Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Price of Perfection

("What Umpires Get Wrong")

Lou Piniella, Billy Martin, Earl Weaver. Leg kicking, dirt flying, chest bumping, cap askewing, base throwing, expletive producing, mayhem. Should this all be deleted with a push of a button?

This is, after all the 21st century. The bad boys of tennis, from Nastase to Connors and finally the king of the potty mouth, McEnroe, have disappeared as our gaze turns to the giant screen in the sky for answers.

Have we witnessed the last of the Bobby Knight like chair flinging episodes as referees huddle under an umbrella of secrecy, checking the angles and maybe their stock portfolio while the game grinds to a screeching halt?

And John Madden's face would  today have far fewer opportunities to turn ever increasing shades of angry over an act of sheer incompetence, as the not so instant replay booth takes human error out of the equation.

Is part of the fabric of all these games the imperfection of those adjudicating or is the umpire/referee/official  merely a distraction, an unnecessary distortion of the athletic endeavor?

What would happen to baseball if 0% of the calls were blown? We could  measure the height and depth of the pine tar on the bat of Mr. Brett and leave him with nothing but a computer printout to protest. Armando Galarraga would have his perfect game, and the heartfelt apology of Jim Joyce would never have been heard. I can even well imagine the tones of  the artificial voice advising the beleaguered batter "Strike three yer out."

In 2040 when Derek Jeter's son is trying to leg what appears to be a routine single into an improbable two bagger, will we be waiting to learn his fate from hand signals on the ground, or from the computer's infallible information that flashes on the screen on the back of the seat directly in front of each one of us?

If "kill the ump" becomes nothing more than an artifact, will we have advanced or fallen prey to our own achievements? Will we be taking the humanity out of the equation or accomplishing what we have always sought?

At what cost perfection?

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