Aiming for perfection? It’s much easier than you think

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman November 20, 2014 21:15

helmetLet’s talk perfection.

A few years ago, it was pretty simple:

In bowling, a perfect game was a 300 – 12 strikes in a row.  In pitching, it was 27 outs in a row – no hits, no walks, no errors.

In football, it was the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Coach Don Shula’s NFL team ran off 17 straight wins on the way to the Super Bowl championship. No ties, no losses – and no team since has duplicated the feat.

At school, it was a 4.0 grade-point average – straight A’s in every class.

In the less quantifiable fields, perfection was harder to find and highly debatable.

Is “Citizen Kane,” for example, the perfect movie? Is “King Lear” the perfect play? Is “Tale of Two Cities” the perfect novel?  Or “Stairway to Heaven” the perfect rock song?

Unanswerable questions all, although we might agree that each candidate, if not perfect, is at least “pretty good.”

But these days you don’t even have to be pretty good to be perfect.

So how imperfect has perfect become?

Now when I order a medium black coffee at Starbucks, the barista pronounces “perfect.”

I go for the bacon turkey avocado at Subway, and the sandwich maker delivers the verdict: “Perfect.”

I drop off two dirty shirts and a pair of slacks at the cleaner.  “Perfect,” pronounces the cashier.

I ask a friend to lunch at 12:30 Thursday. “Perfect” is his reply.

I’m apparently on an error-less, infallible roll. Be it at Walmart, Safeway, Rite-Aid, Burger King or the AM-PM Mini-Mart, whatever I want is usually perfect.

Clerks, waiters, attendants, associates and receptionists have no doubt at all that what I ask for is the very best possible thing from the menu, on the shelves or in the entire inventory.

Which made me feel sorry for others without the wisdom, taste or discernment to demand, everyday and everywhere, the absolutely flawless.

Then it hit me: Would a large caramel latte, a ham and swiss, a pair of jeans with mustard stains or lunch at 1:30 Saturday also be deemed perfect?

I’m afraid so.

bo derek“Perfect,” much like “literally” (which now means “figuratively”), “epic” (which is now applied to haircuts, burritos, hats, video games and shirts) and “awesome” (now applied to everything), isn’t what it used to be.

But what began this word’s decline?

Maybe it was Bo Derek, who played a perfect “10” in the 1979 movie of the same name (or number).

No, “10” didn’t win any Oscars. Nor did Bo, in a career of forgettable films and TV shows that followed.  (Anybody remember “Tarzan the Ape Man” or “Malibu’s Most Wanted”?)

Or perhaps it was it the advent of other-worldly GPAs. A Florida high school student, believe it or not, this year posted a 10.03 GPA – inflated to double figures by 17 AP classes and by a grading formula that even 4.0 students from the old days can’t understand.

So how far has the word “perfect” fallen?

Well, legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi – along with many equally wise, if less acclaimed philosophers – insisted more than a half-century ago that perfection was a theoretical concept that was in fact impossible to attain.

But those ’72 Dolphins?

Lombardi might point out that Shula’s team lost three preseason games, then gave up 23 points to the hapless 4-9-1 Buffalo Bills in a nail-biting one-point Oct. 22 win at the Orange Bowl. Does that sound perfect?

The bar, however, has since plummeted precipitously.

If almost all sandwich orders are now perfect, we probably won’t have to wait long for one-hit, two-error “perfect games” in baseball. In bowling, anything above 290 will soon be deemed flawless. And, at school, all GPAs between 3.70 and, say, 16.25 will be declared perfect.

Yes, linguists may cringe, but I’m good with all of this.

If my coffee preferences are routinely praised as perfect, I’m assuming, the blog you are now reading will shortly be regarded as flawless as well

And if it’s only perfect idiots who think so, well that’s OK by me.

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman November 20, 2014 21:15
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1 Comment

  1. Wells Wheeler November 20, 22:52

    The Perfect Master has spoken!

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