Keep R2-D2 Out Of Sports – A Human Error Story

Here’s the thing – technology and progression is good for sports. No one will argue that. What is frustrating is when someone decides to take the human element out of the game. Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner, was on the Dan Patrick Show discussing the future of calling balls and strikes. Should this really be a discussion?

There are far too many “fixes” being made that are shrinking the unpredictability of sports and at some point we’ll all be happy just simming a game. Thinking back to the 2015 MLB Playoffs and the variable strike zone the Toronto Blue Jays faced is all the more reason to leave it alone. Were calls being blown left and right? Absolutely, but there’s a vested interest in seeing your team beat the odds.

Coaches challenges, instant replay, goal line technologies and heck, the trapezoid in hockey all have a hand in determining a victor. But has the governing bodies of sport gone to far? Have they come up with too many rules and changes to the sports we love that we can’t truly enjoy human error?

Don’t get me wrong, there have been defining changes that have made sport better such as introducing the forward pass in football, removing the two line pass in hockey and video replay. Looking at video replay is actually a conversation in itself. This area has had amazing breakthroughs in all sports, hockey and football benefiting the most from these in my opinion.

However, all these changes have come at a cost; human error is being all but eliminated and with all the rules and regulations, it’s tough to determine where they’ll stop.

Baseball entertaining the concept of a computer called strike zone would ruin baseball. People thought video replay on foul balls/home runs would be the straw that broke the camel’s back but the anti climactic call that would come with a computerized strike zone would be terrible. The only way they could keep it interesting is if they had a delayed answer like on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

nytimes.com

nytimes.com

Well that or if they had the computer make the call in like a funny, text to landline type voice.

Hockey introducing the trapezoid was a bonehead decision as well because there literally were only two goalies it was created for, Martin Brodeur and Marty Turco. These two, albeit great goaltenders, were not worthy of changing how the game of hockey is played. The PGA “Tiger Proofed” courses after Tiger Woods thrashed course records at the drop of a hat; creating a zone for THESE two guys, give me a break.

An umpire’s strike zone obviously changes from ump to ump and although we hate it, it creates part of the story for that game. Some crew chiefs have oddly large zones, others terribly small; we never know what we’ll get and its the element of human error.

Imagine hockey introduces digital offsides, icings and penalties? You’d stop watching it. I would. Such a fast game has mistakes and even when we yell and berate officials, we need that room for error to keep us interested. The skate in the crease rule in 1999 is a version of that; people still made that call even with the cameras they had.

We need mistakes in every sport and the more commissioners and league officials tinker and toy with those mistakes to eliminate them, the more watered down our sports will become.

Progression across all sports needs to continue but they also need to be wary of what that will do to the future of the game and how its played. Instant replay for many sports has become a way of life and in the NFL the first down line on TV is so amazing, it won 8 Emmy’s the year it was introduced, pretty sure anyways. All My Children’s soap star Susan Lucci didn’t win one for 18 years, and she was arguably THE leading lady of TV. How is that relevant? A freaking yellow line affected real life decisions and now you have no clue how to gauge a first down without it. Sports technology 1, fake TV characters 0 – well, 1 actually but you get the point I was making.

Some changes are needed but don’t take away the strike zone! Don’t let R2-D2 decide baseball!

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