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Issues in comparative themanology, or Yer Blind, Ya Bum!

Sometimes, it seems, an umpire will blow a call. It’s happens. These things are, in fact, part of the game. And sometimes, when an umpire blows a call we can tell, sitting at home, that the umpire blew the call. It’s not a judgment call at that point. Either the ball touched him or it didn’t, either it hit the ground or it didn’t, it was on one side of the line or the other. The camera knows, the umpire does his best. What I’m saying, sometimes an umpire will blow a call. Umpires know this, players know this, viewers know this. It happens.

So, now and then, there is a proposal to take the call to the camera, or at least have some avenue of appeal, when the ump blows a call. Because nobody wants the ump to blow a call. It’s bad for the game. On the other hand, there are problems with the cameras as well, and there are concerns about the authority of the umpire and the rhythm of the game, and sportsmanship in general, so instituting such an appeal system does come at a cost. And every time the proposal is made, there are just enough people in the right place who judge that cost just high enough to defeat it.

And then an umpire blows another call. And everybody gets all upset.

Which is why Asif Iqbal said that the Pakistan Cricket Board’s opposition to such an appeal process “reveals a nostalgic respect for the values of the British Raj and Empire which some may find creditable but which I do not see as being in the interest of either Pakistan or Asian cricket. That was a value taught by our colonial masters because unless they inculcated that sort of servile discipline in us there was no way that 300,000 British civil servants would have been able to rule 300m people.”

Oh, Gentle Reader, did you think I was talking about baseball?

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


It was enlightening to read that Alou thinks you don't eject a player "of that stature, on a mission to break a record". When did managers become the mouthpieces of the owners? Yes, in practice, individual celebrities performing feats of strength seems to sell more tickets and advertising than, well, actual baseball, but while your point was to blog about umpires losing authority, I see the death of the manager as at least as big a blow.

I assume Alou also thinks you don't apply anti-substance rules to a player "of that stature, on a mission to break a record", either.

But on topic, the whole umpiring-and-English-mindset brought to mind Flanders and Swann's "The English Are Best":

And all the world over each nation's the same
They've simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
And they practice before hand which spoils all the fun

The English the English the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest


Ok. I get that you need the umpire to have the final say so that you don't slow the game down. Football's rhythm has been destroyed by challenges and video review. But calling a forfeit in the fourth test because the players refuse to come out promptly after tea? Good grief. It's enough to make me stop watching cricket.

Well, and it's just ... possible ... that the ball really had been tampered with. At any rate, there is now an umpiring scandal, rather than a ball-tampering scandal, and that's got to be good for the game, yes?

And, of course, your threat brings up the question: How will we be able to tell if you stop watching cricket? For that matter, how will you be able to tell? If a cricket nine refuse to take the pitch and nobody is watching, do they make a sound? What's the sound of one hand not clapping?


It's surprising to hear a long-time fan like you admit that Bonds may have tampered with the ball. The umpire recently explained that the ball was low, and that he'd called it a strike as an appropriate penalty for Bonds having stared the ball down in a manner not allowed under current MLB rules, resulting in the ball taking a downwards trajectory out of fear for its life. Something about being ruled a strike "by reason of self-defense".

And as Alou pointed out, Bonds was on a mission to break the record for most bleeps on an ESPN broadcast. That's not the kind of thing an umpire should interfere with.

As for me and watching cricket, you'll be able to tell if I've stopped by the long low keening of the clotted cream.

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