“No, you pick up the bat!”

Give or take, the American League has been around for about 115 years. I may be wrong on this one, and I certainly haven’t gone through the archives, but I cannot recall an instance where a batter was called out on strikes, turned to the umpire and said:

Mike Napoli“That was an incredibly good call you just made. I don’t know what I was thinking when I didn’t swing at it. I must still be hung over.”

On the other hand, has there ever been a case where a hitter was awarded a base on balls and the umpire says something like:

“Oh man, that was a strike. My half-blind German shepherd would have called it better. I completely blew it.”

Not likely; to either.

Since the dawn of baseball, umpires and players have been at each other’s throats on the field and sometimes off it. It’s the way of the world.

Yesterday (June 28th), there was a game between the Red Sox and the Rays. Tripp Gibson was the home plate ump and Mike Napoli was called out on a 3-2 breaking ball. Napoli thought it was a ball but Gibson called it a strike. Farewell and good-bye.

However, Napoli didn’t like it. Various writers have described the exchange as “taking exception,” or “showing displeasure.” In any case, Napoli dropped his bat and walked away. Tripp told him to come back to the plate and pick up his bat. Napoli didn’t and got tossed from the game. He claimed afterward that the bat boys always collect the bats – well, yes and no.

Now, everyone is ragging on Gibson, of course. Why it’s unheard of to get tossed for something like that, so Gibson must have a “short fuse” as one writer described it.

The night before (June 27th), referee Pat Russel mistook the clapping sound (indicating 10 seconds were left) for the bell at the end of the 12th round of a boxing match. One fighter, Jessie Vargas rocked Timothy Bradley with 15 seconds to go in the fight. Bradley had been way ahead on points throughout the fight. Bradley was hanging on and Russel accidentally stopped the fight with about 9 seconds left. Bradley was not out on his feet as some writers claim, but the boxing writers said that Russel should retire from boxing because he was so incompetent.

Then there are the articles criticizing the FIFA referees, especially those officiating the women’s games. And let’s not forget the “incompetent referees” for the NBA Finals. Those guys really got blasted.

What was said, what we heard

I am a sports fan too, and I hate it when yellow laundry is tossed at my team for pass interference or when an umpire blows a call at 1B, but I also know professional officials. The last time I checked, they were human.

Maybe that’s the problem.

I sometimes believe our society has become so over-reliant on technology and so adoring of our athletic heroes and even our sense of “everyone wins a trophy,” that many of us bristle at the fact that officials and officiating set expectations and interpret rules. Many in the media as well, love to paint officiating as a representation of the Devil incarnate and that every blown call absolutely affects the outcome of every athletic contest. The mean-spiritedness of the commentary against officials is not equally applied to athletes because, let’s face it, it is not the officials who butter the bread of the sports industry; it is the athletes. The officials are virtually invisible in all of this.

Is this all ethically fair? Or is it maybe that the truth should be closer to the middle?

Should Gibson have tossed Napoli? I’ll answer that question better when I am privy to what Napoli exactly said to Gibson and not how a third party interprets the exchange. By the way, the call did not affect the game.

Did Russell screw up with less than 10 seconds to go? Yes, he stopped the fight early, but Vargas and his people darn well knew he hadn’t won the fight. He wasn’t even close to winning.

I have a hundred problems with FIFA and frankly a few of the players, but I have seen no evidence of poor officiating to this point with the women’s game. Will they screw up? I can’t say. If I knew that for certain, I’d head to ‘Vegas.

As for the NBA Finals, game 2 was not particularly brilliant for the officials, but game 3 was – and neither game was all that close at the end.

Where all this bashing nets out for me from an ethical standpoint are the numbers of officials I have known who have quit everything from Little League all of the way up to college who can no longer stand the threats, intimidation and lack of manners from parents, players and coaches.

This behavior is on the upsurge because of what many of the idiots have observed in the professional ranks.

Officials do get calls wrong. Maybe we should replace them all with machines. Just don’t complain to me when the machines are unfailingly perfect and we have no one to blame except the players.

 

 

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