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Extended replay at LLWS sending the wrong message to kids


The Little League World Series will use expanded instant replay, and everyone's thrilled. The nation's 12-year-old titans now will have the benefit of at least 12 cameras and up to 16 playback machines, dissecting every close play of every game and making everything perfect. Making it all, you know, fair.

Just like real life.

Skip for a moment the creepiness in the adults who live vicariously through their kids' athletic triumphs. You haven't experienced weird until you've seen mom and dad arrive at son's ballgame in a helicopter. Forget for a second that expanded replay was not a demand made by a 90-pound second baseman. What adults largely do to kids' games is screw them up.

Instead, think back to June 2. Recall Armando Galarraga. He was the Detroit Tigers' pitcher who lost a perfect game that night to an egregiously blown call by umpire Jim Joyce on what should have been the 27th out.

Best baseball moment of the year.

Finest example of how good we can be.

The next afternoon Galarraga, a middling major leaguer whose likely best chance at history had just been unequivocally lost, presented Joyce with the Tigers' lineup card. The men shook hands. Joyce cried.

"Nobody's perfect,'' Galarraga said, no irony in his words.

"We're all human,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

It gets no better than that. The pitcher who got robbed smiled. The manager who was angry forgave. The umpire who was wrong manned up. The rest of us went to the dinner table and talked up the whole experience with our kids.

Grace had a new face. We'd never have seen it if we'd insisted on perfection.

No one would argue it was the wrong call. No one would dispute that replay would have fixed it. Instead of perfection, we got a lesson, a parable, an infrequent glimpse into the human spirit at its finest. It's not what happens to you that matters. It's what you do about it.

You want to take that snapshot away from 12-year-olds for the sake of an out call on a force play?

I'm against replay, in any form or sport. Games are played by humans, coached by humans, watched by humans and officiated by humans. Humans make mistakes. Roll with it. We don't give replays to hitters who swing at 0-2 pitches in the dirt. A receiver drops a pass he doesn't get the play over.

Replays are nothing more than technology-abetted mulligans. Life doesn't work that way. Dustin Johnson didn't get a replay when he grounded his club in that waste bunker on Sunday.

If a mistake at work gets you fired, do you scream for a do-over?

The NFL replay system has become so overbearing, the shock is if an entire quarter is played without an extended discussion over knees touching the ground, planes being broken or if the quarterback's arm was going forward. All that's lost in that perfection-quest is the flow of the game.

Five minutes drumming fingers or freezing in the seats while a referee ducks under a hood and looks into a camera. Fascinating. No wonder the rest of the world loves futbol.

Major League Baseball, bless it, has resisted adding more replays because, well, because it's baseball. Anything new that doesn't enhance the revenue stream is considered subversive.

Little League now will be able to look twice at force outs, missed bases, hit batters and tags on the base paths. It already had replay in place for disputed home run calls. Coaches can challenge plays, too. They're permitted one unsuccessful challenge per six-inning game. Which means, I guess, that they can challenge away, until they blow one.

Oh, happy day.

What that says to a 12-year-old is that all things wrong can be made right. Life can be perfect and fair, and when it's not, you have every right to whine about it, until it is. All we have to do is go to the replay.

Good lesson?

I'll take Galarraga and Leyland and Joyce. Every time. Humans, being human, in the best sense.