Get It? Not Me

Baffled by big video screens, big names, and baseball quirks.

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"I get it" is the standard way of assuring others that you understand all the complexity and nuance of a controversial subject but disagree on some of the particulars.

Not me. No matter how much I read and watch and listen and reconsider, sometimes I simply don't get it.

I don't get the fuss over video boards or JumboTrons or whatever you call the giant scoreboards at stadiums. Liberty Bowl Stadium is getting a new one for $2.5 million, replacing a smaller one that is as dated as print papers. Video boards reinforce the view that the best seat in the house is at a sports bar or on a leather couch in your living room in front of a high-definition, 48-inch television with the NFL and SEC game packages. If you want to enhance the Memphis "game day" experience, just win more games, like they did at South Carolina, Alabama, Stanford, and Michigan State — none of which is in the Top 40 of largest video boards. Watching the Tigers once is usually enough.

AutoZone Park has a new video board this season. I went to the Redbirds game Sunday and admired the 60'-by-60' picture as sharp as all outdoors. Ninety percent of the time, the big board showed a mug shot of the player at bat along with his stats. The rest of the time it showed couples kissing or fans taking part in on-field promotions involving costumes and sponsors.

I don't get it that, with a few exceptions, baseball doesn't show replays of controversial calls on the stadium big screen, although you can see endless graphics-enhanced replays of pitches, pickoffs, stolen bases, foul balls, and umps' blown calls on home television. If there had been a close play with a runner racing home from third, a throw coming in from the outfield like a laser, a stout catcher blocking the plate, a collision and a cloud of dust, followed by an umpire's call of "safe" or "out," and a manager charging out of the dugout to protest the call, the video board operator would have pretended that nothing had happened and flashed a head shot of the next batter.

The Redbirds and lovely AutoZone Park need a boost. The stadium holds 15,000; the generous attendance estimate Sunday was 5,000. A crawfish festival drew more people. Minor-league baseball should be the leading edge of experimenting with stadium replays because there is so little action relative to football and basketball. But that wouldn't be baseball. God forbid that an umpire's judgment should be second-guessed by technology.

No other sport is so sensitive. At the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships tennis tournament at the Racquet Club this year, the "Hawk-Eye" system was installed so players could challenge the calls of linesmen. In professional football, instant replay and "the coach's challenge" have become integral parts of the game. For several years now, a college or pro football player who commits a penalty is identified by his number. In the NBA, fans can see the good, the bad, and the ugly over and over at the game, on ESPN, or on YouTube or a smartphone.

I don't get University of Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson being celebrated for doing a great job and being underappreciated for success in minor sports and student GPAs. Football and basketball are the standards for success in NCAA Division-I programs and the reason that so much money goes into them. The football program is a mess. The last coach was a disaster. The coach before him said the program was a disaster. The basketball team is the epitome of one-and-done "student athletes" and had to give back its 2008 Finalist banner for NCAA violations. The thanks for fund-raising success should go to the boosters and corporate sponsors, not the athletic director.

I don't get Kriner Cash's contract extension until the school systems merge in August 2013. The extension, given by the now-defunct Memphis school board in March 2011, was supposed to provide continuity and stability during the transition. It was not — nor could it be — a promise of the top job in the unified system. Midway through the transition, Cash's running buddy, Irving Hamer, behaved badly at a cocktail party and was forced to quit. Cash applied for the superintendent's job in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and made the final three. If he gets the job, the extension is meaningless. If he doesn't get the job, why would anyone in Memphis or Shelby County look to him for stability?

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