Whether or not anybody pays attention to this, SFLOI will go on and it will likely be something great we all look forward to one way or another. Having said that, the reason I'm writing is that SFLOI is a great game because we make course corrections and police ourselves as we go. I never realized how much work and thought guys like Havelock, Tony, Gil, Don and Ian (and many others) have put into keeping our game exactly what it is: fun to play, sometimes a pain in the ass, but always something we all look forward to.
After yesterday, I think now may be one of those times we need to think about making some course corrections.
This is not directed at any individual. It is directed at all of us who have ever umpired. Myself included. What we all agreed to, was that if there was a close play the umpire was not close to - the players near the play would be consulted. They were to do their best to help make a fair, correct judgement. The umpire needed to take this into account and although it was strictly up to him in the end, he needed to consider what the players near the play were saying. What we all agreed to was we need umpires to not make close calls for their own team.
We strayed from this several times yesterday. The fact that it helped one team win over another is not the point. It's only one game and who won or lost is not really a big deal one way or another. The point is that yesterday's games were not a fun environment to play in and we were not able to enjoy ourselves as friends and teammates.
This is something I've noticed seems to happen more and more these days. Sal wrote about it a while back and I overheard that he will not be attending our games because of a similar issue.
There are at least two other people I know of who no longer come to our games because it simply wasn't fun for them any more. They are both great players and helped raise the level of our play a great deal. The over-competitive behavior, unfairness of umpiring and the resulting arguments made the game less fun and something they could no longer see wasting their time on. We are all the poorer for their absence.
As I said before, I'm not giving myself a pass on this. I have been as guilty as anyone else. It's only natural that an umpire would want his own team to win. But that's why we discussed making sure umpires gave close calls to the other team and not make the strike zone impossibly small for pitchers. It is exactly why we said it's OK for an umpire to ask someone who is close to the play for help - and to trust that we're all going to honor each other by being honest.
SFLOI has prospered because, in my view, we have managed to maintain an almost impossible balance of competitiveness, fun and fair play. So I would ask that we try to think about how we can return to that for future games.