As we begin the baseball season, can I ask just one itsy-bitsy question: why does our national pastime almost alone persist in being the Luddite leader in sports? Why does baseball refuse to avail itself of instant replay?
Is there anything more insane than you and me, and thousands — maybe millions — of people sitting at home, slurping a beer and watching a replay which shows clearly that a ball the batter hit was foul, but the four umpires are standing out there in the field debating what they thought they saw when one of them called the ball fair.
Baseball is lucky. Not since 1985 has a world championship been determined by a call that the whole world knew was wrong. But it will happen again. Last September, a demonstrably bad call on a home run by Chase Utley of the Phillies could have cost his team a playoff spot. The replay showed the ball was indisputably fair, but baseball rules required that a mistake be played out. Talk about pride going before a fall.
And, you know, most every other sport that could, now uses 21st century technology to do right by their game. Even gymnastics has joined the real world.
The argument from baseball mossbacks that it would somehow be a sin to let technology intrude on the grand old game is a little hard to buy in the face of exploding scoreboards at most every park.
But more important, when technology — the replay — is employed for the fans, it has already intruded. To refuse to employ technology is backward; to effectively deny the fact of existing technology being used is delusionary.
The other argument so often trotted out by baseball antediluvians is that looking at replays slows up the game. Now, a lot of things do slow up the game, like batters stepping in and out of the box and pitchers waiting from a message from the almighty as to when to finally throw the ball.
But you know what? Here's the irony. Fans love when a disputed play is shown and debated on replay. It's one of the most popular additions to modern sport. Slow is not always bad. A home run trot slows up the game too.
How stupid thou art, baseball. But don't listen to me. As my friend Chico Marx, speaking for the poor umpires, asked: "Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?"