WWHE #4: The Bully Pulpit.
The Bully Pulpit is a position sufficiently conspicuous to provide an opportunity to speak out and be listened to.
When coined by Theodore Roosevelt, he was using ‘bully’ as a descriptor synonymous with good, superb, wonderful. As in: the White House provides a terrific platform from which to advocate an agenda.
As the term bully took its now more common form – harasser of the weak – so too has the Bully Pulpit become less a platform and more a bludgeon.
In the world of sports there is no bigger platform with as many bludgeon-wielding blow-hards than ESPN. With their bully pulpit, ESPN can drive the discussion and drive it however it suits them.
Propagandists have demonstrated over and over that logic and truth are less important in the mass shaping of thought than repetition and a need to belong. That’s how newspeak words like ‘regressive’ get used without irony even by Orwell readers. That’s how regional acceptance of ‘can’t have too many pass rushers’ occurs. And that’s how ‘more replay is good because getting it right is most important’ becomes prevailing thinking among sports fandom.
Item: Not everyone buys into more replay for baseball.
There are plenty of people out there who share my disdain for replay. For today, let’s narrow the aperture and look at replay in baseball specifically. Here are some views not heard amidst the din of the stampede toward more replay.
Ex-player Doug Glanville cautions:
We can force systems to get better, and sometime worse. We can overrule, overturn, overthink, and even overreact and delete that last post. But let’s be careful because we may not want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes when we try to make perfection. Maybe a missed call will be a thing of the past. Maybe that is a good thing. But I get the feeling we may actually miss a missed call, no matter what we say in 140 characters or less.
Current player Troy Tulowitzki:
I have mixed emotions about it. I think baseball has been known for so long by the respect for the umpires and the calls they make. Right or wrong, you just go about your business and play.
Mark Kiszla from the Denver Post nails it in his piece from Thursday:
More replay in baseball? To determine whether a ball raked down the right-field line is foul or a double? Really? … This just in: Life’s not fair. Why should baseball be any different?
It’s only a game, not to mention a game that already takes three hours to play way too often.
Wisdom and depth from sports types. Whoa.
But if you consume sports from the same places I do, those opinions are not what you generally hear. Because one guy with a microphone can get on a kick and dominate the discussion… if the microphone he holds has ESPN on it.
Jayson Stark’s raison d’être: Get more replay into MLB, ASAP!
Stark’s pieces earlier this week prompted this WWHE. Here’s the first, Eight ways to improve umpiring:
1. More replay.
Well, there’s good news. More replay is coming. A lot more replay. Like next year. It might not all kick in at once. But at some point, it’s possible nearly every type of call except Ball one … Strike one will be reviewable. And that will solve everything. All right. No it won’t. But it’s a start. As Angel Hernandez proved last week, even with replay, some calls will still get hopelessly messed up. But not nearly as many. And Angel will be happy to hear that an important byproduct of expanded replay will be better technology.
And this, MLB must get replay right:
Replay isn’t perfect. It’ll never be perfect. We get that.
I don’t know what happened in that replay room, when Angel Hernandez and his crew were trying to decide if Adam Rosales had just hit a game-tying home run. I just know I’ve gotten crushed on Twitter for even trying to offer possible explanations for a call that — let’s be honest — was completely screwed up.
So let’s fix this, OK? ASAP?
A quick sidebar here. ‘It’ll never be perfect. We get that.’ No Jayson, I don’t think you do. Because so long as it’s not perfect, there will be mistakes, and so long as there are mistakes games are prone to be affected. As you were unable to accept the mistake last week, you empirically DO NOT GET THAT.
But Stark has been banging the table for replay for years. Here’s sixteen of his by-lines crying for instant replay.
Christ, here he is in 2003:
Use instant replay
White Sox GM Kenny Williams says he would love to “give our manager one of those little challenge flags.” OK, baseball can’t use replay for everything. Nobody wants to wait 10 minutes to confirm a foul tip. But replay would work great to decide whether balls are fair or foul, out of the park or off the wall. And why not? Nobody uses long division if they have a calculator handy. Technology marches on. Use it.
Why wouldn’t we want to wait 10 minutes on a foul tip? What if it decides the game? Isn’t getting it right the main thing? Doesn’t technology march on, therefore mustn’t we use it?
So there’s really no boundary to instant replay expansion.
That’s one of the main strategic problems with continuing to expand replay. Common sense and agreed-upon boundaries will not be accepted. One blown call and the Jayson Starks are coming out of the woodwork to have MORE REPLAY.
And the problem with ESPN’s bully pulpit is that one shrill Jayson Stark with 260,000 twitter followers on a replay jihad drowns out any of the reasonable counter-arguments noted above.
Just accept it, I suppose. You’d have to be a jerk not to want to get it right.
Everyone gets tired swimming upstream. I’m just one guy and I’m not going to change anything. So we’ll close this post with the wisdom of Michael Cuddyer and wish all god speed with the replays because you’d have to be a jerk not to want to get things right at all times.
“Replay … I’m all for it,” Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer said Thursday. “It boils down to getting things right. And I think everybody that pays to see the games deserves that. I think everybody that plays deserves that. And I think the umpires deserve that.”
Not quite the wisdom of Doug Glanville but whatever. You betcha Michael. Hell. Don’t stop with ‘everybody deserves.’ Take it to the ethos of the current Sprint ad and frame it in terms of human rights:
Slightly off-topic and on the other hand, slightly appropriate. Here’s an interesting take on that Sprint ad:
It seems to demonstrate the nihilism implicit in the modern quest – even the word “right” no longer refers to an intrinsic quality of human dignity, but to unrestrained self-assertion. Coupling “right” with the word “need” seems to turn it into a masked ethical imperative to be unlimited – my nature obliges me to transcend, nay, cast off my nature. Existence is a limitation. If limits are a problem, then existence is a problem.
I agree. But hey. I’m old.
Here’s that Sprint commercial if you haven’t seen it.