I want to discuss two developments in the world of sports. One probably makes sense, but I don't like it. The other is ridiculous, and maybe a little ugly. Major League Baseball has decided to try out video replay to help umpires make certain decisions, and the women's golf has decided that all members must be able to "effectively communicate in English" by 2009 or face suspension. I'll bet you can guess which of these two decisions ticks me off the most.
There are some 120 foreign-born professional golfers playing in the LPGA –the governing body of women's golf. The biggest foreign contingent is from South Korea, and the "learn English or else" policy just so happened to have been announced at a meeting with the South Korean players.
I've always had an open mind and felt that those who believe in "English only" policies regarding education, voting and driving literature, etc. are certainly entitled to their wacko point of view. But now has that jingoistic, anti--foreigner feeling invaded sports, too?
One of my favorite things about sports is that the games often involve people from different countries. At any baseball game, you might see teammates who were born in different countries laughing in the dugout as they teach each other how to say, "The umpire is a bum" in different languages.
The LPGA – the governing body for women's golf - claims that the reason for the language policy is that sponsors want the golfers to speak English. Really? Why don't we see sponsors demanding that athletes in other sports based in the United States speak English better? And how do they plan on deciding if a woman golfer speaks English well enough for them? Golfers will actually be required to pass an English proficiency test. I hope they give this test to everybody, not just to those players born in foreign countries, because we know that there are plenty of American athletes who couldn't pass an English test.
Obviously, I don't know if the reason for this policy is because of the sponsors or because of some negative feelings for foreign-born players. But I do know that it seems wrong. They want to push them to be more "American" so they are instituting a policy that seems un-American? LPGA, take a mulligan and cancel this policy before it becomes even more of an embarrassment.
And then there's baseball. Although many of us sports fans often refuse to admit it, umpires are human. Because they are human, they make mistakes. They aren't making more bad calls then they used to, but they are being shown to have made more bad calls. In the old days, no one could be sure that the umpire had made a mistake. Today, when an umpire blows a call, it's shown over and over again on television. So Baseball announced that they will be using video replays for disputed home runs, whether a ball is fair or foul, and if a fan interfered with the ball.
I understand the reason behind it, but I don't embrace this idea wholeheartedly. Somehow the game got along fine without it for all these years. It seems to be in the same category as selling sushi at the ballpark instead of just hot dogs and beer. We know it's possible, but do we really need it?
I'll miss the manager running out to the umpire to argue that he's positive that the ball the umpire said was a home run was actually a foul ball. I'll miss seeing the umpire and the manager ridiculously miming the parabolas that each of them feels the ball took as it went out of the park. And I'll miss seeing the multi-million dollar a year manager kicking dirt on the umpire's shoes like a three year old when he doesn't get his way.
But at least the system will only be used for a few situations. They aren't going to stop the game for a replay every time a coach, manager, or player thinks an umpire has made a mistake. So when there's a close play at the plate, you'll still have the pleasure of seeing a chubby manager waddling out there to yell at the umpire. And because it's not women's golf, that manager can yell at the umpire in any language he chooses.