Friday, June 18, 2010

Judging as Refereeing and the World Cup

I wonder if Chief Justice Roberts is a fan of futbol.  As I watch the Germany-Serbia match this morning, I could not help but think of his analogy, during the confirmation hearings, between judging and umpiring.  As he famously said, “Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”  Fans of any sport know better.  Apparently, U.S. Senators did not.

The referee this morning has had a very active hand, calling yellow cards at at a very fast pace.  At one point during the first half, the announcers wondered whether this pace could possibly keep up, and what it would mean for the outcome of the game.  Wouldn't you know it, a few minutes later, the ref called a second yellow on a German players, sending him off to the bench.  Moments later, Serbia scored and the match remains 1-0.

The point, clear to anyone watching this match, is that the referee had a very clear idea of how he wanted the game to go, and called it accordingly.  This is not a novel point, and I don't mean to suggest otherwise.  The same is true of judging.  This is why I wondered, were the Chief Justice watching the game with, say Senator Sessions, what they would say to each other.  I would imagine the conversation to go something like this:
"Can you believe this referee, calling the game so tightly?"
"That reminds me of your nomination hearing, John, and the analogy you gave us about judging and refereeing. Brilliant!"
"I must say, I never thought your colleagues would buy it, or anybody else for that matter.  Can you believe it?"
As the hearings for General Kagan are soon to begin, the analogy will likely resurface with a vengeance.  Brilliant indeed. Or embarrassing.  You be the judge.

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