You Just Can’t Get As Mad at Technology As You Can at a Human
Someone once asked the late, great baseball umpire Ron Luciano whether he thought if, someday, there would be robot umpires automatically calling balls and strikes, He admitted there probably would be, but that it wouldn’t solve the fundamental conflict at the heart of the game, and really at the heart of everything. “If they create a robot umpire that calls every strike exactly, right,” Luciano said, “hitters will never let it survive. Whenever it makes a call against them, they will beat it to death with a bat.” Luciano understood something about human nature. We don’t want there to be an objective truth. We want an objective truth that proves we are right.
On Sunday night, Philadelphia Phillies designated hitter Kyle Schwarber lost his mind after umpire Angel Hernandez (erroneously) called a third strike on him in the ninth inning of an ultimate loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. You really have to see Schwarber’s explosion. It’s the sort you rarely see in sports anymore.
Hernandez is widely considered the worst umpire in baseball — there are many stats that back that up — and it’s telling that the broadcasters’ reactions are not, “somebody restrain Schwarber before he kills someone.” They’re more, “yeah, it’s unbelievable no one murdered Hernandez years ago.” It was a terrible call, at a critical moment, and Schwarber had had enough.
More to the point: It makes for an incredible highlight. You can argue that what Schwarber did was not appropriate or “sporting,” but you cannot argue it is not incredibly entertaining to watch. The inherent conflict between what should happen in sports and what does happen in sports is the reason sports are fun in the first place: It’s why everyone is always rooting for upsets. That all exists because of the human beings who take part in these sports, the players, the managers and, yes, the umpires. They’re all humans, stupid, messy, deeply flawed human beings…