The Supreme Court imitates the World Series.

Media criticism.
Sept. 13 2005 6:44 PM

How the Court Imitates the World Series

John Roberts' winning baseball analogy.

(Continued from Page 1)

The toughest scrutiny that umpires and judges face comes during their stints in the minors and the lower circuits, where you're only as good as your worst decision: Botch a call there and you'll never get called up to the show. That's the bad news. The good news is once you reach the top, it's almost impossible to get fired. For example, many lawyers—even pro-choice lawyers—believe Roe v. Wade was a poor decision. Was anybody in that majority ever shown the door? No. At least once every three or four games, an ump suffers a Roe v. Wade moment. Such miscues didn't disturb Kaiser, who writes in his book, "When I blew a call I accepted responsibility for it and then forgot all about it. It wasn't a life-or-death issue with me. What were they going to do, kill me?"

The justices know that the less the public sees of them, the more magisterial and powerful they become, so they ban photos of and broadcasts from their court. * One imagines that if major league umpires had it to do all over again, they would have prohibited radio, television, and especially the instant replay, which destroys their claims to omniscience.

Advertisement

Other maxims collected by Kaiser that apply to both court and field: "The fewer calls you make the less chance you have to get in trouble," he writes in Planet of the Umps. Bemoaning the monotony of his profession, Kaiser confesses, "If all of life was like umpiring third base, the manufacturer of Prozac would be out of business."

If confirmed as chief justice, Roberts will find himself behind the plate, leading his crew through a grueling October-April season. We'll know he was serious about his baseball analogy if he arrives at his first oral arguments without Chief Justice William Rehnquist's gold-slashed robe and wears, instead, a chest protector, shin guards, and mask. He'll need them.

******

If the skills flexed on the Supreme Court don't serve you on the diamond, what is Justice John Paul Stevens doing at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night throwing out the first pitch of the Cub-Reds game? I'd like to thank the Troy Aikman Memorial Sports Library (Bryan Curtis, proprietor) for its guidance. Send your best umpire-justice stories to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Correction Sept. 14, 2005: The original version of this article mistakenly stated that the Supreme Court bans audio recordings of its procedings. The court itself has recorded oral arguments since 1955 but bans observers from recording. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 7:23 PM MIT Researchers Are Using Smartphones to Interact With Other Screens
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.