Hoops + Tears

A Conversation with Galeano: Part Three

Another sample from Eduardo Galeano's Soccer in Sun and Shadow:

The Fanatic

The fanatic shows up at the stadium wrapped in the team flag, his face painted the colors of their beloved shorts, prickling with strident and aggressive paraphernalia, and on the way he makes a lot of noise and a lot of fuss. He never comes alone. In the midst of the rowdy crowd, dangerous centipede, this cowed man will cow others, this frightened man becomes frightening. Omnipotence on Sunday exorcises the obedient life he leads the rest of the week: the bed with no desire, the job with no calling or no job at all. Liberated for a day, the fanatic has much to avenge.

*     *     *

And once this dangerous centipede drinks deeply from the flagon of VPS, he will sleep soundly, indeed.

Urine as Noise

A payoff is looming on the horizon. A gambler is wearing adult diapers so that he doesn't need to leave the slot machine, but rather can just piss himself and keep wrestling the one-armed bandit a little longer (see, for example, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1997; 157 (1)). We are describing a perfect coupling of man and machine, and a precursor of what Virilio describes as "polar inertia": the tendency to stasis as we approach the absolute speed of real time.

As work and leisure increasingly blur, productivity assumes game-like properties, and the economy of the slot machine (or sports book, or stock market) becomes increasingly net-connected, virtual, and devoid of spatial referent, do we not face a situation like that visualized in The Matrix?

The movie's metaphor is inexact, however. Rather than humans providing electricity to the machines from the incarceration of their pods, they are instead providing information — or at least playing a vital role in sympathetically vibrating information forward.

slot machine and Matrix pod montage

We have the casino as an institution to "launder" money, removing its impurities before recirculation through the global networks of capital — a renal function that can only be considered soaked in irony. Urine is a friction — or perhaps more appropriately, acts as noise — to this coupling between human and datapod, and thus the use of the adult diaper. But the diaper only alleviates the problem temporarily — eventually the soiled undergarment must be removed and replaced with a fresh one. We must presume that as the casino becomes more virtualized, thus offering more privacy to the end-user, that catheterization will become the next evolutionary stage for the human-datapod hybrid, allowing urine to freely flow away to unseen underground canals in a fashion that allows for the uninterrupted complementary inflow of (seen) information channels.

Instant Re: Play

A quick reminder: Many have commented on the impact that television has had on the world of professional sport, from an economic shift due to the rise in corporate sponsorship, to strategic shifts caused by TV timeouts. On the same topic, Virilio describes the privilege that those absent from the game (ie. the televiewer) holds over those present.

Furthering Virilio's observation, I wanted to highlight another (perhaps obvious) point concerning instant replay and officiating. It is the camera feeds from the TV networks covering a game that are used for the in-game reviews of questionable or disputed calls in the NFL, NBA and NCAA.

That is, the network infrastructure has insinuated itself into professional sport so pervasively that it no longer simply influences the latter, but rather, via league legislation, exists structurally as part of its games.

The New Temporality of Olympic Triumph

The Games have been officially opened! For the armchair athlete, the next few weeks will provide a feast for the eyes, as winners are determined and medals handed out at a number of Olympic and Paralympic sporting events in Torino, Italy.

We must note, however, that these will only be the interim winners of the XX Olympic Winter Games. We won't know the true victors for another eight years.

Article 17 of the World Anti-Doping Code, Statute of Limitations, states:

No action may be commenced against an Athlete or other Person for a violation of an anti-doping rule contained in the Code unless such action is commenced within eight years from the date the violation occurred.

Furthermore, in Section 6.5 of the IOC Anti-Doping Rules for the XX Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Storage of Samples and Delayed Analysis:

Samples shall be stored in a secure manner at the laboratory or as otherwise directed by the IOC and may be further analysed. Consistent with Article 17 of the Code the ownership of the samples is vested in the IOC for the eight years. During this period, the IOC shall have the right to re-analyse samples (taken during the Period of the Olympic Games). Any anti-doping rule violation discovered as a result thereof shall be dealt with in accordance with these Rules. After this period, the ownership of the samples shall be transferred to the laboratory storing such samples, provided that all means of identification of the Athletes will be destroyed and that proof of this destruction shall be provided to the IOC.

The primary significance of these rules lies in the fact that we are on the cusp of a new form of performance enhancement in sport: gene doping. Gene doping, a method prohibited by WADA, involves some sort of manipulation of the genetic code to gain a performance benefit — currently evading standard detection methods in the process.

Most experts believed that Beijing 2008 would be the first GMOs — genetically-modified Olympics. But it appears that gene doping is already here. A recent story, reported by The Australian, details the use of Repoxygen, a drug designed to treat serious anaemia by providing the human body the gene with which it can stimulate production of erythropoietin (EPO). As a result, more EPO can be produced, which can carry more oxygen to muscles and reduce muscle fatigue, which of course would provide enormous benefit to high-performance athletes.

As mentioned earlier, however, there is currently no test available to detect if gene doping has taken place. Thus, authorities in Torino have made special reference in the media to the fact that they will be keeping blood and urine samples on hand well into the future in case such a test emerges.

So, on top of the $7 billion spent on security at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens or the already $150 million spent on the smaller Winter Olympics in Torino, we must now also incur the cost of securing archived specimen bottles of blood and urine in a laboratory somewhere against possible corruption or contamination? This seems to me a peculiar development — all to authenticate and ensure the unique Truth of a modern sport victory eight years from now.

Citius, altius, fortius — we go faster and faster each successive Games, though determining a winner becomes ever slower and slower.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

An interesting architectural development over the past decade in the world of sport has been the rise of the air-supported indoor sports dome. These domes, very organic in their design, dot the landscape as if they were birthing pods of some large insect from another planet that has come to Earth to raise offspring; or perhaps they function as a chrysalis for the insect to metamorphose into some new creature.

Climate controlled hive of physical activity, with a persistent hum providing an aural reminder of the slightly higher than normal air pressure supporting the roof, how can we not consider these futuristic sport pods as being alive?

(Of course, we cannot forget that it is the silicon silk of the chrysalis digitalis that is the truly transformative aspect of sports architecture.)