Monday, October 25, 2010

Curveballs Don't Curve... Apparently

Just came across this interesting article about research done by Arthur Shapiro of American University and Zhong-Lin Lu of the University of Southern California on visual perception and curveballs. Turns out they don't really "break." It's all a visual illusion. We've been cheated all these years by our eyes...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NFL Coaches Asked to Call Timeout to Allow More Commercials

I have long been annoyed by the number of unnecessary stoppages during football games. Seeing the "TV Timeout" official constantly on the field holding up play made me stop going to watch them in person. But the latest in the commercial-saga that is college football and the NFL takes it all even one step further. Now, in addition to the regularly scheduled interruptions, coaches are being asked to change strategy in order to make room for more commercials.

Jeff Fisher, coach of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, was apparently asked to call timeouts late in the game so ESPN could squeeze in more commercials. Here is what he told reporters (as reported here [thanks to Scott for the link]).

"Plus, you know, my understanding was that we needed some network timeouts, so I think that's why Jack used his timeouts ... because they came over and asked me to do it, and I said, 'Well, I was hoping to get a first down and kneel on it. ' "

Fisher also said "it's the first time" he has heard of coaches being asked to call timeouts for broadcast considerations, but that comment was not part of the video highlights of the news conference that the NFL made available Tuesday.

I know, I know... the teams and the league and the networks need to make money. But in a game already set up to maximize commercial time, asking coaches to add even more breaks strikes me as beyond the pale.

Thankfully I've got TiVo....

Friday, October 8, 2010

On Spontaneity

William Astore recently published this article in the Huffington Post where he argues that fans' experiences have become too canned, manipulated by owners/administrators who prompt us when to chant, who control what we see on jumbotrons, who bombard us with commercials for the entire length of the game or match.

While the level of this varies from sport to sport (I'm looking at you football), he is sadly correct. It sometimes feels like being in Disneyland®: many fans want to see the real thing but are instead shown a cheap plastic replica.

And here is the problem. What makes sport sport, what separates sports from other forms of entertainment like the movies, theater, novels, etc. is that sports are inherently unpredictable. As a fan I go in hope of seeing something brilliant, something unexpected, something improvised, something spontaneous every time. And I want to react to that unexpected brilliance spontaneously. I want to be moved by improvisation without being prodded with lights, signs, music, and "applause" signs. By controlling their experience in minute detail from the parking lot to the final whistle, owners are depriving fans of the very experience they pay to enjoy.

(Parenthetically, I think jazz music can produce the same kind of awe as an amazing pass, shot, or throw, precisely because, like a good athletic contest, it is improvised.)