Detroit hurler Armando Galarraga's perfect game June 3 against Cleveland was marred by a call so bad the umpire who made it later said he was sorry. The US World Cup soccer team’s win against Slovenia was disallowed because of an equally bad call. But this time the official not only didn’t express regret, he refused to say what the call was for. It resulted in him being benched by the World Cup upper echelon.
What didn’t happen in each of these glaring examples of human error was a reversal of the decisions, which would have been easy to do since both events came at the games’ end.
The problem isn’t just with human errors, it’s also with archaic thinking by sports governing bodies. Organizations such as the International Football Federation (FIFA) and Major League Baseball (MLB) depend heavily on money from television rights, but still won’t use or trust TV to decide questionable calls. They stick to tradition mandating that an official’s call is final. There is one exception in baseball, where one umpire can overrule another.
But, just as we have moved on from a live fan support base to television being the prime money maker for some sports, so should the inefficient and often partisan method of officiating. Stop action replays have already shown to be effective in the NFL and horse racing. There’s no reason, except the official rejection, it can’t be used for questionable calls in soccer and baseball.
Of course FIFA will say soccer is a continuous action sport and having to check cameras after disputed calls would slow down the game. But, this could be held to a minimum with replays only for disputed goals.
As for baseball, the game is normally slow any way, non one would even know a play was being reviewed. And to be fair, MLB does allow sop action replays for questionable home-runs.
The biggest problem is sporting authority rejection, something that could change by two means, popular pressure and through the courts, something remote yet possible in our litigious society.
You see, pro athletes are supposed to be examples of sportsmanship, putting all calls, even bad ones, behind them and move on to the next challenge. The trouble is, fans aren’t pro athletes. They have grown up or into a digital age where everything can be revealed through high tech sources. And, they won’t abide by having to up with visually proven bad calls for very long.
I mean can you imagine the broowaha that would result if Galarraga, pressing his case to be given his perfect game, actually sued MLB? He could argue that his career had been damaged and suffered mental torment at the hands of an umpire who admitted he was wrong, yet the call remained valid by order of MLB. Would he have a good case? Either way it would be a win for common sense. The publicity surrounding such a case might create a storm of public protest for change…protest that is needed.
Of course, pro sports teams and authorities will argue that such action is just bad sportsmanship and not allowed by league rules. They probably won’t bring up the myriad of law suits and deals they are regularly involved in to insure profits and player selection.
As a kid I remember going to Hollywood Star baseball games at Gilmore Field in Los Angeles. The scoreboard was manually operated…just big placards with numbers on them. My, how times have changed. And so has our perception of sports.
So, I would welcome an athlete or team suing someone to overrule a bad call. In our present world it would be so American and it just might be effective is getting the change needed to keep the fans and athletes happy.