Why Not Just Computerize Sports Refs And Umps?

from the who-needs-the-human-element? dept

Last week, Major League Baseball introduced instant replay for the first time (oddly, MLB rushed the introduction mid-season, with no real testing), which has many wondering if the rather “human” element of umpires making bad calls will be a lost element of the game. While it can suck when such wrong calls go against your team, the umpires’ ability to screw up has always been a part of the appeal to many fans of the game. However, Farhad Manjoo over at Slate is wondering about the inevitable next step: moving to completely automated umpires and referees in various sports. He compares the Hawk Eye system that is used in tennis to determine whether a ball is in or out to the efforts in MLB, but points out that computerized systems are far from perfect. In fact, they can lead to some highly questionable results, such as a situation in which every single human observer believed a ball was out, and even television replays showed the ball appeared out — but Hawk Eye claimed it was in, and that the problem was that human eyes weren’t good enough to see if the ball was really in or out. At that point, it makes you wonder whether or not such a machine ruling really makes sense.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Why Not Just Computerize Sports Refs And Umps?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

They’re horrendous and lead to ridiculous delays in games and WORSE officiating. Rugby League is a great example; refs are so dependent on video replay and putting players on report that they very rarely make key decisions in games any more. Ref’s f***ing up IS part of the charm of sports and should be preserved. Of course, as money becomes the most important part of the game rather than the competition itself, this will be seen as less and less acceptable.

Ashwin (profile) says:

Comptuters are right

Why, of course, the computer is always right. The rules stipulate that if the ball is out, it is out. Now, if the human eye, at its measly 25 fps capture rate is not in a position to make a call, that does not quite obviate the word of the law. Consider the game of Cricket. Now, computers essentially make the decision for the more crucial kinds of outs while the obvious ones (such as getting Bowled, caught, etc…) are just a matter of rigmarole.

cc says:

well nothing could be worse

well pretty much nothing could be worse than amateur boxing rules and judges. even in a high level event like the olympics, almost every round was littered with times that legal punches obviously connected and no point was scored. in fact, one of the biggest problems is that even an impartial observer can almost never watch both fighters well enough to be able to score hits on both sides.

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting idea . . . not a sports guy, but

. . . I’ve always thought that the officiating of the sport was part of the sport. It’s not perfect for a reason and it forces the players to try to exploit observations they make about the flexibility the refs may be unintentionally giving them.

There’s one big problem with computerizing the refs, though. What would the fans and sports commentators have to blame when their team loses an important match? It seems in the sports section the day after every big game, there’s some lunkhead complaining about this or that call being wrong, countered by some other lunkhead from the other team complaining about this or that other call being wrong.

Plus, I think they have a union, so they’d probably still have to be employed, but now they’d be the guy that hits the button when the computer catches something wrong. Kind of a waste of energy, if you ask me.

Hulser says:

Bad calls are appealing?

Perhaps it’s because I’m not a big sports fan, but I completely don’t understand this statement…

the umpires’ ability to screw up has always been a part of the appeal to many fans of the game

What could possibly be appealing to a fan about an official screwing up? If a bad call is against your team, then you feel bad because your team was unfairly penalized. If the bad call favors your team, you may feel good, but you shouldn’t because your team is unfairly benefiting at the cost of the other team.

Abner Doubleday says:

Since when have bad calls been appealing? The umpires are NOT part of the game, and they shouldn’t be. If you just want people making blind guesses, take down the foul poles, remove the baselines, take away the gloves and go back to the way the game was played 100 years ago. All these things were adopted for a reason, they made the game fairer (except gloves, which made it easier). If McEnroe were playing today, do you think he’d be having arguments with Cyclops (the tennis line judging machine)? Nope, and I don’t think anyone out there found his tantrums “charming”. The umpires, and rightly so, are afraid of losing their jobs to machines, but they shouldn’t be afraid of using machines to ensure they make the correct calls. Checking if a ball is a HR or foul takes less time than the manager arguing it out with the umpire and the umpire throwing him out, AND gets the call correct. These days, when we’ve got umpires and referees altering the outcome of games due to gambling, I’d rather have a machine verifying the results.

Sneeje says:

Are you all kidding me?

Could there possibly be a topic less worth this amount of attention? Who cares? Both results are sub-optimal. Pick one and live with it. But we are tool-making animals and there will always be someone that thinks you can solve a problem with a tool. As a result technology will always encroach on our lives in one way or the other. Learn to live with it or bow out of the race.

nonuser says:

technology has its place

It looks like the major sports are already making sensible use of it. Line judges in tennis seem to be/have been a necessary nuisance, so that’s an example of a job that can be replaced by a machine. Ditto for some calls in team sports, such as home runs in baseball and field goals in football.

Machines won’t replace baseball umpires or football/basketball refs, though. Baseball is extremely tradition-bound, and umpires calling the strikes and put-outs are very much a part of that tradition (including the entertaining screaming machines they sometimes get into with managers and batters). Refs in football and basketball are constantly making judgement calls about which fouls to call. If that was done by a machine, there would be six fouls called on every play, and the crowd would head for the exits by the end of the first quarter.

Court9 Tennis (user link) says:

Hawk Eye works with Tennis

I think Hawk Eye has been a great addition to the professional game of Tennis. Because it’s only used on a per challenge basis (and the number of challenges per set are limited) it adds an extra dimension to the game from a spectators perspective. The crowd always seem to love it when a player challenges a call.

There are currently calls for similar technologhy to be used in squash aswell.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...