Stream/Screen/Scream of Consciousness Thinking

In a fractalization of the postmodern sports media logic, The Score's Sid Seixeiro and Tim Micallef could be considered by the hardcore Canadian sports fan as the play-by-play team for a pastiche of video highlights — ie. a play-by-play of a play-by-play.

But only part of the commentary is improvised as is the fashion with play-by-play. An entire writing team painstakingly crafts messages about the highlight reels that may be fed though teleprompter to the two talking heads. Rather than speaking in tongues, however, Seixeiro and Micallef carefully circulate and recirculate existing memes in the sports media discourse networks (eg. Barry Bonds is guilty of doping — just look at his hat size!), or inject "proprietary" memes into circulation (eg. "Dion Phaneuf — Music Note da-dah-da-nah-na-na-nah Music Note"). Even when ad-libbing, the two hosts follow the same basic premise. The more you watch, the better an audience member you become as you can better understand the multiple texts that are referred to in the "final" pastiche. From a management perspective this could be understood as a form of lock-in created by exponentially increasing switching costs.

Socially speaking, the individual voice-event and its actor have agency and thus key nodes in the network have greater control in shaping memes that will be circulated in discourse; at the same time, the aggregate-Voice is the discourse network itself, a continually modulating structure that will constrain the choices at each voice-event. When parsed, the memes and voice-events can only be considered fragments of hegemonic masculine discourse: aggressive, xenophobic, sexist, misogynist, pornographic, racialized, capitalist — and a verbal masturbation before the camera.

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Ba-da-ba-ba-bahhh … I'm SO loving it.

Come Hither

If the goal is the orgasm of soccer, as Eduardo Galeano suggests, then hockey, with its many similarities to the beautiful game, has about four times as many orgasms per contest. Yet the "He shoots, HE SCOOOOOOORES…!" of the (American) NHL play-by-play announcer is at least as protracted in length and intensity as the "GOOOOOOOOOOOL…!" of his Latin American counterpart. One would assume if you were coming more frequently that each individual orgasm would be less of a big deal.

Chess, Language, Gender and Power

As discussed earlier regarding the archivization of chess movements, we view a gradual shift over 400 years from a formal old English means of documenting games to a descriptive chess notation, a form of information compression that leverages the striating architecture of the chessboard and representational alphanumerics to convey much the same information in a far more economical fashion. To refresh:

1614: The white king commands his owne knight into the third house before his owne bishop.
1750: K. knight to His Bishop's 3d.
1837: K.Kt. to B.third sq.
1848: K.Kt. to B's 3rd.
1859: K. Kt. to B. 3d.
1874: K Kt to B3
1889: KKt-B3
1904: Kt-KB3
1946: N-KB3

Today, most of the chess world has standardized on the even more compact algebraic notation, which would render the above example as "Nf3". There has clearly been a shift away from a more elegant, ornamental prose account of the action to a radically compressed form of information, in which alphanumeric characters describe the essential components of the movement in question. In descriptive notation, action is archived using the rank of the piece in question and its final resting place on the grid, spatially relative to the King or Queen pieces (ie. N-KB3 means "knight moves to the third rank in front of the bishop on the King’s side of the board"). In the even more compact algebraic notation, on the other hand, a move is recorded using the rank of the piece in question and the grid coordinates of the final resting space (ie. Nf3 means "knight moves to the f3 square on the chessboard grid").

This evolution notwithstanding, the goal, two-fold in nature, remains the same: precisely track movements in space and time during a contest and, in doing so, create an archive of those movements. "f3" is strictly a spatial referent and "Nf3" is a movement tracked in space and time, archived with an economy of language to complement the economy of movement that Foucault analyzed so well in other spaces of disciplinary power — factory, school, hospital, barracks, prison.

In the context of gender and power, however, the consequences of this evolution are not trivial.

In Birth of the Chess Queen, Yalom makes a very convincing argument that the queen becomes the most powerful piece on the chessboard due to the rise of queens as essential figures in the courts of medieval Europe. Other historians suggest the rise of long distance battlefield artillery as providing the cultural impetus for such a shift in the game. Likely it's a combination of both factors. As the archiving language of chess compresses over the past four centuries, the way that gender and power referents are written into the archive has changed considerably. Where once there was a King and Queen, now there is only a K or a Q. And the archiving of the King who owns a particular spot on the board — or another piece that is coded in relation to the King — is reduced to simple inscribed alphanumeric grid coordinates.

In other words, while the underlying power structures represented and embedded in the model of chess — particularly the complex gender relations between King and Queen that emerged in the medieval European version of the game — have remained reasonably unchanged during the last 400 years, the language used to archive the game has inexorably been stripped of gender and power referents — data frugality eliminates the possibility for "commands," "owne," and "His."

According to Kittler, since 1880 "literature no longer has been able to write for girls, simply because girls themselves write" (GFT, p. 174). He doesn't mean here that women had written themselves into being, as the French feminist thinker Hélène Cixous wishes, but that in joining the second industrial wave as office stenographers and typists women were thrust into the mechanics of writing as a livelihood. It is no coincidence that the information compression of the chess archive approaches its limit around the same time that the typewriter/woman machine emerges in industrial society. Kittler continues: "The typewriter cannot conjure up anything imaginary, as can cinema; it cannot simulate the real, as can sound recording; it only inverts the gender of writing. In so doing, however, it inverts the material basis of literature" (GFT, p. 183). In the context of our chess discussion, we are left with the question of how to read this inversion of writing and gender and the emerging immateriality of the textual archive as the discrete alphanumerics of the typewriter sublimate into computerized data networks.

Two interpretations suggest themselves. Optimistically, the computer-human symbiosis facilitates (qua Haraway) a form of post-gender relations. While we shouldn't look at these acronyms ahistorically — clearly they have deep, meaningful gender histories — in the contemporary moment we can read in the simple alphanumeric signifier of K or Q an absence of gender. For all intents and purposes, the language of the modern chess archive becomes blind to gender and power referents; objects are visioned, mapped and archived in space and time and with each discrete movement thereafter plotted anew. The gender and power referents that are imbued in the game very early on disappear in the creation, maintenance and modernization of the chess archive. When the computer reads these alphanumeric characters in the archiving and transmission of the game, the simulation of the game, and even the playing of the game against human opponents, it is blind to gender and power as it has no sense of this historical tradition.

On the other hand, what if computers and computer networks are fashioned in a combination of hierarchy and meshwork (cf. DeLanda) that reproduces existing gender/power structures, and the computer disregards gender and power relations as in the first scenario? This ahistoric understanding by the computer is perhaps doubly dangerous in that there is a social mindset created of post-gender normativity despite a structural reality that suggests otherwise.

Trilingual Versus

Brandon Roy comes off a high screen driving to his right into the middle of the court. The Phoenix post defender hedges hard to intercept Roy's path. And, in what is becoming a requisite skill for upper-echelon guards, Roy cuts back to split the double-team and penetrate into the heart of the Phoenix defence. Only in executing the crossover, he puts the ball between his legs from back to front so as to protect the ball and gain the decisive advantage. Breathtaking! Spectacular! Improvisational! And my words don't even come close to doing the move justice.

It dawned on me at that moment that I would really love to watch Brandon Roy play both the hardwood and streetball variants of pickup basketball in the summer. And for that matter (ignoring guys we already know are cool in the pickup game like Allen Iverson and Baron Davis), I would add to this list Nate Robinson, David Lee, Carlos Delfino, Caron Butler, Charlie Villanueva, Deron Williams, Brandon Bass, Juan Carlos Navarro, Tyson Chandler, Luke Walton, Matt Barnes, Ben Gordon, and Louis Williams.

I just have a feeling that each would be amazing to watch, that each would flourish in these games as well, though perhaps in the most unexpectedly cool and creative departures from their usual NBA-style performances. In effect it is saying that the lived environment constrains (body) language's conditions of creative possibility, and that watching these athletes in the other environments of basketball would be like listening to a trilingual poet spit verse.

A Bit

After questioning the potential future corporatization of professional athlete DNA just the other day and likening it to equine insemination and breeding services, I tuned in to the Trail Blazers vs. Suns game last night and heard the Portland announcers refer to Phoenix PF Amare Stoudemire as "a horse." This type of discourse cannot help but permeate a network system:

"Amare Stoudemire" AND horse OR workhorse OR stud OR beast

Even with a few modest filters in that query, a Google search still returns over 43,000 results.

Future Perfect: Tense

In sport sponsorship, there is almost always a contractual obligation between the athlete and sponsor in which the former bears the brand marks of the latter during most, if not all, public appearances or press conferences. To the best of my knowledge, there is no industry standard template regarding image rights, but rather specific provisions are contract dependent.

This had dramatic implications in 1992 when professional athletes were first allowed to compete in the Olympics. Reebok was the clothing sponsor for the entire U.S. Olympic team, which meant that any American athlete who won a medal would wear the official Reebok track suit on the medal podium. But the "Dream Team" of NBA basketball players was creaming everyone in sight and Michael Jordan (among others) let it be known that as a Nike endorser, he wouldn't wear the Reebok uniform on the podium and would instead skip the medal ceremony. For someone whose recognizability at the time rivaled that of the Pope, this was scandal. But eventually a compromise was reached in which the Nike athletes stood alongside their teammates on the medal podium with U.S. flags draped over their shoulders to cover the offending Reebok logo.

Clearly, the hotly-contested athlete image rights are key to the value of immaterial intellectual properties. For the visioning economy to extract this value, the (two-dimensional) surface of the athletic body must continually be photographed, while images of body volumes have assumed increased significance as well. But what about the interiors of athletic bodies and the flows that pass into, through, and out of them? Will they become subject to the vision machine? Though this control of the athlete is already happening to a degree in the context of anti-doping practices, we might wonder if such visioning will ultimately contribute directly to the pancapitalist profit motive?

As mentioned already, the extended skin of the athletic uniform is sponsored; the actual skin may become sponsored as well (tattoos representing gambling or casino web sites?); and professional sports teams have insured various athlete body parts to minimize investment risk. Now I am wondering about a related, but slightly different proposition: What if the intellectual property under consideration was DNA?

The NBA currently runs mandatory workshops for all rookie players in which they learn about various risk factors and occupational hazards, among them the "nefarious" women who use various methods to try and get impregnated during one-night stands in order to sue/extort for palimony at a later date. Now these women are ultimately doing it for the money, but what if instead of getting pregnant they were trying to save the ejaculate for copying or resale? Does the sperm of world-class athletes have immense revenue potential? If a black market grows for this type of service, how long before capital moves in to capture the rents?

Can't you see Nike, in the age of database-powered dating services and recombinant genetics, prospering in the insemination brokering service?

It's happened for years in the horse racing business.

What are the racial implications of the marketing and sale of high performance athlete DNA? ("If you want a white child, you may choose from these athletes; black athletes begin on page 5 of the catalogue. I'm afraid you can't have Michael Jordan's size and jumping ability with white skin — we don't have the technology to blanch DNA at this time.")

From there, what about the vat-grown eyeballs and assorted body organs suggested by Gibson in Neuromancer? What template are they built upon — perhaps snippets of an athlete from the Nike stable (in shades of hooks' "eating the Other")? Can the genetic qualities of Jordan's muscle fibres be synthesized with the antibody capabilities of one's own cells to create a new marketable class of personalized products (cf. CAE)?

Sponsorship just uses the arena or the billboard — or the surface of the athlete — as a vector for sign communication. As such, it is not very interesting in and of itself. A more interesting proposition is to ask what new vectors will transmit the sign, for it is the sign that is the source of power and wealth in the immaterial economy. DNA is one answer and must be examined in any critical futures analysis of the sportocracy.