Baseball shows rugby value of entertainment
March 24, 2014
South African referee Stuart Berry claimed his share of headlines in Super Rugby round six © Getty Images
What a relief to attend a sporting event that was an occasion, had the crowd's interests at heart, and was not ruined by inept officials. Sunday afternoon at Sydney Cricket Ground witnessing the historic Major League Baseball opener revived one's belief that sport can cure all ills, after that belief had been severely dented due to the torture of excruciating Super Rugby matches in which bungling behavior had been championed. Thank you, baseball, for once again reviving my spirits. I needed a serious lift as my flagging morale had been slugged right out of the park through watching the Western Force-Chiefs and Lions-Queensland Reds Super Rugby matches.
It wasn't a case of the football being bad in Perth and Johannesburg. Far from it. There were numerous bright moments by all four teams involved. So what turned one into a raging loon throwing notebook, pen, pipe, slippers, anything, at the television screen? Diabolical refereeing; it was laughable in Perth and affected the result in Johannesburg.
The level of refereeing in the Super Rugby ranks has been poor all season but it hit an all-time low on the weekend, when South African referee Stuart Berry bamboozled all - in particularly the perplexed Queensland Reds, whom he whistled off the park.
The Lions got the better of the penalty count against the Reds in Johannesburg (Australia only)%]
And Berry's fellow countryman Lourens van der Merwe won't enjoy watching a replay of the Force-Chiefs game, as his mistakes were endless. Apart from numerous crucial Force knock-ons ignored in the final minutes, his breakdown interpretations blew with the breeze during the match. The Chiefs deserved to lose as they were ham-fisted, but the Force were still given the most charitable of leg-ups from a poor whistle-blower. No wonder SANZAR referees chief Lyndon Bray has spoken about conducting a purge.
This is not an attack on overseas referees, as New Zealand referee Glen Jackson was outstanding in the Brumbies-Stormers match, and several Australian officiators have this season made almost as many clangers as Berry and van der Merwe. It is about the bigger picture - as it cannot be avoided that the refereeing has nose-dived this year while the general standard of Super Rugby football has risen. And it is time for SANZAR to do something about it.
Last week, SANZAR officials were huffing and puffing about how they were going to cull under-performing referees. If they don't do something immediately about Berry's unacceptable performance, and take the whistle off him for an appreciable amount of time, they are having everyone on.
The Reds have every reason to howl at the moon about Berry: apart from belting them 19-4 in the penalties, and sending two of their players to the sin-bin in the final minutes, a succession of his decisions were clearly wrong. All these decisions went the Lions' way. This all came one week after the Blues fumed over strange rulings made by Berry when they played the Lions.
So imagine the delight, after being forced to endure such subjective mumbo-jumbo that extends to the referees asserting their authority onto every scrum, turning games into snore-a-thons, when you head off to a sporting spectacular at which public pleasure is paramount.
Those dinosaurs and networkers who run rugby would have learned a lot if they had attended the Los Angeles Dodgers-Arizona Diamondbacks matches at the SCG. Unlike rugby, which is dominated by a bewildering law book that gives referees too much power and fails to understand that endless dead, dull punctuation marks turn the fans away, baseball embraces those in the terraces.
Here the umpire is part of the act, not a disturbance.
Young baseball fans found plenty to entertain at Sydney Cricket Ground over the weekend © Getty Images
On Sunday, the home base umpire provided great theatre. He announced a strike with gusto, flicking his right index finger to the crowd. When he got hit in the hand by a wayward pitch, waving away the pain before resuming his spot behind the catcher, he received a round of applause from the crowd.
When has that happened to a Super Rugby referee? Instead, crowd derision.
Even more importantly, baseball provides a distraction during those punctuation marks. There are spruikers in the crowd, seven-inning stretches, players constantly interacting with the fans, and there is always something happening on the big screen. The spectator is constantly drawn in.
Near the Diamondbacks dugout on Sunday, one Dodgers fan with a deep Southern accent kept yelling to those around him: "Be loud. We're at the baseball, not the movies."
And we responded.
All together now …
"Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd … "
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Join the conversation with Greg on Twitter @GregGrowden
Communication error please reload the page.
West Ham striker Carlton Cole has been charged by the FA in relation to a comment posted on social media
Centre Luther Burrell will miss the early part of England's wider build-up to their Six Nations clash with Scotland after picking up a calf strain
Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli has hinted she is considering a return to professional tennis
Katarina Johnson-Thompson has laughed off suggestions that Olympic gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill might struggle after a 30-month absence
Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak has been banned for four games after elbowing West Ham's Diafra Sakho
ESPN rounds up the pre-season of all the protagonists of the upcoming season and tries to make sense of the pecking order ahead of the Australian Grand Prix
A basketball match between Bilbao Basket and Laboral Kutxa Baskonia in the Spanish ACB League was marred by a brawl that erupted in the closing stages of the game
After enduring a tricky start to his Manchester United career, perhaps it is fair that Marcos Rojo celebrated so boisterously as he watched his first professional club Estudiantes beat fierce rivals Gimnasia
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
Eight years ago, Steve Bunce was offered the chance of buying a 'share' in Tyson Fury, and it would have been a shrewd investment if he had the money
Sunderland have suspended midfielder Adam Johnson pending the outcome of a police investigation, the club announced on Monday
Jose Mourinho says the Premier League title race is still wide open and insists even Manchester United are contenders
Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville claimed Manchester City should be "embarrassed" by how easy they made it for Liverpool on Sunday
Arsene Wenger's decision to drop Per Mertesacker could be a "defining moment" for Arsenal, according to the club's former defender Martin Keown
Rafael Benitez has raised concerns about the long-term fitness of Chelsea captain John Terry after revealing the defender is trapped in "a vicious circle" regarding his persistent knee injury
The idea of Chelsea squeezing in a quick 20-minute Wembley celebration before getting back to work is both admirable and typically soulless, writes Alan Tyers
Former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher marked his return to football punditry by coining a new name for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
John Terry was visibly emotional during the national anthem in Sunday's League Cup final, but don't get your hopes up - he's not coming back to the England team
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner
When was the last time the F1 world champion driver's team didn't win the constructors' championship?