Apologizing for mistakes when you're on a team

Here’s something I think.

If I am a member of a two man team, and during the course of a game, I play for the team in all sincerity, but I make a mistake which leads to a loss, then all of the following are true:

A. I am right to feel motivated to apologize
B. I am not obligated to apologize
C. If the other member of the team, upon seeing we’ve lost and realizing it was due to my mistake, then verbally shows overt anger at me due to that mistake, then it would be wrong of me to apologize. As he is approaching me confrontationally, an apology in this instance would presume that in some way a confrontation is legitimate–that somehow I have made myself his enemy and am (by apologizing) trying to remake a friendship. But that is not what happened–I was doing my utmost to be his friend throughout. Hence an apology would miscommunicate. Instead, the confrontation should be concieved of not as a legitimate response, but rather as a forgiveable lapse in judgment. To communicate that, I should simply remain silent. (Or alternatively, if I want to communicate that the lapse in judgment was not forgivable, then I can return the confrontational approach.)

But what do you think?

The basic idea is this. An apology in response to confrontational words and attitudes communicates that those words and attitudes are legitimate. But if I have not done anything to merit confrontational words or attitudes, then I should not communicate that these words or attitudes are legitimate. Since apologizing would communicate this, apologizing in such an instance would be incorrect. Some other response is called for.

And making a mistake while playing as sincerely as possible for your team’s interests does not merit confrontational words or attitudes.

Am I wrong here?

ETA: Need answer fast!


I want to say it depends on the nature of the mistake. If you’re, say, playing doubles tennis, and you’re going all out, but you mis-hit a ball that costs you the match, I don’t think an apology is in order. These things happen.

If, however, you’re playing baseball and the bases are full, and you catch a fly ball for the second out and then hand the ball to a fan in the stands, thinking there are three outs, thus allowing the tying and winning runs to tag and score, then yeah, you probably owe your teammates an apology.

Forgot to mention, in the situation I have in mind (yes this is a question based on RL, in a way, but not exactly) I am playing on the team as a favor to the other guy on the team.

This will depend on the dynamic the two teammates have established. Regular apologies for routine mistakes could be counterproductive, but the same would be true of offending your teammate.

I’d guess that truly successful teammates do very little of this.
In the OP’s case, perhaps a “non-apology” would be right: “Hey man, sorry you feel that way - I was trying my best.”

I agree with this. Just because the mistake was not deliberate doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no culpability. Stupid penalties, daydreaming-type mistakes, little league stuff–it happens, but that’s avoidable. Keep your head in the game.

Playing all out but short of perfection–no, no apology and if someone expects one in that situation, @#$% him. All you owe your team is your best effort. I’m more of a “we win as a team, we lose as a team” type of guy, so I tend toward the end of the spectrum where an apology is never necessary. But I might not want you on my team next time if you half-ass things (assuming a competitive league). And my “don’t worry about it” might be less than enthusiastic if you lost it for us through a completely avoidable mistake. You want people to be good teammates? Then be one yourself, which includes giving a good effort and keeping reasonably focused.

Years ago I was playing cricket, filling in for a friends team, and the wicketkeeper (look it up) dropped two catches in a row off my bowling.

As we walked past each other he apologized to me and I was instantly annoyed. I said, pleasantly, “Did you drop them on purpose?”

He looked puzzled and said, “No?”

And I said, “No need to be sorry then.”

So to answer the OP - no, there is never any need to apologize in the circumstances you outlined. The correct response to your partner is probably, “Fuck off” or “Grow up.”

Heh thanks for the replies so far.

I was hoping against hope for a clear “you are clearly right who would think otherwise?” but of course I should have known better :wink:

I just can’t bring myself to accept, at least for now, that when I, as a favor, decide to help someone out with a game they’re playing, and when I make a simple mistake which loses the game, then if their response is to angrily blame me for the loss then I should apologize to them. I feel like the anger is uncalled for–I was doing them a favor!–and an apologize would incorrectly legitimize that anger.

Alright, so TMI, here’s what happened. A deep lifelong friend who is very mathephobic was playing an online game and needed to do some calculations in an argument she was having with someone else playing the game. She asked me what fifty million divided by two million is. I was thinking “fifty something” and was just doing the bit where I cancel out zeroes in my head, and while I was doing that she said “fifty million?” My train of thought interrupted, and my brain already primed to say “fifty something” anyway, I unthinkingly replied “yes.”

She took this figure to the conversation, and so of course turned out to be wrong in the argument.

She found this extremely humiliating–extreme mathephobia, like I said–and as soon as we discovered her mistake, she angrily told me “go away.” Okay, fine, she feels humiliated, I understand, and I leave.

But I believe that at this point it was her responsibility to say something conciliatory ere we spoke again. Instead, the first thing she said to me was an angry and bitter sounding “I was fucking humiliated!”

At this point, it seemed the conversation was going to become one about how I had fucked up and should feel like a bad person for it–a sentiment with which I disagreed–so I explained that I would not be participating in the conversation. And as you can imagine, things only went downhill from there.

Much later in the conversation she insisted I only had to say “I’m sorry” from the beginning and everything would have been fine.

But I argued (and still would) that since she opened with “go away” and continued later with angry and bitter blaming sentiments, and since once she said “go away” it was her responsibility to continue the conversation and set its tone, an apology from me is not just non-obligatory, it would have been downright wrong. She was wrong to hold anything against me. I can understand her feeling angry, but a responsible person would recognize that the anger is illegitimate. To apologize to someone expressing illigitimate anger, it seems to me, is not just non-obligatory but downright wrong. It is to acquiesce to a falsehood. I was not her enemy, I was her friend, and I did my best for her as a friend, and for that I refuse to apologize. :frowning:

Yeah, way TMI I know. But there it is. (Sorry, I just feel this need to spill because the conversation was just about the worst I’ve ever had with anyone, ever, with the possible exception of the one that ended with me calling my dad a “stupid fat man” and getting hit. Things got really, really bad. Next morning, I’m still extremely upset. But I don’t want to go into details about the conversation–I just want to get clear about what started it.)

I know she may not be coming off in the best light due to this story, but you have to understand the depths of her math fears. She was literally abused (in a psychological sense) by math teachers as a kid, for example. So as a friend, I understand how upset she was. But I don’t think I’m being petty by having refused to apologize. No matter how angry anyone gets, a basic level of respect is still called for especially between friends, and that means that when you are angry at someone for making an innocent mistake when they were trying to help you, you do not hold it against them, realizing instead that the problem lies within yourself. If you hold it against them, you’ve made the very idea of an apology worthless.

I don’t get why some of you are so stingy with the apologies, I apologise all the time when playing sports. If I hit a misshit (in tennis or squash) that luckily wins me the point, I always say a quick sorry, doesn’t mean I think I’ve done something wrong, it’s more of showing sympathy with the lack of luck of the other guy.

When I was playing doubles I would usually say a quick sorry if I took too much risk or did something I could have known to be a bad choice. If there was a fair rally that we ended up losing, no need to say anything, but if I tried to go for a longshot winner and it doesn’t come off, then there is no problem in acknowledging that.

That’s how I would read the cricket example above (for the record I would have said sorry as well). It would just mean, sorry you lost out on two wickets because of my clumsiness. This doesn’t mean I didn’t try to catch them, it’s just being decent. Especially if you aren’t playing together reguarly.

I’m still not getting this. “She took this to the conversation”? Meaning, she was not competing at the moment? No matter how mathephobic she is, she knows how to work a calculator, right?

Not following completely, but if I represented something as a sure thing, I’d apologize probably (“sorry for the brain fart”). If I was obviously sputtering out an educated guess, then @#$% her, especially given her response. She can come up with her own guesses, if she doesn’t like mine.

Generally speaking, yes, in times of competition if you screw up you are obligated to own up to it an apologize to your teammates.

They are under equal obligation to support you, tell you to keep your head up, that these things happen and expect you to be there for them when their turn at it comes around.

Anyone who understands competition and what it means to be a true team-player knows this.

The whole thing took probably less than a second total.

But yes, when I am doing math in my head, I do it just like when I’m doing it on paper–first what’s 100 divided by 50? Now how many zeroes are there in each one? Cancel 'em out.

Yes, the answer to “how many zeroes” is just “It doesn’t matter, they’re both the same,” but that is indeed an answer to a question I do indeed ask mentally when I’m doing this math in my head.

I was right in between the “50 something” and the “just cancel out the millions” when the interruption, matching so closely what I was primed to say already, led me to unthinkingly say the wrong thing.

I’m puzzled by your reaction. Why would you be annoyed by someone offering an apology?

IMHO if someone can’t figure 50 million divided by 2 million reasonably quickly on their own without consulting a friend, then there happens a communications screwup, personally I would be mortally embarassed that I couldn’t do simple math on my own rather than take my anger out on another.

But perhaps that’s just me.


Oh no’s!

You caught that part before I edited it out.

Number one: it seemed I was overdoing it on the snark-meter and

Number two: a second after I submitted it, I realized my “correct” answer wasn’t right either which sort of proved the point the problem required a second glance.

So my bad and all that. I really didn’t want that part out there.

Heh, sorry about that.

I’ll flag it to see if a moderator is willing to remove my post.