Thursday, July 15, 2010

How should we respond to umpire errors?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Detroit Tiger pitcher Amando Galarraga threw a perfect game on June 2, but umpire Jim Joyce spoiled it. Joyce made a bad call on the final out, calling someone safe at first when replays showed he was actually out. Joyce admitted his error. But it ruined Galarraga’s chance to get his name in record books.

Referees were blamed for many bad calls in the World Cup, including one that cost the United States a victory against Slovenia. Now international soccer authorities are considering instant replay in some cases.

In cricket, referees at the top level have been criticized for a number “jaw-dropping” errors. The sport is developing an umpire decision review system.

However, it doesn’t take a computer to see that referees and umpires are imperfect and that sometimes they make mistakes that are game-changing, as this list of the top gaffes by referees will show. But if you look at the No. 1 mistake, you’ll see it involved an instant replay. Referees even make mistakes when it comes to rules about use of video to review their mistakes.

Perhaps someday there could be a perfect “robot umpire” (but that’s criticized as boring).Using video replay for more than a few calls would slow down the game. Even if robot refs or video replay were adopted for use at the highest levels of sport – for professional and World Cup games -- such methods seem impractical at lower levels, where most athletes engage in sport.

What, then, should a coach teach young athletes about referees and referee errors? And how should a referee respond after making an error?

It seems that response to umpiring errors may be a great measure of attitude toward the game. If errors only matter when they appear to change the outcome against us, it shows that we value winning and losing more than other considerations of the game. If, on the other hand, we look at umpire errors as though they were the wind and rain, the bounce of an oblong football, or the shape of a ballpark, we may find new importance in the underlying values of the game. Did we work as hard as we could? Did we make the right strategic choices? Did we treat everyone on the field, including our opponents and the officials, with respect? Would we shout at the wind for blowing a pass off course or kick dirt at the wall that stood a few feet too far oout for our home-run attempt?

Joyce made a mistake. It in no way cheapens Galarraga’s effort. Can you name the other four pitchers who hurled no-hitters this year? If not, the apology of Joyce and grace of Galarraga may have serve up more memorable lessons. The game goes on no matter what the umpire calls. And most of life takes place off the playing field.

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll has to say about umpires and the game.

What do you think about umpires and referees? Click here to take survey

1 comment:

  1. just do the review rule like NBA and NFL...get with the program!!