Kobe as Schwartz?

Ralph Wiley discusses Kobe Bryant as NBA puppet master. I wonder who his Malkovich is? Don't we all have one?

TV Turntablism

Watching Hockey Day in Canada last Saturday on the CBC, it dawned on me how often hockey players look at the jumbotron to review a play after it has occurred. Then I realized how often NFL players do it as well. Since I am usually watching basketball on television, and the players don't have the time to check the jumbotron that often, I didn't grasp the significance of this until now: the production of the televised professional sporting event is non-linear in time, in the same sense that the hip-hop turntablist produces music by playing a record and scratching it back and forth.

A Note on Gambling

McLuhan (1964) notes that:

"In tribal societies, gambling … is a welcome avenue of entrepreneurial effort and individual initiative. Carried into an individualist society, the same gambling games and sweepstakes seem to threaten the whole social order. Gambling pushes individual initiative to the point of mocking the individualist social structure. The tribal virtue is the capitalist vice.

… When we too are prepared to legalize gambling, we shall, like the English, announce to the world the end of individualist society and the trek back to tribal ways" (p.207).


McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media. New York: New American Library.

Time Out

The fundamental imperative of sport in modernity is to create a wormhole.

The fundamental imperative of sport in modernity is to function as a vessel of Truth.

Truth in sport is measured by score. Truth is arbitrated by referees and umpires. Fans are the jury and statistics are the evidence.

In a postmodern sport world, where the significance of score is subverted, sport's role as vessel of Truth is cast in doubt. This is frightening to many and why there is such a blind devotion to traditional professional sport consumption: in an uncertain world, sport offers a temporary safe harbour — by assuring us with Truth.


I've been meaning to blog about this for some time now, but have you seen SlamBall, the crazy new made-for-television sport where basketball meets trampolines in a series of violent mid-air collisions and ferocious dunks? Let me tell you, it is something else.



[Aside] Rob Wilson, who played basketball at the University of Toronto when I was playing at Queen's, now plays stopper for the Bouncers. Neat, eh?



Courtesy of SlamBall

Slate's Robert Weintraub gives an excellent overview of the appeal of the sport, noting that "SlamBall is everything the XFL wanted — and failed — to be. A traditional sport has been stripped down to its most athletic and violent elements, with all-access cameras recording every move while toughs with nicknames like 'The Landlord' and 'Inches' growl and taunt with WWF-like aplomb."

(He also called the XFL a "Spruce Goose", though I prefer "New Coke".)

I think it goes a little beyond that, though. It is the amplified reflexes that is the hook here, the ability to escape the limits of our own bodies. Everything else, we've seen before.

There is one other difference: SlamBall is played in a warehouse studio in Los Angeles with six teams, none of whom have a civic affiliation. They also have a portable studio that they plan to take out on the road, bringing the sport town to town — kind of like the WWF. The moral of the story: SlamBall doesn't carry the carry the expensive stadium infrastructure of traditional professional team sports, yet they still have sport media revenue potential. And if they can keep labour costs down by retiring SlamBall after a few seasons, Warner Bros. will have found a profitable little niche in the professional sports industry.

It's what I call short-product-life-cycle, made-for-television sports, or SPLCMFT sports (for short, heh heh). I think they — SlamBall and future SPLCMFTs taken together — have the potential to cause real problems for the established industry incumbents (read: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL).

SlamBall CEO Mason Gordon (who is also a player) weighs in with his version of the sport's future.

The Wormhole Laboratory?

An excerpt from a Torson Group white paper called Torson Sports Cybernetics:

The greatest Sydney Games of the XXVII Olympiad have started!!! This is a unique opportunity for Torson Group, Inc. R&D to promote the novel multidisciplinary scientific discipline : Torson Sports Cyber-netics — SC for short. This is the Sports Science for the III Millennium,
the Know-How to Make the "Olympic Gold".

SC combines the essential principles of sports physiology, anatomy, biomechanics, and psychology, with mathematical apparatus of modern physics — inside the unique framework of cybernetics, and having the unique goal : the SUPREME SPORT RESULT.

Is it pseudo-science? Maybe. (It's certainly pseudo-English…). But it speaks to a deeper truth: that the health sciences will play a significant role in the evolution of virtual sport.