Friday, June 4, 2010

Quick Thoughts on Replay and "The Imperfect"

I say quick thoughts because this is far from polished...

Instant replay is not good for sports. While it is great for correcting mistakes made and errors in human judgment, it takes away from the essence of the game. Most sports are played solely for the players involved; sure, winning feels better than losing, but at the end of the day most people aren't worried about the standings in their beer league. Professional sports are played for two entities: the players and the fans. Winning is certainly more important, but in the end, it is not the most important for those two parties. Players get paid, fans usually get to see an enjoyable game.* Players who win less may get paid less, but major league players are not starving. Fans prefer rooting for a team that is competitive, but Nats Park was not empty last year. Winning is much more important to managers and owners, who are evaluated on those criteria. A winning team is more profitable than a losing team. Blown calls happen all game long, and players shake them off. It is up to us to shake them off as fans and media as well. Would your kids' Little League game be more enjoyable if it were umpired by a machine? Of course not!

The only reason we want Instant Replay is because we have it. Every play is dissected on the Jumbotron and in the booth prior to the next one. Fans of Walter Johnson's Senators weren't sitting in their seats wondering, "I wish there were seven cameras following every play so we could prove the first base umpire blew that call." They just hoped that the next one would go in their favor, because, well, shit happens.

So even if there were infallible machines umpiring the Galarraga game, would he have grabbed a piece of history? Probably not, though the home plate umpire was pretty consistent, Galarraga got a couple gifts to work ahead in the count. Had the play happened in the third inning, is this even a story? Probably not. The irony of this story is that the blown call didn't even cost the Tigers the game. Correctly determining the winner has driven the demand for replay up until now. Bud Selig, in his attempt to diffuse the situation, probably should not have concluded that the game would have ended differently with replay, and should not have initially left the door open that the call could be overturned after the fact. That could totally turn the state of Missouri upside-down. Even in his carefully crafted statement, Selig mentions all the sources with which he plans to consult regarding Instant Replay, but the two he ignores: the players and the fans.

* Does not apply to Jim Bowden products

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