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I refer to this broken bat double which swerved into play, as:

The Triple Kiss

This excellent .gif of The Triple Kiss is by @CorkGaines

Hunter Pence knocked in three runs when this ball left his broken bat after a crazy series of three collisions – the last of which caused it to swerve in the air and bound past the outstretched glove of the shortstop.

Second-year Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who was very well positioned, reacted at lightning speed, but was caught going the wrong way for a fraction of a second because the third point of contact changed the ball’s direction.

The Triple Kiss happened in less than half a second. Watching it live, as broadcast, I had no idea the ball hit the bat three times; not until seeing it like this.

I knew it was a broken bat hit, my shoulders slumped at the same instant that Kozma jumped – and then suddenly, the ball took a crazy turn in the air and, as if it had eyes, bounced past the outstretched glove of the recovering Kozma, on the second base side.

The Triple Kiss was significantly faster than the human eye … even the highly trained eyes of a ballplayer, or an umpire. It affords us the opportunity to discuss the intense amount of new information that slow motion yields.

Slow motion was originally known – in analog filmmaking – as overcranking, a method by which the speed of the film was altered through handcranking the frames. Overcranking was first used in sports as long ago as the 1930’s in the coverage of boxing matches.

It took a long time for overcranking to become slow motion and in that time we got pretty used to it. We allowed slow motion to creep into our observation of games with such ease and normality that the NFL, NBA and MLB now all stop play to incorporate it as a tool in evaluating what has actually taken place.

But yesterday, after a fascinating conversation with an NCAA referee in another sport, David Ma, I began to wonder whether there’s a measurable visual side effect of using high definition slow motion when trying to call a game.

A paranoid part of me also began to wonder whether we’ve already begun what sci-fi feared: letting machines that are ‘more than us’ run our most human aspects.

David Ma believes we should alter the rules of instant replay review so that any referee or umpire using video replay should NOT be allowed to use the slow motion effect in the review.

Ma says, “I have no problem with the use of multiple camera angles for the review, but video review referees should not be allowed to use slow-motion.”

Ma believes there is a significant effect on the field when calling games with video review that includes slow motion, which he refers to as akin to “refereeing under a microscope.”

He points out that no human being could possibly see some of the things that slow motion reveals. In fact, Ma believes referees are already changing the way they call a game because of the presence of the super-slow-motion of HD:

“In pro football now there’s mandatory booth review on any score and in the final two minutes … if you’re a ref and you know that, why would you make a call? The camera can see everything you can’t so you’re most likely going to be wrong!”

Ma speaks with the authority of knowing what it’s like to have to make a call with a super-slow-mo eyeball looking over your shoulder: “With HD slow motion, by far, most of the time the referee’s call is going to be wrong.”

It opens up a discussion about what our perception of real-time is. For example would an umpiring or refereeing crew allowed only to watch the replays in real-time be more effective within the state of play? Ma believes assuredly yes.

This process by which we have accepted the super-slow-mo eyeball as the authority has taken place without significant consideration of the side effect – a human response to the presence of a machine that can see things we can’t.

But perhaps more significantly, the use of slow-mo in sports coverage points out that despite the presence of a tremendous amount of data being added to the information of the events of real-time by slow motion, it’s an effect we’ve subconsciously accepted without critique as a part of our capacity to watch something that has happened.

To David Ma, we’ve stepped onto an escalator which will take us to the point where it will be impossible for a human being to call a game.

I argued that perhaps the refereeing crew could judge the play on the basis of human terms: take in all the data, including the super-slow-mo stuff, and then the video review ref might say: ‘Well, sure we can see that under scrutiny, but there’s no way we could have seen that in real-time’ – thus overriding the machine.

But David Ma reminded me who pays the bills:

“The broadcast media, which is putting out incredibly detailed HD video in super slow-mo will grab that ref by the collar and say, you’re calling it like the nation just saw it, now.”

It rang true. But not one to make an issue of the problem without offering a solution, Ma says the only smart fix is to take slow-mo away from the refs. Alter our use of video replay to remove slow motion.

It’s a bold idea designed to keep the real-time on the field … well, real.

But there would emerge the huge issue that we, the fans, would have the access to all this information that the super-slow motion yields and would be stuck with an unresolvable dispute against the call made by humans trapped in a real-time consideration of events at hand.

The best example – when such frustration peaked – is the now infamous “intertouchdownception” that gave the Seattle Seahawks a victory in the waning seconds over the Green Bay Packers by virtue of a Hail Mary pass that was impossible to call with the human eye and replacement refs and the current NFL rules and the tacit agreement that management isn’t calling interference on Hail Mary’s (lol).

intertouchdownception

One of the refs on the field who signaled touchdown still believes he made an acceptable call as per one reading of the rule book. Fans remain unconvinced.

CBS, the widest, slowest form of sports broadcasting, interviewed two of the replacement refs a few days later.

If, as Dave Ma suggests, we were to remove slow-motion from the toolbox for referees, could we as fans accept the difference of our view being an enhanced view from that of the refs?

Would we hound the refs for their inability to see what only a machine can see?

Or could we embrace the idea that we are keeping machines out of what is a fundamentally human exercise – sport.

In games like tennis and cricket, slow motion is used to define where or when a fast-moving object or person is at a given moment: the ball on or outside the line, the bat past the line before the ball strikes the wickets and so on.

The absolute exclusion of the slow motion effect would be a pointless exercise. However, it may be that the exclusion of slow motion from video review in certain situations would help keep the game real.

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