Communications, and how it matters to pro sports.

It is the only thing that matters.

A team will win or lose based on their talent, almost every time. The problem with that adage, is that planning and communication are expected. Any halfway decent coach can get a gameplan ready that should lead to success, and almost any halfway decent human being can operate most of the communication devices used in sports: phones, walkie talkies, headsets, etc. Tony La Russa completely blew this convention out of the water when he couldn’t manage to get a message across a baseball field using a landline phone. There are a lot of different issues to investigate:

The actual message: Before this gets technical, lets remember that this whole fiasco should have been cut off at the head. Before Game 5 of the World Series, La Russa told the media and his coaches that Lance Lynn would not pitch that night. So why does the bullpen coach, and more importantly Lynn, go ahead with the warmup regimen without thinking, “Didn’t skip tell me I had tonight off?”? Answer: Communication problems.

The device in question: It is a phone, more specifically this phone:

I haven’t seen that phone since we got wireless phones; about 15 years ago probably. These are the phones whose cord my mom would stretch into another room to stay on the call, the kind of phone that calls in a nuclear strike. There is no need for a secure line; you could use hand signals, and either way, THE PITCHER’S NAME APPEARS ON THE ENORMOUS SCOREBOARD. So lets start to do away with the archaic phones that are still being installed into ballparks. give each end an iPod Touch with iMessages, and let them text over WiFi, since Tony La Russa probably still pays per text.

The institution: The major reason that this gaffe will not lead to a change in how on-field communications happen is for one reason: the integrity of the game. Since it has always been this way, it will always be this way. There are just some things that baseball deems necessary to go out of their way to be complicated, and this is one of them. Another is instant replay, which baseball doesn’t really have, if you did not know.

Therefore, baseball will try to protect their phones and pastime by keeping them in the dugouts, and asking their managers to use the old phone lines when they can call or text one another from their cell phones; some research over the past few days reveals that unlike other sports, baseball players use their phones during games. If not in the dugout, then in the clubhouse; if this is allowed (and don’t tell me it isn’t but they do it anyway, that means it’s allowed) then let managers whip out their Blackberrys and BBM the next left out of the pen, instead of going over a phone like that apparently makes “Motte” sound like “Lynn”.

Or, maybe Tony La Russa shouldn’t lie and just admit that he had a senior moment. It’s not like he’s trying to act younger; the man was on “To Tell the Truth”.

What does this all have to do with communication? It is a small, few minutes-long example of how important they are to the overall effort of a team. If you aren’t communicating on the field, in the dugout or in the film room, even at one moment in time, you can set yourself up for failure. Getting beat on one play because of sheer talent is one thing, but you can recover and beat them next time; a communication problem can lead to more wrong moves, and can take a gameplan off course.

In the heat of the moment, that is the last thing that anyone needs.


About jgweiss

Trying to find a job, trying to start a blog.
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