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Though the seated subjects fared better than the players, they too revealed some definite weaknesses. Those in the umpire's chair missed only half as many calls as the players, but they did poorly when their heads were moving or when balls were hit into the service boxes nearest the chair. Subjects in selected seats fans might occupy at a match scored as well as the chair umpire when they could sight directly down a line, but from other angles they did much worse.
Although Braden and Ariel didn't test TV commentators, Braden dismisses the value of TV replays on technical grounds. "Our research shows that television cameras have the same perspective problems as humans," he says, "so you'd need a herd of them to do the job right. And replays on standard commercial equipment don't slow the ball's flight enough to freeze it at impact on the court."
Interestingly enough, the subjects who made the best calls were those in the conventional linespeople's positions—sitting a few yards off the court, sighting down a single line and keeping as still as possible. Experienced linespeople outdid inexperienced subjects, but even the man making calls for the first time in his life outdid every one of the players.
Overall, this group missed only half as many calls as the subjects in the umpire's chair or in the positions of well-placed fans, and they missed one-fourth as many calls as the players. During one series of shots (about 50) they made no mistakes.
Realistically, one can't expect linespeople to perform this well in tournaments, where they can be confronted by fatigue and eyestrain. In trying to maintain concentration for hours, they can become mesmerized by the line and their vision can become blurred.
In addition, some linespeople may be hampered by untested-for visual deficiencies. Most nations require officials to qualify by scoring 20/20 with or without corrective lenses when reading a stationary chart, but no nation tests for the quite different visual ability needed in line calling: tracking a moving ball and establishing its relationship to a stationary line.
Nevertheless, the Braden-Ariel study proves that linespeople are normally in the best positions to see where the ball bounces, and it shows that argumentative players, chair umpires and second-guessing fans and TV commentators are far more fallible. Though some of the linespeople are fooled some of the time, it's clear that nobody else can consistently call the lines as well. That's one point everybody should be able to see.