It was bound to happen.
With instant replay being used in football and basketball it was only a matter of time before baseball jumped on the technology bandwagon.
But Little League Baseball?
Major League Baseball has yet to finalize just how to bring instant replay to the big-league games, but that didn't deter Little League World Series officials from instituting a program of their own. The impetus, officials said, was a close home run call that cost a team a title.
Like basketball and football, the athletes and coaches are very supportive of the use of instant replay. They say they work too long and too hard to have an official make a mistake, especially during the playoffs. And anyone who has watched sports for even a single afternoon knows, officials make mistakes some more than others.
But technology isn't an inoculation against human error.
I have heard athletes and coaches say "The tape doesn't lie." But sometimes it does. Or, more accurately, two people can watch the same play, live or on tape, and see it differently.
We recently watched the Game 6 of the 1998 NBA playoffs between the Bulls and the Jazz with college basketball officials. One of the most enlightening aspects was learning that even in slow motion, we may just have to agree to disagree. We watched two different plays over and over, moving the pictures as slowly as possible, and then we argued and argued over which player fouled or whether it was a travel.
In fairness, replay isn't used in every situation in football and basketball, and its use has seemed to bolster the credibility of the game with fans. Because there are only a few situations in both sports when it can be used, coaches don't try to have every call second-guessed. In football, it also costs a coach and his team if he's wrong.
But neither of those sports has a problem unique to baseball.
The biggest drawback in baseball is that it's already a very slow-moving game. Adding reviews, which could take place anywhere from a dugout to inside the offices of a stadium, could be the death knell for a sport that already has a tough time captivating the attention of a generation that tends to multi-task more often than not. Most of those in their 20s or younger can listen to an iPod and text on a cell phone while solving quadratic equations.
It is, for these motion-aholics, like watching paint dry.
Most of them don't have the patience for baseball without instant-replay breaks.
Sadly, it isn't even the fact that adding replay might lengthen an already long game that bothers me most. It's the fact that we can't live with the idea that a referee got a call wrong. We violate all the rules we grew up with and pin a ballgame on one call.
We are told from the time we are in Little League to let bad calls go. It's adversity. Every ball doesn't bounce our way, and we have to play through it; we have to overcome it. And now, because we can watch it in slow motion on our camera phones, we want to say that SOMETIMES it actually does come down to one play.
We changed our minds. Don't let those bad calls go protest them. Use a camera and make them right. Then there won't be any unfairness, right? Now how can we rid sports of disappointment.
I guess I can live with replay in college and professional sports, where careers and millions of dollars are on the line, but I just don't understand using it in Little League Baseball. I don't think it should be used in little league anything.
I had a coach in high school who said games are made up of thousands of critical moments. Don't waste the ones in the beginning of the game, and then it won't matter if someone steals one or two near the buzzer. You haven't backed yourself into a corner. You aren't that fair maiden waiting in a tower for someone to come and save her. You will save yourself by being prepared, by working hard, even when it seems you don't need to.
And finally, if you do what you can and there is a questionable call, that's life. There is no instant replay in life. You have to live with what happens, and surprisingly it's not fair. Sometimes you are on the receiving end of a bad call at work or in a relationship. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you lose what you should not have lost, you are fired, you get hurt.One of the most valuable lessons I learned in sports is that we're not all created equal and life will not treat us equally. It is our responsibility to overcome, to take advantage of opportunity and to make the best of every situation including those messes not of our own making.