This time, however, the mistake is on purpose, and because it benefits the team that received the short end of the stick from the previous miscue, the referee has "made up" for the original error.
I don't know if British sports fans maintain an official equivalent to the make-up call, but they just saw an example of it. On Tuesday, "The Sense of an Ending" (Knopf) by Julian Barnes was awarded the 2011 Man Booker Prize, the UK's most famous literary prize, equivalent to America's Pulitzer Prize in terms of prestige and impact on sales.
Barnes is a splendid writer. Yet "The Sense of an Ending," while wise and fluent and beautifully written, is far from his best book, an honor which would go to "Flaubert's Parrot" (1984) or "Arthur & George" (2005). This was Barnes' first Man Booker, although he has been a finalist — the Brits call it the shortlist — four times. There was a widespread feeling of, "It's about time."
The most notorious example of a cultural make-up call? Perhaps Elizabeth Taylor's Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the mediocre film "Butterfield 8" (1960). It was her fourth nomination and first win. Taylor herself later dissed the film, and many observers believe that she was given the prize to compensate her for the Academy's earlier faulty judgment. Having not rewarded her work in films such as "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), Hollywood was scrambling to do the right thing.
Umps and refs deny that make-up calls occur, but most people continue to believe in them. Like the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot, the make-up call fulfills a need in the human psyche. In the case of the creatures, it's a wildness and a delicious inscrutability, even in age in which science has seemingly demystified the world; the make-up call, meanwhile, feeds our hunger for justice. The Wall Street greedheads (the fabulous word "greedhead" was coined by the late John Leonard) may have gotten away with thievery, but darn it, at least in some realms, fairness lives.
The other fight that made the 2011 Man Books lively was the judges' announcement that "readability" would count in their evaluations of contenders. Some took that as an oblique slam at so-called "literary" novels, the authors of which often seem to pride themselves on dullness and obscurity. But that debate — high culture versus low, popular books versus those that purport to be enduring and profound rather than entertaining — is ancient and familiar.
Once the arguments have finally tapered off, one thing remains true: Prizes bring attention to books, and that's a good thing. The Independent, a London newspaper, reports that total sales of the six Man Booker Prize finalists were up 127 percent over last year's shortlist. Go ahead, then, and fling that empty beer can at the field — as long as, in your other hand, you're clutching a novel.