Please don’t let them do it

You will have by now heard that some are advocating the use of “instant replay” in baseball. The, for lack of a better word, entities pushing for this realize its nefarious implications, and so suggest the video tape be referenced only for disputed home run calls.

Please, God, do not let them do it.

I used to enjoy watching American football when I was boy. Two things destroyed my pleasure in this sport. The first, and most obvious, is the increasing non-stop blather from the sportscasters, now crammed three or four to a booth. These guys never know when to shut up. Worse, broadcast colleagues in baseball thought that they should get in on the act and not just call the game, but to analyze every triviality. No, instead of great announcers like Ernie Harwell and Phil Rizzuto—gentlemen who knew when to shut up and let us hear the relaxing sounds of the ballpark—we have corporate types with “communications degrees” endlessly uttering profundities like “This game isn’t over, Jim.”

This would have been tolerable in football if it weren’t for the second degrading change: The instant replay. Games now drag by as referees, doubtless worried their calls might be challenged, gather at the end of nearly every play to have a little chat about what just happened. And then there is the ridiculous spectacle of a coach prancing up to the sidelines to delicately toss a little red flag on the field when he feels piqued. It is a pathetic thing to see.

I predict that not too many years from now, the game of football will have evolved so that each team’s rosters are supplemented by attorneys (both offensive and defensive ones, naturally). At the conclusion of each play, the lawyers will charge the field to dispute the play—challenging the outcome on the grounds of insanity, income disparity, etc.—to be settled by a jury of tennis fans (who presumably will not prejudice the outcome). Some plays will be so contentious that they will end up in court. It will eventually take years to finish a “season” as the courts become backlogged with cases.

Please do not let this happen to baseball. Umpires, like MBA business executives who think of things like instant replay, make mistakes, but so what. You will get over a bad call. The instant replay some say makes good “business sense” because “so much is at stake.” Nonsense. It is only a game and it is meant to be entertaining.

It will suck the life out of baseball, interrupt the natural flow, and make watching the games more of a chore than a pleasure.

5 Comments

  1. Matt,

    Normally I totally agree with you…but I think you may have fallen and hit your head.

    I totally agree that baseball is entertainment. However, since MLB insists upon charging us thru the nose to be a fan at any level (even a cap is $25), I expect nothing less than correct calls. Hell, tennis has reply and can correct a call within seconds. No arguments, no flags, just technology!

    If this were tee-ball, I would agree that reply has no place. But this is a multi-billion dollar industry that treats the consumer like a vending machine.

    As far as I’m concerned, if the powers that be are going to treat baseball like a business, and me like a faceless consumer, then I want some oversight and punishment. The fact that major sports can violate antitrust laws, rape the consumer with price gouging on consumer foodstuffs, and force us to listen to Joe Morgan and John Madden, then I at least want these idiots to get a homerun call correct. Otherwise, why did I pay $200 to take my wife and two kids to the game?

    As far as natural flow, why not ban commercials and set a time limit between pitches? How about removing arena music? Perhaps dropping to a play-by-play only and losing the pseudo-analysts?

    The only chore of baseball is knowing that I’m doing the work, and they’re keeping the allowance.

  2. I agree with you, although I have to say the notion of “interrupting the natural flow of baseball” pretty well boggles the mind. An instant replay would be just another moment to go get a tray of nachos….

  3. Briggs

    When I was last in Japan I saw a televised Baseball game with no commentary. I suspect you would have enjoyed it. Being as I am an Aussie rules follower it made no sense to me at all.

  4. Hell. Why have umpires at all? We’ll cover the field and player uniforms with an elaborate system of sensors. We’ll supplement with automatic target recognition algorithms from video cameras positioned all over the field. Data will be piped to a secure facility of Beowulf clusters in Cooperstown for processing.

    The players will know there’s no arguing with a call because there will be no one with which to argue. But we will know when they are out of line based on monitoring chemical levels and electrodes in in their caps. A player that needs to be removed will be given increasingly painful shocks.

    Eventually we won’t need the players at all. We’ll watch computer models and argue about which team has the best random number generators.

    It. Will.. Be. Perfect.

  5. The issue with instant replays is when they are used too frequently and aren’t very instant.

    Both of my sports (Rugby & Cricket) have them and they are good for making some decisions but I think that it has got to the point at times when referees/umpires are scared of making decisions for themselves without reverting to technology. The experience in cricket is that the umpires almost invariably get it right.

    With rugby the problem is that it can be very difficult to analyse as camera angles aren’t always great (and it is difficult to tell if someone has grounded the ball when they are under a pile of 10 bodies!). The last world cup had a period of over 5 minutes while the video ref looked at the various cameras and couldn’t make a decision. In circumstances like this, and for the good of the game, there should be a standard “benefit of the doubt” test that goes with the attacking team (in order to encourage attack which is more interesting to the viewing than defence (at least in rugby)).

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