Rule changes in organized sports are rare. The process of making rule changes in a major sports league such as the NBA, NFL, or MLB is lengthy and difficult. Because of this, and because we as a nation like as little change as possible, when major rule changes do occur in organized sports, it’s a big deal. Reaction to changes in rules can be drastically in favor or drastically against, and since sports are a core part of the lives of many Americans, people generally aren’t shy about voicing their opinions.
As we read in class, recently the NFL implemented three rule changes: banning ball-carriers from lowering their helmets into oncoming defenders, no kick-off’s in the Pro Bowl, and the elimination of tackling during preseason camps. Reaction to these changes has been mixed, and reminded me of the mixed reaction by the public to the new expansion of instant replay in Major League Baseball. Earlier this year, all 30 clubs in the MLB unanimously approved the expansion of instant replay. While instant replay is a tool utilized in many different sports, it had been very limited in Major League Baseball before this. The response to the expansion has been varied. Young fans generally seem to be more in favor of it, while older fans tend to dislike it as some see it as corrupting the game. One Mets fan was quoted saying “I don’t really care if they get the call right”. My dad has been a Mets fan since he was young, and when I asked him if he liked the implementation of instant replay, he said he thought it was useful and the direction the game needs to be taken, but he still doesn’t like it. He understands that it’s a change that had to be made, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s taking the game of baseball away from what it once was. It’s bringing it into a new era, and that’s hard for many, including my dad, to digest.
An example of instant replay being utilized in Major League Baseball:
This bringing of baseball into a new era is something that makes me question whether or not the implementation of instant replay in MLB is a “Burkian” change or not. In Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke lists many criteria for what he believes to be good change. Characteristics that make a change “Burkian” include that the change is: well thought out, deliberate, based in tradition and culture, and entrenched in what came before. While the implementation of instant replay in Major League Baseball has been a well thought out change that’s taken place over the last 4 or 5 years, it’s not at all based in tradition and what came before. Instant replay is only possible because of technological advancements made in recent times. It’s a change that wouldn’t have been possible 50 or so years ago, before the technology had been developed. This change fulfills some of Burke’s criteria, but is completely opposite of some of his other criteria. Because of this, it’s really difficult for me to determine whether or not this change would be considered “Burkian” or not.
While I personally am unsure of whether or not the use of instant replay would be considered “Burkian”, it’s interesting to think about how exactly change changes sport. I’m talking beneath the surface, beneath just the fact that instant replay is being used, but how exactly that alters the experience of the spectator. I’m a massive soccer fan, and the though of instant replay ever being implemented in the Premier League or La Liga seems wrong to me. So much of the viewing experience of soccer revolves around complaining about bad calls. Complaining to your friend about how “that shouldn’t have been a yellow card” or “he wasn’t offsides”. While instant replay would eradicate these problems, it would also eradicate what so much of what the viewing experience has become. Complaining about bad calls creates a feeling of community and togetherness among fans, and the question I raise is whether the pros of implementing instant replay in a sport like soccer would outweigh the cons. Would it change the game too much? What exactly does this mean? What is too much? Thinking about instant replay in the context of soccer makes me understand my dad’s perspective on instant replay in Major League Baseball more. It’s something that obviously would eliminate some of the problems associated with the sport (namely bad calls), but is that necessarily a good thing?