Thursday, August 12, 2010

Singing the Men-in-Blue Blues by Will Leitch

In the June 20, 2010, Sporting News magazine Will Leitch had some excellent insights on the men in blue. Here's what he had to say...

My late grandfather, Dennis Dooley, was the ost famous Connie Mack League youth baseball umpire Moweaqua, Ill., ever saw. An old military man with a buzz-cut, six-pack abs, and his dog tags hanging around his neck, he exuded authority and omnipotence. Once, a kid slid into home and Grandpa called him out. The kid yelled, "I was safe!" Grandpa stood over him, dog tags dangling in the kid's face. "No," he said, calmly but firmly. "You were out because I said you were out. You're out by definition. I am the law here. "

The umpire said you were out, thus, you were. We're not as into authority anymore. We think we know beter. An umpire is no longer an arbiter of truth; an umpire is simply a human being, prone to the same foibles as the rest of us.

For decades, we yelled,"Kill the umpire!" not really meaning it, of course. We were striving against what we could not control, accepting that the result wasn't in our hands, that life could never truly be fair. Now? Now, well... we've figured out how to kill the umpire.

What pushed us over the edge was not that Jim Joyce missed the call; what did was Joyce's being so open about the fact he had missed it. Joyce handled himself with class, grace and heartbreaking pathos; he said he felt horrible that he "cost the kid a perfect game." He wept. He was, painfully, human. He said he blew the call. He said, "I'm sorry." Thus did end the age of the omnipotent umpire.

Umpires were put in place to make sure the right call is made. Cameras are a clear upgrade. Cameras are perfection.

But cameras have no authority, and by choosing CORRECT rather than GOVERNED, we lose something about baseball that we've loved: This was a game of authority, of clear boundaries, of a stadium ruled by men who made the right call because they said they made the right call, darnit. We were powerless to defy them. They were law.

We are ceding that law, collectively, to the cameras. I cannot argue. As a society, we demand that we have a Right Answer. We believe science and math, studious research and analysis can give us a correct answer, solve any problem. Mystery is unacceptable, faith in another human unsustainable. We dont' want authority; we want answers. The men in blue, they're as archaic as that crew cut, those dog tags, a belief that a man might be right because he said he was.


Pete Rose. I'm sure a lot of you have emotional attachments to Charlie Hustle, and why wouldn't you? He played baseball the way we imagine we would have. But with the recent assertion-from Leitch's old site, Deadspin-that Pete corked his bat, is there anything else we could learn about one of my childhood heroes that would make me lose more faith? Wait, his hair wasn't a toupee, was it?

(thanks to Will Leitch's input on the Men in Blue and the Pete Rose tidbit)

Kevin Marquez