Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On the USFL, Instant Replay, and Baseball's Refusal to Adapt

So I watched last night's ESPN 30-for-30 documentary on the rise and fall of the USFL, and I highly recommend it, if only for two reasons: 1.) It utterly eviscerates Donald Trump, and anything that makes Donald Trump look like an idiot* can't be all that bad,** and 2.) Burt Reynolds is prominently featured. The narrative was well put-together, and director Mike Tollin's archival footage was first-rate, but there was one thing they glossed over that I wish they'd spent more time on, and that was instant replay. After all, the USFL essentially invented the entire concept, silly red flags and all, and it's something that has become utterly commonplace in American sport, this notion that technology can be effectively utilized to correct human error. And is baseball, just now engaging in this discussion, almost twenty-five years on, as its umpires continue to defend themselves by evoking the inherent prejudices of their internal organs.

And if last night's game is not a metaphor for baseball's continued refusal to adapt to modernity, maybe this Buzz Bissinger piece will convince you: For if you read between the lines, if you can get beyond the needless pissing match between Bissinger and the SABRmetrics nerds, the basic point is that Moneyball is not what dictates success in this modern incarnation of the game. Money is, and always has been, and, with rare exceptions, always will be. It's an ethic Trump would appreciate.

*See: The Apprentice, The Art of the Deal, everything else Trump has engaged in since 1986.
**I should say, I have a brief section about the death of the USFL (and take several digs at Trump) in my new book. (Available now for pre-order! Though as an ever-supportive friend recently pointed out, "Why should I bother to pre-order a book that MAY or MAY NOT be released to the public 10 MONTHS FROM NOW?" To which I say, Fair point.)

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