By Phasma Scriptor
Yet another situation that looks like it could go nuclear: The control of a substantial majority of the zebra/men-in-blue sports officiating club by the largest corporate entity on Earth - the gambling industry; the handle on sports betting globally is in the hundreds of billions. In 1993, an episode of a Chicago cable show "Broadsides" showed that ALL major sports, including college events, were subject to fixing by corrupt officiating, due to most officials being on Las Vegas payrolls. Back then, the LV spread in basketball and football games, set by Don "the Wizard of Odds" Angelini on a huge chalkboard in his living room, was the main instrument for bilking bettors. Angelini was 1/2 of the Sam "Ace" Rothstein character in Martin Scorcese's 1995 movie "Casino"; the other 1/2 was Chicago mob casino maven Frankie Rosenthal who, as shown in the movie, narrowly escaped death by car-bomb. These days, computers running actuarial software calculate how to lure bettors into losing bets, using Angelini's strategy of the set-up game and the kneecap game, where bettors are conned into betting the wrong way, according to the way officials are going to call the game. As it was described, research into addiction shows that gambling is the most insidious because there's no physical trigger; it's mental/emotional. The sports fans' investment, heart & soul, in "their" team keeps them locked into the spiral of rooting and wagering on the same team. The old addictive dynamic of marijuana as the entre to heroin is repeated in "fantasy" sports leagues as the entre to hard-core sports betting, especially when the Internet, where fantasy leagues are one of the fastest growing forms of entertainment infatuations, makes it far more convenient to enter a non-threatening, antiseptic gambling den, in the same way Internet porn exponentially proliferates that form of addiction. The old mobsters, all dressed up in e-disguise, still control ALL these forms of vice, now e-vice.
Published: October 14, 2010
The Umpire in the Sky
It took six umpires during Game 1 of the American League Division Series to decide whether Yankees right fielder Greg Golson had caught a line drive by the Twins’ Delmon Young — and they still got it wrong. Anyone with access to a television could see that Golson had caught the ball fairly.
But because baseball stubbornly refuses to allow its umpires to consult video on anything but home run calls, the blunder stood. Even though umpires now routinely consult each other in an effort to get calls right, there has been an unusually large number of mistakes on critical plays in this year’s postseason, which resumes with the American League Championship Series Friday night.
Fans deserve better. Baseball should install an additional umpire in the broadcast booth, one with the authority and respect of his colleagues to use instant replay to review (and overturn) calls.
The process would take far less time than an umpire meeting, and it would greatly reduce the number of bad calls. An eye in the sky could, for example, have given Detroit pitcher Armando Gallaraga the perfect game denied him after umpire Jim Joyce mistakenly called a runner safe at first.
What would the parameters be? A booth umpire would not review balls, strikes or checked swings, for the same reason that players can’t argue them: it would slow the game to a crawl. Nor would he review foul tips or other plays where what the field umpire hears is as critical as what he sees. But the booth umpire could review calls on catches, tags and safe or out plays.
True, it wouldn’t always be obvious where to place base runners if a call was overturned. If a foul ball call was reversed, for example, where would the batter and any runners on base go? But baseball could devise rules to deal with those situations, much the way it awards bases on ground-rule doubles.
And the call on the field would take priority: if a play took the booth umpire more than a minute to review, the original call would stand.
As baseball has evolved over the centuries, it has placed umpires in the positions with the best view. Today technology dictates that one of those spots is in front of a monitor.
John Rosenthal is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler.
A Scorecard for Calls
Along the way to the upcoming Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, the San Francisco Giants have suffered, and benefited, from bad calls by umpires.
Bad calls are a disturbingly common phenomenon this season. A blatantly wrong call cost the Giants a game against the Mets in July, while another helped them secure a victory over the Atlanta Braves earlier this month.
At the heart of the problem is this: umpires are rarely held accountable for their poor calls. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to change that: release their internal reviews to the public.
After every game, Major League Baseball provides each umpire with an analysis of his performance, including which calls he got right and which ones he got wrong. The Major Leagues say this system provides for accountability.
Yet because the information is never released to the public, the umpires have little incentive to improve. Why not let baseball fans — who have an insatiable appetite for arcane statistics — see these internal reviews by making them public?
An “umpire’s scorecard” could include an analysis of each umpire’s rulings and demeanor — everything from how well he calls balls and strikes to whether he has a short fuse when his rulings are questioned on the field. Such scorecards could be published in periodic reports, say, every month during the season; maybe they could simply be posted on the Web.
Most umpires are great at their job. But Major League Baseball must do more about umpires who fall short. Publishing internal performance reviews would make them more accountable — and make the game a better experience for players and fans alike.
Kirk Victor is a contributing editor at National Journal.