Sport in the Wires: Abstraction, Integration, Efficiency

Animation - Courtesy of Prozone

Sport in the Wires: Abstraction, Integration, Efficiency

(submitted to "denoting danger, connoting freedom: everyday life in the [post]global network," an edited collection in the digital formations series at peter lang publishing)

Only a short time after the inaugural communiqué of the Morse telegraph between Washington and Baltimore in 1844, baseball scores were being relayed throughout the burgeoning network of cables around the nation. In turn, the code that was used to relay baseball information was used to power large electromagnetic scoreboards in public town squares, gathering large crowds for a nearly real-time experience of a remote sporting event and setting in motion what has become a multi-billion dollar global sports-media industry. But behind the scenes of the burgeoning sports spectacle, the numerical data that was driving the telegraph communication was simultaneously being used to rationalize performance on the field of play, with early efforts towards this end involving the application of scientific management principles towards improving the output of run production.

An amateur statistician named Bill James recognized that the existing metrics for baseball did not accurately measure true production value and he began to develop new metrics of his own, which he self-published to a growing network of like-minded baseball statistics enthusiasts. But it wasn't until years later that Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane read James' work and realized its potential to discover undervalued talent in the highly competitive professional baseball labour market. While Beane's competitors in Major League Baseball were eventually forced to adopt similar analyses within their own organizations, enterprising managers in other sports also began to investigate with econometric techniques to achieve similar competitive advantage. The difference, however, is that these other sports are generally smoother in spatial orientation (cf. Deleuze and Guattari) and more open-ended in task orientation than baseball. To compensate for these differences, imaging technologies have been added to the efforts to rationalize performance.

The most notable example of this new form of performance analysis may be found in soccer, a sport with few goals scored, few native statistics and few striations of the playing surface. In response to the unique demands of this sport — the most popular and lucrative on a global scale — a system called ProZone provides analytics that measure productivity during a match using eight cameras that surround the stadium to capture all player movement from a variety of angles. These multiple feeds are processed by a proprietary software package that triangulates and tracks each athlete as a unique data-object on the pitch, all without the assistance of any sort of motion capture marker on the athlete's body. Once tracked, managers may analyze variables such as work output and pass efficiency. Given the genealogy of econometric analysis described earlier, the remainder of the chapter examines the implications of the ProZone system within the local network of the stadium, the broader networks of sporting spectacle, and how its abstract diagram implicates cognate areas of production and security outside of sport. Theoretical contributions from Baudrillard, Virilio, Deleuze and Guattari, Massumi, Crandall, Critical Art Ensemble and others will inform this chapter.

Analysis - Courtesy of Prozone

Almost a Miracle

"Today, the Olympic flame lit in Olympia has come to the end of its odyssey and will be kindled to adorn the night sky of Beijing" — Liu Qi, Beijing Organizing Committee for the 29th Olympic Games

Sport HotelTime's never still in my mind
Stay where I belong in your view
I'm pushing back deeper lies
Still wait, open to you

You hear things that you can't see
Echoes on and off
Thoughts spinning out of me
Watch the ripples forming

I'm walking on fire …

– Evolution, feat. Jayn Hanna


purposeful … xie xie … w+p