Saturday, April 12, 2014

A brief, simple, and only wee bit paranoid point about Robot Umpires

Strike, My Shiny Metal...
So a little while ago, Phillies legend Mike Schmidt opined that, if tennis can have force field tech that allows for the end of freakout in-out calls, then baseball can clearly have robot umpires to improve on the ball/strike calls, and make baseball all better, or interesting to the youth, or something.

I've got friends (honest!) who are down with Schmidt, by the way. And there's something indefensible about how some games are different from others, purely because Umpire X has a wide zone, Umpire Y a thin one, and Umpire Z only calls strikes on a diagonal matrix while speaking with a thick Mexican accent, and brandishing a fencer's foil. Everybody loves Umpire Z!

Now, far be it for me to take away the joy that is Making Umps Miserable. They are, of course, one of the least liked people in sports, even worse than owners and reporters, and a magical combination of arrogant, unlikable and insufferable, especially when they are making calls that go against your laundry. The modern macho ump, who seems to invite confrontation rather than defuse it, is especially troublesome.

But do you know what these people are?

Human beings with jobs.

In America.

In 2014.

In a job that can't be outsourced, in a union, with a living wage and pension plan, where they aren't likely to suffer massive physical problems in later years, in a position where you don't particularly need a college degree to get the gig.

Isn't it better to just keep them around, as a reminder of a better age when you could, you know, have a profession that you got to work at until a comfortable retirement?

Rather than yet another object lesson of how technology might make your life better, but only by making someone else's life infinitely worse?

(This is where I find a photograph of the 800,000 people who used to work for Kodak, then show the 45 people who now work for Instagram. But, well, it's late, and I couldn't find the image. You get the gist.)

Anyhoo... as soon as you get rid of the ump, you might as well take out the vendors (order online with your smartphone, have drones deliver the food), parking attendants (everyone will have those self-driving cars and a transponder to deduct the cost), bat boys (trained dogs are much cuter), pitching coaches (video tech allows that guy to work from home, and the machine is better for throwing batting practice) reporters (crowd source bloggers in the stands) and video personnel (selfie armies providing footage that's always punctuated by a yelping maroon).

All hail the employment-free future! As dystopias go, it's a bit more realistic than Ragnarok or Jebus 2, Electric Boogaloo. And the only downside is that we're all unemployed. Wee!

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