As an avid tennis player (though it’s been a while), I had to love this and do: The busy bloggers at Neurophilosophy bring their usual lucidity to a paper by David Whitney, of the University of California, Davis, on how inherent dynamics of visual perception make line-call errors by tennis referees virtually inevitable.
The Men’s Final of the 1981 Wimbledon Tennis Championships is one of the most memorable events in sporting history. John McEnroe, who was playing against Bjorn Borg, famously challenged one of the referee’s calls by throwing a tantrum, during which he shouted the immortal line “You cannot be serious!”
McEnroe’s outburst was controversial, and he was almost eliminated from the championship because of it. But he may have been right to challenge the referee after all: according to a new study published in Current Biology, in such close calls, professional tennis referees consistently misjudge the location of a ball’s bounce because of a perceptual error caused by an inherent property of the visual system.
Some great stuff here, including links to McEnroe, during his second epic match with Borg (the one he won in ’81) hollering at the ump, “You cannot be serious!” — an outburst that nearly got him DQ’d.
Ah, science. Ah, tennis. Ah, Mac.