Yesterday: Second Treatise on Civil Government Tomorrow: ???
Book: The Bubble Boys: How Mistaken Educational Ideals and Practices are Causing a Warped Social Fabric
So I love top-ten lists. But today I have something much more relevant and more interesting to write. And besides, what I don’t want to do is give away for free some of the contents that you should get from taking my courses. Now THAT would be retarded.
How many of you saw the Rays-Red Sox game from Monday night? (I realize I have readers from all over the globe and that, for the most part, you guys are not interested in baseball. But bear with this one. It’s not a baseball post. It’s a philosophy post. This is me really, really, really bringing the classics to life–showing their relevance and sophistication, including that of several books I have already posted on.) It was a big story–the Rays won a one-run game, but the Red Sox should have tied the score had the umpire (Jerry Meals) not blown the call on a play at the plate. Meals was in bad position. From his angle it was impossible to see Daniel Nava’s foot touch home plate before the tag was clamped down on him by the catcher. So the Red Sox, rather than sending the game into extra innings, lost by a run.
Immediately the uproar began: baseball MUST have instant replay by next season. They’re the last major sport to implement so many things, and how can they let the integrity of the game be challenged by missed calls such as this one? Why do they let major objections–notably a) the “human element” objection (where people argue that having humans determine the outcome of the game is part of its charm and tradition) and b) the “length-of-game” objection (where it is claimed that baseball games are long enough already)–get in the way of an “obvious solution”? And again, what about the “continuous play” objection. Runners are on first and second; a ball is laced to the outfield, and it’s unclear whether it was trapped or caught. The umpire rules it caught. Replay shows that it landed clean on the grass and bounced into the center fielder’s glove. The batter is awarded a single. Where do the runners go? To second and third? What if there were two outs and we could assume plausibly that the runner on second would have scored?
There are other objections too–all teams must have equally capable facilities for using replay, and the administrative apparatus is uncertain–would you employ an extra umpire, costly as it is, to review all plays? Would you put a chip on the players? Would you have the coaches allotted a certain number of challenges at the beginning of the game? What would you do? What plays should be subject to instant replay? Which calls are most controversial? Should we review balls and strikes–there are more of those calls than of safe-and-out at home plate calls, right?
Watching one of my favorite shows at my mother’s house–I live without television–the panel of reporters on “Outside the Lines” put together a hodgepodge of opinions on both the impropriety and the propriety of using instant replay. Jayson Stark of ESPN and Richard Justice, formerly of the Houston Chronicle, are in favor; against it were Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe and Terence Moore, formerly of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Sadly, I know the name of every major metropolis’ newspaper. Shame they’ll all be gone soon.) Moore’s lines of argumentation were so brilliant, and so perceptive, that I was forced to draw comparisons between them and philosophy.
As with so many things that seem “obvious” to so many people, though, this one is in fact far from obvious. If enough people repeat something, rest assured that it is wrong. We have already seen the “human element” objection in our consideration of The Iliad. The gods attempt to interfere with the war, but ultimately they are not as powerful as fate. Omniscience does not substitute for determination. Knowledge is not power.
The time element is a more intriguing argument. It has long been speculated that argument takes more time than settlement by replay. Moore was, as I mentioned, in the forefront. He argued that this requires the assumption that the case is settled, but in many cases–and some especially notable recent ones, such as the A’s Indians game of May 8 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kNYAI-d8UA)–the case is anything but settled by instant replay. Nor, for that matter, is it necessarily faster; Moore brought up the relevant point here as well, noting that at many football games fans are constantly complaining about the amount of time taken up by officials reviewing replays rather than by game action. At least, Moore said, this is interesting camera time. Baseball players arguing is almost never boring. And in some cases, such as the one you can see above, the manager will still argue after instant replay has been used. In effect now you have doubled the delay in the game.
In taking this line he was going against the line of the legendary Dodgers’ broadcaster, Vin Scully. As a die-hard, lifelong Dodgers fan (and I’m sorry to all my lovely girlfriends, but the Dodgers are my only true love), I have the deepest admiration and respect for him. In many ways I view him as infallible, having been broadcasting the team since the late 1940s and having done World Series games as well as huge football games and golf tournaments. Scully’s legendary “blinkin’ fertilizer” call of August 7, 2012 was among his greatest calls–translating Jim Tracy’s tirade without cussing himself and noting his stance in favor of replay: http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/08/07/vin-scully-is-the-blinkin-best/ Moore managed to make Scully’s position look absurd.
The last relevant point, though, applies to the previous case as well, blinkin’ fertilizer or not: no matter how many cameras there are, there is not always certainty on any play. Scully said as much in his call. The matter is one of epistemology–the theory of how we know what we know, and when we know it. There are several lines of thought here. One of the ancient lines says that we don’t know anything, and until we admit that we aren’t capable of very intelligent conduct. Skepticism has ranged through thinkers from Socrates to Montaigne to Hume to Emerson. This line would oppose instant replay. Another line says that we are born with a blank slate, and that successive experiences build an interpretative apparatus in our minds–that we then get more intelligent and capable of knowledge. This line would favor instant replay. A third line says that we can only know things through God–this line is irrelevant, but would probably be against instant replay. And the fourth major line says that we only know things if we perceive them. This is Bishop Berkeley’s line, and despite its seeming absurdity, it is nearly impossible to refute. Johnson tried and failed. Hume tried and failed. It is to this one that instant replay proponents must turn for support. We are more capable of perceiving the proper call if we have more looks at a play and more time to look at it. But when we cannot perceive the right call, what do we do?
This is what Richard Justice and Jayson Stark argued–namely, that instant replay is necessary not because it will make every call clear and right, but because it will make more calls better. The point is well-taken. But how many more calls, and as against what cost? This is no absolute argument. The administrative questions still need answers. So do the questions about time. And the ones about continuous play.
Moore even went on seemingly to argue that the most important calls are the most difficult ones and the ones that, historically, replay has done the least to clarify. He cited Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception of 1972 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07zsdF0ysP0). For forty years fans have been watching reviews of this play from every conceivable angle; still there is no certainty whether it was a catch or an incompletion. Or the “outfield fly” call from last year’s National League Wild Card game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAbIEkZU2TY). Stark said that 90% of umpires believe it at present, privately, to have been a blown call. But that isn’t 100% either. I can add to this the “Music City Miracle” of 2000–forwards or backwards lateral (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_zg-J0q42M)? I’m nowhere near sure, and the technology is not anywhere near as clear as the video claims it is. For that matter, would replay have settled the infamous Berra-Robinson play at home plate in the 1955 World Series (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XY-XshGhMU)? Or, Moore asked–and this is the really big one–what about–the Kennedy assassination? Who shot JFK? Replay after replay after replay, angle after angle after angle–still no certainty.
So….the Great Books Dude thinks he is taking Moore’s position. He doesn’t like Instant Replay and hates the arrogance of those who claim it solves everything (including members of his nuclear family). What line do you take, and on what side of the fence are you? Please reply quickly and firmly, if you must! The press is hot!