There is an interesting nexus in basketball that exists between the seams of the ball as a particular functional outcome of industrial design and manufacture; the seams of the ball as a particular means to optimize 'grip' or purchase between a player's shooting hand, the ball itself, and the potential for backspin on a shot proper; and the seams of the ball as a visual indicator to determine any change of spin during slow-motion instant replays (and the correlate determination of who may have touched the ball last on an out-of-bounds call). In this sense we may describe a particular and peculiar line taken from symmetry, efficiency and aesthetics to an omniperspectival optic regime and its corresponding apparatus of truth.

Aspects of Curvature


When a sport with pronounced flight trajectories such a basketball is shot for television in 4:3 ratio and then displayed in a stretched 16:9 widescreen format, the paths look very distorted compared to what one is used to seeing in more native televisual or live-viewing contexts. This isn't necessarily true for all curves in the game. Our ability as TV spectators to "adapt" to the "distorted" or "compressed" athletic bodies at play (and their "newly-béziered" contours) is relatively quick and seamless, as is adjusting to the new shape of the three-point arc relative to the rest of the lines which describe the basketball court.

But the flight path of the ball upon being shot — particularly from deeper distances with their longer trajectories — remains stubborn to such perceptual recalibrations by the televiewer. The arc of the shot appears flatter and in turns generates a foreshortening, particularly to the most experienced eyes. The "true" flight of the ball, when seen in the elongated 16:9 widescreen format, continually appears as if it will undershoot the target before ultimately swishing through the net.

Not subject or object, then, but traject and aspect — new relational opportunities for the visually uncanny.


NBA: the ultimate manufactory of plastic.

motorized plastic, flavoured plastic, plastic with hooks, translucent plastic, stacey augmon plastic!!, consistent plastic, synesthetic plastic, narrative plastic, timecoded plastic, erotoplastic, etc.plastic . . .

a new relationship to the law


American Pragmatism


the geometry of the thing couldn't be any more obvious: a rectangle with standardized dimensions and rounded corners; a swath of freshly zambonied ice about half the width of the rink; a puck from dead middle centre ice on a plumb line straight vertical to the goal; a goaltender crouching in the way, also dead centre on this plumb line to victory.

modern sport writ large: sochi olympic men's ice hockey prelims; usa vs. russia; shootout; tj oshie is picked to shoot an unprecedented 6 times and almost single-handedly lifts team usa to the win.

but it's the style of the how which concerns us here, not simply the 4 goals oshie scored (after beating the russian goalie bobrovsky cleanly on all 6 attempts, it should be added). what was so devastating about his approach?

think expressive lines. it begins in the difference from the line oshie takes relative to the plumb vertical, not to mention the more normative lines skated by other players in shootout situations.

the orthodox lines that constitute shootout normativity? think of full-bore speed straight down the plumb line with a little deke at the goalmouth; or one big arc before coming to the strong hand and sniping from the slot; or the dangle that emerges at the end from an otherwise gentle wave of a line; or that crazy mess of a scribbled line when the coach puts in the wrong shooter to win the game — the indecisive line.

(or perhaps putting the brakes on, right before the crease, showering the goldtender in the eyes with a little snowy blindness?)

oshie has taken flight from this expressive normativity in a number of ways. first, the tempo: his opening arc is extremely slow relative to the average shooter, and the pace and shape of the arc somehow suggest a snake charmer conjuring the relational cobra with a tune. second, his use of space: he explores almost the entire width of the freshly flooded ice, even to the point of skating beyond that outer limit a few times (and in the process suffering stumbles to otherwise smooth curves).


because of the first two, slowness and width of arc, there emerges a third: oshie is able to complete a pretty full two turns of generous and seductive curvature in the opening of his approach, relative to what is usually at most only one. as a result he doesn't reveal his handedness too early to bobrovsky (which is to say his contextual handedness — ie. front or back hand — rather than a general handedness — ie. left or right shot).

these turns are of descending amplitude: there is a gravitational pulling-towards the epicentre that is the goal, oshie generating an intensity with the big slow arcs before the lightning and chaotic finish right at the net. it is vortical: his line expresses a tornado that has bobrovsky as its subject and the goal right behind if the displacement is successful enough ("in other words, a figure in which all the points of space are simultaneously occupied according to laws of frequency or of accumulation, distribution" — d+g, atp, p.489). oshie has shortened the phase of the relational tango between he and bobrovsky using an exponential time signature on skates.

(it is noteworthy that oshie's stumbles from going wide on the opening turn didn't necessarily result in a miss; in fact, they seemed to add even more chaos to the approach, allowing oshie a greater disequilibrium with/in which to play at the goal.)


so which one of these lines or attempts constitutes oshie's "ideal form", then?

of course it is the topology itself — the biogram — held within a sort of statistical probability of lines that may be expressed. it is all six of the attempts, and more ("a physics of packs, turbulences, 'catastrophes,' and epidemics corresponding to a geometry of war, of the art of war and its machines" — d+g, atp, p.489). it is oshie's ability to manipulate and intensify experiential time, and then quickly read the relational tango that emerges such to avoid formatted routines. and it is the confidence born of inherited results which ultimately state either a functional yes or no — even if you've beaten the goalie cleanly on six and only scored on four.



Twilight in the Eyeholes, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer

"Weary thought, incapable of maintaining itself on the plane of immanence, can no longer bear the infinite speeds of the third kind that, in the manner of a vortex, measure the concept’s copresence to all its intensive components at once. It falls back on the relative speeds that concern only the succession of movement from one point to another, from one extensive component to an other, from an idea to another, and that measure simple associations without being able to reconstitute any concept."

(Gilles Deleuze, What is Philosophy?, p.214; quoted by Isabelle Stengers)


"Plug in, mecha butterfly kraftwerker!"

(sportsbabel, april 2012)