If you have read some of my past entries, you might have noticed a theme: how amazingly fast technology has progressed in the past three decades or so. So I ask myself, how are people still making mistakes that could so obviously be avoided by employing some things that have now become second nature?
Earlier this year, YA (young adult literature) author Lauren Myracle was informed that she had been chosen as one of the five contenders for the National Book Award, a prominent literary award, for her novel Shine. At a later date, author Franny Billingsley was chosen as a sixth contender for her book Chime. The administrators of the award admitted that a misunderstanding had occurred during a phone call where Chime was mistaken for Shine by the selection committee. Myracle was later asked to withdraw herself from the running, which she did, with the concession being made that the National Book Awards committee make a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Shepherd being a major inspiration for her would-be nominated novel.
On an eerily similar note, and within an eerily similar amount of time, Game 5 of this year’s World Series featured a similar phone-based miscommunication. With the score tied in the eighth inning of Game 5 of a tied series, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa supposedly called the bullpen and asked for reliever Jason Motte to take the mound. You can blame the noise in the stadium, confusion on one side or another, or fate itself if you are so inclined, but La Russa ended up with Mark Rzepczynski on the mound. The Cardinals lost the game 4-2. No need to worry, they swept the next two games to win the series, but there was no excuse, really, for such a close… call. After the game, La Russa took the heat for his team, blaming the appearance of Rzepczynski on a phone-based miscommunication. La Russa may have been taking the fall for a mistake made elsewhere, but isn’t the excuse (if it is an excuse at all and not the truth) as lame as the mistake?
Not everyone is holding to the ways of the past, though. Two teams in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are integrating fairly new technology to assist their staff. Players on both teams have been issued iPads to replace the three-ring binders that were the playbooks of old. The iPads allow the players to see not only how each play looks on paper, but also how the play will look in action. Their iPads serve not only as playbooks but also as dietary guides and practice/game calendars. League rules do not currently allow players or coaches to use computers or video devices during the game, but hopefully, if this practice catches on with enough teams, the league will change the rules.
With the huge leaps in technology that have been made in recent years, it amazes me how many mistakes could have been prevented with a simple email, or text message. Some people feel that due to the exigencies of life, there isn’t time or reason to confirm via email or text. Some also feel that email and text are not professional and are even impersonal. I agree with them, to a point. While they might not feel as personal, they are much more accurate than a phone call. I was in the Marines. As a helicopter avionics technician, we often had audio-only contact where we had to monitor for comprehension quickly because lives were on the line. We studied a system, we learned it and we took it seriously enough that we almost never made mistakes. Maybe some higher-ups making decisions for huge book awards and hundred-million dollar sports franchises should be held to the same standard as 19-year-olds? Just a thought. Alternatively, you could call plays like the Oregon Ducks do. Or, for sports especially, encrypted networks could operate using peer-to-peer technology on local networks to share multimedia information on the fly. I know, I know, sounds like futuristic sci-fi. Except for the fact that my 6-year-old Nintendo DS does that and so does the One Laptop Per Child laptop. The technology exists. Which solution do you think is best?