Respect the Game
Once again it is Spring, and it is time to Play Ball! Baseball, like the American Spirit, is a game of perseverance, humility, and yes, failure. Baseball’s historically best pitchers were actively responsible for their team’s victories, at most, once a week. Baseball’s best offensive players failed two-thirds of the time. Even the ultimate icon, Babe Ruth, struck out over one thousand times. Yet perseverance, rooted in humility, determined the enormous long-term value of a person, team, and country’s self-worth. This is the game of Baseball. This is the game of America. Respect the Game.
As in all human undertakings, disrespect for the game reared its head from time to time. The Black Sox scandal, gambling, corked bats, altered balls, and steroids are but a few examples. In all these occasions it boiled down to players cheating. Citizens were breaking the law, but the fundamental essence of the game remained intact. America respected the game. That is, until now.
The most transformational act that threatens to fundamentally disrespect the game, is the introduction of television replay to MLB. The decisions of the tried and true blue have been stolen from the hands of the umpires -- baseball's Supreme Court Justices -- and redistributed to the hands of television’s replay booth officials to make the final calls. Allowing television to be an umpire bastardizes and perverts the true nature of Baseball. The game of American life is played in real time, on the field. Decisions are final. It is not performed in front of a camera. The umpires’ job is to call them as they see them. It is, or should be, television’s job to report what they see.
Historically, television began as a fan, simply watching the game, and sharing it with others who wanted to partake. But television, like all media, was never happy posing as a spectator. Television realized it had become complimentary to the success of the sport. Eventually, it narcissistically believed that it was more important than the sport itself. Why simply broadcast, when one can determine the outcome, with fairness to boot.
Lesser sports succumbed to television pressure early. Under the guise of getting it right these sports abdicated their own autonomy. With Baseball the process was slower. Benign at first, television suggested that all fields must have lights, then lobbied for changing game times, and finally determined playoff schedules. (Think presidential debates, if you believe this only applies to sports.) Initially replays would just be for rare calls like a home run. Once fully implemented, it was just a logical step that television would confirm or overturn, and become the umpire.
In the past, managers had to employ traditional and creative methods to protest blown calls, arguing for truth even if reality had been determined otherwise. Now baseball managers will be pressured to follow suit with all the other self-absorbed professional sports, and challenge calls for the sake of cameras watching and plebian fans chanting for “justice”.
Do umpires make mistakes? Of course they do. Mistakes are part of the game. As in life, as the game proceeds, mistakes take care of themselves. In fact, controversial decisions are necessary fodder in order for Baseball to be emotionally powerful and intellectually stimulating. Anyone who doesn’t see that, especially MLB ownership, does not respect the game, and simultaneously, does not respect America.