Everybody makes mistakes. But not many sports fans are willing to forgive first base umpireJerry Meals for his brutal botched call that ended Saturday’s dramatic contest between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. The game was shown on national television, and everyone knew the call was terribly wrong. Yankees fan knew (and their let displeasure be heard), Orioles fans knew, and even the most amateur baseball enthusiasts knew.
Photo courtesy of Flick user baseballoogie
Blown calls are difficult to forget, but when they occur in critical moments, in the final seconds of a big game, they are nearly impossible to stomach. Saturday’s game was a big one in the battle between New York and Baltimore for the AL East Championship. The Yankees were staging a ninth-inning comeback when Mark Teixeira came up to bat, his squad down five runs to four. With runners on first and third, Tex grounded the ball to second and sprinted toward first base trying to keep his team’s hopes alive; to protect his injured calf, he dived headfirst into the bag, the first time he’s done so in his career. He reached the base a good second or more before the first baseman caught the ball, but to his outrage, umpire Jerry Meals called him out, ending the game with a double play for the Orioles. In his postgame interview, Teixeira fumed, “It [the call] wasn’t even that close, that’s what’s disappointing. We’re out here battling, we’re scratching and clawing for every win, and it wasn’t close. I’m not one to complain about calls, but that was bad.”
In this tight pennant race, such as a flagrantly wrong call is unacceptable. Had Teixeira correctly been called safe, Chris Dickerson would have scored the game-tying run, and the Yankees could have very well gone on to take the lead and win the game. The unfortunate reality of umpiring is that humans are imperfect– people will commit errors, no matter how much training they receive. Expanded replay and electronic review should be introduced in baseball and other sports to account for human mistakes and to keep the game fair. Incorrect calls have changed the destinies of entire tournaments. In the 2010 World Cup, referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed a goal by American Maurice Edu in the 86th minute of the match between the United States and Slovenia. The call was made because a foul was committed in the box; however, electronic reviews showed no evidence of a foul made by any player. Because of the ref’s decision, the game ended as a draw, when it should have resulted in a historical American win, the first win in 80 years by a team that trailed by two goals at halftime.
Technology has improved and made more accurate countless areas of life, and we should heartily embrace it in the sports world. Some critics of electronic review claim that technology will extend already-long sporting events. The technology for sports replay is by nature extremely efficient– umpires and refs will take no longer than a few minutes to view the replay and determine exactly what happened. In fact, electronic review could actually reduce the length of games because it will eliminate the squabbling that is seen so often in baseball and football between officials who saw different versions of the same play. Other naysayers say technology makes sports untraditional, that it strips sports of the beauty they had when they were created. But isn’t fairness a key tenet of sports? Don’t most sports fans believe that the better team or player deserves to win? Electronic review helps account for human error and enables officials to justly reward the more skillful competitor. As technology advances and becomes ever more precise, the sporting world should not be left behind in the dust.