February 15, 2011

The Unwritten Rule of Ballparking

Listen, the rule is that you don't get to ask for a ballpark estimate. If someone wants to offer one up, that's fine - good for them. But nothing irritates me more than when someone asks me a question, I respond with, "I have no clue," and they then follow up with, "Well, just give me a ballpark." No. No. No. That's not how this works. You might as well ask me to make up a number.

I don't have an answer. That's covered under the statement, "I have no clue." If I had any concept of the answer, I would have provided it up front, ballpark or otherwise. So, don't sit there and insist that I give you an answer. I stated very clearly that I don't know. And if I don't know, then your guess is as good as mine. How about you ballpark it?

Well, I'll tell you why they don't. They don't because they understand the gravity of the situation. This isn't about ballparking the amount of jellybeans in a jar. If it were, then they wouldn't even be consulting you. No, this is about something more important, something for which they are expected to provide a legitimate answer, something on which people are going to rely.

The truth is that this request for a ballpark estimate is not about finding the right answer; it's about creating a scapegoat. What they really mean to say is, "I want a guess from you because I don't have any clue about this subject matter. However, if I present your ballpark estimate, it sounds good, and everyone buys it, then I sound experienced and knowledgeable on something of which I know nothing. And if it turns out your ballpark is wrong, then I can simply point the finger at you. 'Amber gave me the wrong answer. Dang, that Amber is stupid.' "

Yeah, that's right, I'm on to you ballparkers. It's not about pitching, batting averages, and the crowd's roaring shout. No, it's about Casey and making sure I strike out.

Next week, we'll discuss guesstimate.

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