Inerrancy Steps Up To The Plate

Michael Schulson worries that instant replay in baseball will ruin the game’s charms, likening the technology to religious fundamentalism:

Fundamentalist religions may attack modern culture, but they are also, as an abundant realm of scholarship argues, products of modernity. The kind of precision, authority, and certainty that motivates, say, the belief in the inerrancy of scripture, or the conviction that you can prove, through science, the veracity of the Biblical Flood, is part and parcel of the modern demand that things be absolutely correct and explainable—that things should be not just feel true, but be correct. Perhaps it should not surprise us that religious violence is so often sourced from engineers, schooled in the arts of precision and certainty.

Back to baseball, home of a new and creeping umpirical dogmatism. Part of the sport’s charm is its pre-modern flavor: where football has engineered plays and metrical grid, and basketball not one but two clocks (shot and game), baseball seems to obey a different rhythm, slow and summery and defined only by the necessary duration for its fulfillment, and not some digital device. Naturally, then, baseball is a technologically conservative place. Players use wooden bats. They chew tobacco instead of smoking it. They wear knickers.

He claims instant replay is indicative of our forgetting “a kind of truth thrives in the realm of fate and subjective judgment, and not in the absolutes”:

Now cameras have come along and ruined it all. Baseball is about to get literalist. Or perhaps more scientific. New atheist, fundamentalist, take your pick: starting next spring, the shrines of the diamond will be losing a little of their magic.