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Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The end of umpires?

That is the proposal from John McEnroe to make tennis more interesting--have the players call their own lines, as a way to introduce greater intensity into the game. Players would be given challenges and McEnroe argues that the threat of fan anger would keep players in line. It has been said that back in the day, if the umpire clearly missed a call, the player who benefitted from the blown call would tank the next point as an equalizer (I am not sure if that is true). On surfaces where the ball leaves a mark (notably clay), a player will often point to the spot of the ball to show the opponent before an argument begins.

Continuing my previous suggestion that sports rule as enforced by umpires are analogous to rules of procedure--the framework rules regulating the process in which the players control the outcome through performance of skills: This is the sports equivalent of arbitration; the parties have privatized the dispute-resolution process into something they create and control themselves, perhaps less formally, rather than using formalized "outside" processes and arbiters that they work with but exert less control over. Maybe that means McEnroe's proposal will work about as well as arbitration.

On a different note on McEnroe's suggestion: This video is pretty funny. Latvian Ernests Gulbis is asked about McEnroe's proposal to get rid of umpires; Gulbis misunderstands and thinks the reporter asked about getting rid of vampires and begins to discuss the benefit of getting ride of vampires (in the metaphorical sense of hangers-on).


"Back in the day" -- now I feel really old! This is absolutely true -- I saw it happen many times, and always to great cheers from the crowd. My favorite instance was when Arthur Ashe did it at the Round Hill Country Club in Alamo,CA on the tour -- I was in the stands and afterwards got his autograph. But it was something that often happened.

Remember, McEnroe, Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, etc. were the bad boys of the game and up until then (with the exception of Pancho Gonzalez), players really embraced good sportsmanship. No tantrums, and you bet, if a call came in to your advantage and you knew it was wrong, the player would deliberately tank it. In the incident I mentioned above, Arthur Ashe started to return the serve, but then tossed his racquet and grabbed it at the neck instead. The crowd went wild. It seems quaint now, but everyone knew it was the right thing to do.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/26/2014 9:04 PM  

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