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Though it is an part of essay unto itself, a large proportion of my belief in what makes humans fundamentally "different" from the majority of the other species on the planet is our sense of self-awareness, particularly as that self-awareness relates to the observer within quantum phenomena. If observers are integral to the process of determining state, then a self-aware observer has a greater stake in observations than a passive one, particularly when the outcomes of said processes affect the observer. "Luck", "Fate", and other abstract characteristics we have used to describe the effect of quantum decision trees as they relate to a personal interpretation of the passage of time are all structured methods to help buttress the mind from the incomprehensible number of possibilities which surround us at any given moment of choice.

Recently I was chatting with invisiblyred, who mentioned that MLB was playing with instant replay. This bothers me on many levels. I like football. I hate instant replay. I feel like it has slowed the game, and created an entire sub-strategy around how to manage challenges and time-outs. Adding a similar system to baseball, a game with a lot more pauses in it already, which could be made even slower by having the ability for umps to "double check" a call, or worse, be challenged by a coach.

In any game which requires a referee, that referee should be the final voice, in accordance with the rules. If there is more than one referee, there is an established pecking order, which determines that you can't have shenanigans like those depicted in The Naked Gun. Adding an electronic eye to this formula, so nobody can ever be "wrong", to me, undermines that authority. Even in the case of a replay/review/challenge, the umpire retains the right to stand by their initial call, but only after someone has had a chance to undermine it.

This gripe is connected to a larger explanation, in my mind, of why humans like games. Every culture, on every continent, has games. Many of the most rudimentary games are connected on atomic levels across cultural or physical boundaries- games of chance, games of physical prowess, games of mental prowess - games which incorporate all three. Regardless of what kind of game you are talking about, you have endless microcosms of quantum decision trees in any given set of a game's possible results or outcomes. Some games don't have referees, some do. Some games have very strict rules, others have very lax ones. Winning is usually the goal, but, in some games, "winning" is simply a condition set which re-sets the game to its starting point, so another session can be played. From tic-tac-toe to go, shuffleboard to golf, kill-the-carrier to American football, you have one or more turning point moment where the game goes from being a statistical compilation challenge, to a chance of something amazing happening.

Some games require only participants, but a great number of games often involve an audience. This audience derives entertainment, or pleasure, in the act of _watching_ these sets of possibility break down. The US has several major industries built on this model. Hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, worldwide, depend on this model. Ultimately, though, what is at stake for the audience member?

In the US, we pay athletes grossly disproportionate salaries to their constructive addition to our species' overall success in the race against extinction (which, on a fundamental level, is the motivating force behind procreative and diversifying efforts of life). Professional athletes participate in games at a level of performance which "the average person" would be hard press to come close to. In an ideologically-matched game set, the audience is watching something pretty boring. Keeping baseball as the example - imagine two equally matched teams offensively and defensively. It is a long, drawn out pitcher's duel. Chance, or the sudden moment where a pitcher falters, would be the only chance for the offense to capitalize on an opportunity, and even that is not a guarantee for scoring, which is how you win the game. You know, the kind of game where they start running out of beer in the concession stands.

Some fans, admittedly, live for their teams, regardless of wins, losses, or overall performance. The remainder of fans live for these moments of chance. Audiences don't pay to watch the ordinary - we pay to watch the moments where the ordinary is turned on its head by "professional" game players. By having an individual who plays the game devote as much time and energy as "professionals" do, the odds of seeing such an overturn on a regular basis increases. The audience, in my opinion, increases the possibility of these "odd" or "impossible" things from occurring. It is what the audience gives back to the players of a game. We pay high prices to watch players try and do the impossible. That is their profession. They are overseen by the umpires or referees, who make sure that the rules are followed, and make the tough calls, in moments of unclear outcome. The human error potential here adds to the possibility of the impossible occurring, usually (much to the referees' chagrin) in the form of a "bad call" - where the referee arbitrates things in a manner which the instant replay, or the eyes of the audience, sees as "incorrect".

When you mitigate the possibility of a "bad call", you lessen the possibility of the impossible occurring. Countless rallies have been started, or crushed, by a controversial call at the right, or wrong time for an audience, or team's morale. When you create an electronic factor that is, as the audience sees it, an infallible mediator, the chance of these rallies, or situations well outside the normal statistical curve of a team's probable physical performance outcomes cease to be. What potential the audience may add is diminished, and, with it, goes many of the chances which can swing a boring eight innings into a ninth inning rout. You are introducing artificial scarcity into a system where it is already scarce enough!

Somewhere along the evolution of games into industries, marketing and advertising firms found new hosts to draw blood from. Captive crowds are now bombarded with visual marketing, but even less so than those watching an event electronically. A disproportionate amount of the instant replay decision, I fear, will be based on televised profits - regardless of what umbrella the sports-reporting media sells it under. This is about extra opportunities for networks to sell ad time, and extra opportunities for marketing departments to seek captive eyes.

As bad as all that is, the "replay experiment" is something that, in all probability, will never be reversed. There are entire coaching strategies in football now about time out/challenge use. It has fundamentally changed the way the game is run. Such a change is very difficult to step back from, short from a significant technological shortage. The "secondary" judges (aka referees) will still be there to make the calls, in such an unlikely situation, but, after a generation of isntant replay, how good will they be? If a referee's preference, in a "tough call" situation is to review a reel, and no reels are there to be reviewed, how good will they be at making the hard calls, the impossible calls, and the calls which can change the face of a pivotal game or series?

Football is already pretty far gone, don't take baseball too. Please?


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 26th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC)
Not a lot of time to craft a long response right now, but what jumps out at me is that your criticism is based on an idiosyncratic set of values (seeing "the impossible" versus following fairly judged contests whose winners and losers are as deserving as possible), and, if I'm understanding it correctly, it sounds a little bit like the brayings of those idiots in Atlantic City who believe that other players' hit/stand decisions affect their chances of winning at blackjack. I see no reason to believe that a decrease in blown calls will lead to a corresponding decrease in dramatic moments (which I what I think you mean by "the impossible"). If the umps hadn't blown the Jeffrey Maier call, the world may never had seen the classic Pettitte/Smoltz Game 5 in the subsequent World Series. However, maybe O's/Braves would have turned out to be the most exciting Series ever. Rallies can be started and crushed just as effectively by correct calls as incorrect calls. The only drama that we'd be losing would be some of the instances of when columnists, talking heads and radio callers can bitch the next day about blown calls, which I think most people would agree we could do without.
Aug. 28th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
i agree that in general, seeing the "right" outcome is preferable to leaving idiosyncracies of chance. i agree that sports is interesting in seeing the (nearly) impossible, however when people are able to get away with bullshit, i feel it diminishes those accomplishments and therefore the overall experience. seeing a blown call really can ruin the game if it goes against your team and i generally find it unsavory when a win depends on a wrong call that went in favor of my team.

all those attempts to speed up the game of baseball are pretty dumb anyway. although people complain that baseball is too slow, the most popular sports in america are football and nascar, which are both long as hell and full of many stretches with zero action whatsoever. at least in baseball, there is always a pitch to analyze.

also, trying to use quantum mechanics as an analogy in philosophy, especially as it pertains to things more complicated than the interaction of individual particles, is a dicey matter.

i say let's have the instant replay. personally, i think umpires may have outlived their usefulness, given that there are computers that can tell if things are balls or strikes, slow-mo can show whether a person is safe or out at a base, and sensors could easily tell what is a home run, etc. one step at a time, though. but tell me it wouldn't be awesome to see lou pinella screaming his headoff at a robot.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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