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For many decades there has been a long-running debate about if and how to expand access to affordable healthcare coverage to more Americans. Finally in 2010 a policy solution came to fruition in the form of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. Even before the law took effect, there were already deep divisions between those Americans who were against the law, and those who were for it.

Healthcare is not the only American institution which has seen a change in how it operates this year. America’s pastime—Baseball—has also seen a new change this year. Baseball is a game that has been virtually the same since the 19th century, but the MLB has decided to make a fairly substantial change this season, and it comes in the form of the instant replay. Similar to tennis and football, baseball managers will now have the power to use instant replay to challenge controversial calls on the field. Umpires will then review the play on the monitors and determine whether to uphold or overturn the original call on the field. As I’ve watched this new instant replay system unfold over the course of the beginning of the season, I couldn’t help but notice some surprising similarities between the new instant replay rule and Obamacare.

Like Obamacare, the polarized debate over whether to have instant replay in baseball had also sowed deep divisions. Instead of the divide being between political liberals and conservatives, it has occurred within the ranks of baseball fanatics between traditionalists and forward-thinking fans. While many have acknowledged the problem of umpire error in baseball, baseball conservatives simply chalk it up as part of the game. Human error, and the judgment of the umpires, is a part of the DNA of baseball and has been since its inception. Others argued that the new replay system would slow down an already slow-paced game. Baseball liberals on the other hand, argued that a few extra minutes reviewing a play is worth it to get the right call. They believe that instant replay provides an overall improvement to baseball, guaranteeing accuracy in the field and providing justice to those who deserve it.  Regardless, there were, and still are, deep divisions over whether instant replay should or should not be part of the game, and whether its good intentions would lead to unintended consequences. You were either for it, or you were against it. A lot like Obamacare. And, like with Obamacare, there were some who did not think that the new instant replay rule has gone far enough.

Obamacare's debut on October 1st, 2013 is a familiar story to us now. It was a disaster. Many of those who supported the law began to lose faith in the system, and those who were against it saw its disastrous roll out as a vindication of their opposition. However despite the lost month of October in signups--and the unpopularity of the law--Obamacare signups hit 8 million people by the middle of April, higher than initial projections before the website launch. Although it is still too early to tell, if the Massachusetts model is any indication, Obamacare may yet stabilize and become a net positive for our society.

Though the roll out of the instant replay in baseball this season has not been as disastrous as the Obamacare roll out, it has nonetheless had its share of problems. Reviewing field plays at an unnaturally slow pace, frame by frame, brought up a lot of confusing issues. Does the umpire judge the play by when the ball reaches the glove, or by when the ball gets to the back of the glove? How can you tell for sure? Many have already criticized the new system even though the season is only 3 weeks old. These growing pains, not unlike Obamacare, are understandable when you introduce a radical new system into an institution that has operated a certain way for 150 years. And like those who refuse to sign up for Obamacare, the MLB seems to be okay with fining those who criticize its new policy.

Now, of course comparing Obamacare to Instant Replay in baseball is not a perfect analogy. A person can survive without baseball (barely). However I see the new rule of instant replay in the MLB similarly to how I see Obamacare in certain respects. They are both polarizing new systems introduced into old, entrenched institutions that have been used to operating a certain way for decades. They also both have had a few slip ups at their beginnings for this exact reason. Nevertheless, I think they both represent a positive step forward in their respective fields (no pun intended);Obamacare in the realm of healthcare, and instant replay in the ballpark. While they may have some growing pains and are not perfect solutions to the problems they are both attempting to address, I think they are both positive steps in the right direction that will eventually become integrated into our society. I envision a future in which teenage kids with preexisting conditions wonder how there ever used to be an America in which they would not be covered by health insurance, and they would be thinking about this while watching a baseball game as an Umpire reviews the last close play at home.

Originally posted to Mathemagics on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:20 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing and Community Spotlight.

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