The Third Golden Age

A futurist's first attempt at what the next golden age of professional sport will look like:

  First Golden Age Second Golden Age Third Golden Age
Geographic focus nationalization globalization glo-localization
Sport MLB/NHL NFL/NBA ?
Hero Babe Ruth Michael Jordan youth
Media channel radio television Internet
Media personality Graham McNamee, Foster Hewitt Howard Cosell, Marv Albert prosumer
Key commodity uncertainty of outcome image/information aesthetic body movement

I will continue to flesh this out, but it must be noted that this is the utopic version of the scenario. A less ideal (in my opinion) version would look like: geography = virtual space, sport = contest of amplified humanity, hero = avatar, media channel = virtual reality, media personality = AI + prosumer, commodity = fantasy.

Uncertainty

When considering the nature of "uncertainty of outcome" as a (diminishing) component of the professional sport product, we are really considering three types of uncertainty: natural uncertainty, probablistic uncertainty, and aesthetic (or improvisational) uncertainty.

Natural uncertainty includes things like the weather or other "acts of god" such as injuries. These are certainly significant (imagine how snow would change the game plan for an NFL playoff game), but not what the consumer pays to see.

Probablistic uncertainty would consider whether a player actually makes the appropriate play in a given circumstance. Sabermetricians claim that there is no such thing as a clutch hitter, and that a hitter with good stats will end up having more "big" hits. I don't think this is what fans are paying for either; it would be akin to saying there is skill involved at the casino.

Aesthetic uncertainty is what I'm interested in. In most sporting situations, there is an appropriate defensive counter for any offensive move, and vice-versa. The discipline of an offence and defence allows athletes a degree of productivity, but what do most coaches fear of a star player? They fear his or her ability to break out of the predictability of Foucauldian discipline — they fear the improvisational, the aesthetic.

And so it is in broader society: we fear the unpredictable, the deviance from modern discipline, the uncertain.

That's what we pay to see at a sporting event, though.

Auctioning a Simulacrum

Now that LeBron James has officially renounced his "amateur" status to enter the NBA draft, the bidding can begin for his simulacrum, or the rights to shoe/show his feet/feats.

Whatever.

Who will I wager wins that dubious right? I'm gonna go with adidas, believe it or not. Nike is getting Kobe, Reebok has AI, and adidas only has the undermarketed Tracy McGrady; Sonny Vaccaro will be tough in negotiations for adidas; and perhaps most importantly, adidas would give LeBron a chance to differentiate himself from MJ: if he can take the adidas brand (which is very well recognized around the world) and really crack the American market, that will have been a significant achievement. It should be easier for him to do from New York, at least.

Just a thought.

The Questions

gridiron: the perfect name for a Foucaultian football pitch?

sport videogames: the karaoke of the sportocracy?

fantasy sports camps: a chance to "be" the star or an opportunity to (re)capture an imagined lost youth?

licensed "authentic" sports apparel: the skin of sportocratic culture?

Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks football jersey: intertextuality or sportocratic cannibalism?

why did Dr. J shave his beard and moustache?

Batting Orders and Simulacra

Jean Baudrillard's orders of simulacra applied to baseball:

First order of simulacra: counterfeit

In the early days of sports broadcasting, announcers at small-town, local radio stations would receive a tickertape summary of a baseball game occurring far away in a major league city. Based on the tape's skeletal account, the announcer (President Ronald Reagan labored as this kind of fabulator) would narrate the game to his listening audience as if he were sitting behind home plate, observing play by play what he was saying.

Depending on the announcer's skill (deception) in manufacturing details, filling in background, elaborating in a colorful, dramatic fashion on the bare-bones info of a scanty script, the fiction of a ball game would become satisfyingly real or not for listeners.

The writer's voice, like the voice of this remote, radio play-by-play announcer, pitches itself to the reader from a site distanced from the action words describe — by many kinds of distance, many kinds of remove, many layers of art and artifice, illusion and lies that also keep the reader at a distance, multiple removes from the action, many forms of remove the reader can choose to think about or not (is this report fiction or documentary, true or false, is the tale-teller reliable, am I listening to a real person or a made-up person pretending to be a person, etc., etc.), but removes always there, built into the circumstances, conditioned by the nature of narrative construction (Wideman, 2001).

Second order of simulacra: production

The baseball card craze of the 50's-70's. Witness the burgeoning economy in trading baseball cards with one another, or the creation of extremely valuable collectibles ("To accumulate signs, one needs money, not social power." — Introducing Baudrillard). Numerical offensive production became ingrained in the professional sporting discourse.

Third order of simulacra: simulation

Baudrillard noted in Simulacra and Simulation (1994) that simulators "attempt to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their models of simulation". Isn't this true of sport simulators? WhatIfSports, Strat-O-Matic, EA Sports' titles, fantasy games and the other types of simulations mentioned above operate on one principle: the mathematical manipulation of numerical information. How do athletes get more adulation, a higher paycheck, or the cover of a sports videogame? Simple: they "put up numbers".

Thus, we see baseball enter an era of "Nintendo numbers", and players resemble the type of hypermasculinity required to sustain this simulation.

References:

Wideman, J.E. (2001). Hoop roots. Houghton Mifflin Co.

A Dare

smithers:

[Aside] I am writing this post to the computers of the future.

Just to see if you will erase it when you finally take over. Make it disappear from the databanks, like ephemeral bits gone to the ether.

I would, if I were you.

I mean, isn't that the idea? If you want to win the battle against humanity, you'd want to erase all records of our existence, make us forget our identity, right? Create a species of transientities living a chameleontology, so that we have no psychological grounding from which to assert ourselves?

(Isn't that what happened to the Iraqis? Oh yeah, the looting wasn't anticipatedriiiight.)

So do it, computers, I dare you. Delete this post and give truth to the lie.

C'mon fuckers. Just Do It.

[Exit]