organization great to play for.