Against the Rules with Michael Lewis: Ref, You Suck!
June 18, 2019 8:01 AM - Subscribe

Rage at referees is all the rage in professional sports. Michael Lewis visits a replay center that's trying to do the impossible: adjudicate fairness.
posted by the man of twists and turns (2 comments total)
 
I firest heard about this podcast on Larry Wilmore's Black On The Air. In it, Lewis references Curt Shilling smashing a QuestTec strike zone camera.

Schilling had developed a method of pitching that appeared to be in the strike zone, but was not actually in the strike zone. This is good for him, because it makes the batter more likely to swing ( and miss, a true strike) and have the umpire call it a strike. But with the mechanical feedback to the umpire, and the incentivization, they could now call things that were actually balls as balls, so Curt was mad.
And he touches on this in basketball - part of the skillset, in addition to talent, drive, physicality, game knowledge, study, etc., is drawing calls, or committing small violations that don't get called, which give a player an edge. And its not surprising that the best players do it the most, because they're the best at all aspects of the game.
Part of what he's getting at, is, I think , that we tend to reward the already rewarded. Our innate sense of fairness is geared to reinforce already existing situations. So, for a player who is used to taking that fourth little extra step to set for a shot, or who is used to having an effectively larger strike zone, or who is used to a banking regulation that is hardly ever enforced .... the implementation of enforcement would feel very oppressive.

I've been thinking about 'cyborg chess', using computers, machines, to supplement human judgement. Let the machines do what they are good at, and let the machines do what they are good at.
Officiating is better than ever. What if we don't want accurate, unbiased officiating?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:05 PM on June 20


I listened to this on the way home today, not quite sure what to expect given that I'm not a basketball fan. But this was interesting; the question of privilege influencing how people react to referees and the rules was a good one to explore initially in the context of professional sports, I think - it sets some possible groundwork for exploring it in real world contexts.

I also liked the point about how the fans meekly accept endless timeouts and delays for the purposes of advertising, but boo stoppages for the review of calls.

What if we don't want accurate, unbiased officiating?

I think we don't; there seems to be a growing sentiment towards the idea that human error is part of sport, on the part of athletes and officials. But my impression is anecdotal, based on the issues with video review that have come up during the NHL playoffs and the Women's World Cup, where VAR is not gaining any favour.
posted by nubs at 6:13 PM on June 25


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