a competitive world

I first officiated a sporting event while I was in the navy and the 
referee for a league touch football game didn't show up. It was 
interesting because it was automatic for me to "call 'em like I saw 

In San Antonio I had a baseball team that played all comers and again 
one day when no umpire showed up, I volunteered and found that I could 
be objective even though it might adversely affect my team's fortunes.

When I moved to San Francisco, I heard of a need for professional 
umpires to handle local high-level sandlot games and as I had no job I 
took it on with enough success that I was in demand and worked 7 or 8 
games a week.

Very few people are willing to endure the verbal (mostly) attacks 
associated with being judge, jury and executioner in an area where 
competition is so fierce. I was a baseball fan since the Jackie Robinson 
inclusion. With umpiring, I learned a great deal about being 
simultaneously disinterested and arbitrary.

Umpiring is a perfect example of the second kind of truth. Like a TV 
commercial in which an actress playing an underwear inspector says, "It 
can't say 'Haynes' until I say it can say 'Haynes'" so in baseball, 
you're not safe until the umpire says you're safe. Such truths irritate 
the participants, witness the violent squabbles rampant in many games, 
but it is also well understood that the game could not be played without 
having an independent truth maker. The same theory applies to the 
institution of government or business. Somebody has to decide which scene gets shown, which winds up on the cutting-room floor.

On their surface athletic contests seem to be conflict but it soon is 
evident that they are fully cooperative efforts. This is also true of 
business competition, fights, and even war. The advent of instant 
universal communication brings us together in a huge verbal network so 
that we can hope to eliminate borders and other barriers. Just as Jackie 
Robinson's use of baseball as a demonstration of the obsolescence of 
separate leagues for Negroes, so the jetliner and satellite 
communication are changing such customs as Customs Services.

Baseball played by high school and older amateur athletes is much like 
its professional model - a world unto itself. The participants' lives 
are heavy with the lore and exuberance of participation. The most 
telling thing I learned is that competition is a form of cooperation, 
not of conflict

Umpiring gives a unique feeling; one makes of oneself a sort of 
stimulus/response machine and merely calls the plays reflexively. It is 
a very detached thing; when the players argue it often seems quite 
absurd and always becomes a sort of "theater of confrontation."

Most of the time there is full cooperation between competitors and 
officials because it is accepted that without impartial arbitration the 
game becomes impossible. In our culture we focus on competition as 
conflict but conjunctive effort is a more appropriate model. At one time 
the rules of baseball forbade fraternization among competitors before 
contests, now we aren't surprised when a football player tells his rival 
"nice hit."

The techniques used by baseball umpires are little appreciated by fans 
or players. A famous catcher turned TV analyst holds forth about certain 
players "getting the calls" and the methods he used when playing to 
influence decisions. I often wonder if a year of calling balls and 
strikes would make him aware of certain psychological facts: there is no 
time to call pitches if one waits to see where the catcher's mitt 
receives the ball - the call is made prior to that, when the ball 
crosses or misses the plate.

When I was umpiring I was unaware of who's a rookie and who a star. You 
wouldn't last a month as a professional umpire if you had all the 
prejudices and influences cited by reporters.

One of the few instances of cannabian interference with performance was 
trying to umpire while high. I tried it once, and was too laid back to 
have an attitude of importance about what I was doing. Calls were 
delayed and I'm sure I seemed indifferent - which doesn't work well. 
Indecision when the job is deciding just doesn't qualify.