Desperation Moves


In certain modern team sports there are a number of what we may describe as normative, yet legal, "desperation moves" that the team losing a contest may attempt as time begins to run out — provided the deficit is reasonably surmountable. In hockey, for example, the losing team will pull the goaltender in favour of an extra attacking skater; in basketball, a team will foul deliberately in order to force the other team to immediately shoot free throws; in gridiron football, there is the onside kickoff, etc.

Strategically, we might abstract these three examples as follows: in hockey, given the particular status (and equipment) that characterizes the goaltender, the attempt is to create an asymmetry in the number of attacking skaters and put pressure in the opposing zone. In basketball, constrained as it is by a required player symmetry, the attempt is to dilate the temporal parameters of the game, "extending" it by rapidly fouling and hopefully trading off multiple 1-point shots for 2- or 3-point shots at the other end. Gridiron football is also constrained by symmetry, on the one hand, but does not have regular and rapid turnover of possession either, and thus its attempt with the onside kick is to overload a space — or more precisely, to swarm a proximity.

In each case we witness a malleable, plastic quality — stretching, contracting, spasming — that over enough contests will have a statistically significant ability to turn the tide of victory in the timespaces of zero-sum athletic enclosure.



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.

dream warrior


"Don't think of it so much as punishment . . . it's more like re-engineering for behaviour modification."

(Stephen Curry, spokesperson and worker at the spectacular new worker compound in my dream last nite, on the electricity applied during employee reviews for underperformance)

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 . . .

Technically Speaking


A basketball player gets whistled for a technical foul and a free throw is awarded to the other team as a penalty. Almost always outside the normative range of what constitutes a foul in the game — actually making bodily contact with an athlete on the opposing team — the technical is precisely what it says it is: a technicality that has been broken in the juridical structure that is the basketball league proper, most often a behavioural infraction against what is considered good sportsmanship. Some of these juridical prohibitions are universal across leagues, while some are unique to the league itself.

(Usually in the courts of mainstream civil society, it is one who is declared not guilty who gets off on a technicality. Not so in basketball, in which the technicality is always on, always assigned as a penalty against which there is next to no opportunity for recourse or exoneration.)

A basketball player steps up to the line to shoot the free throw. Though it is meant to be an award or restitution for the technicality that has been broken, it is actually quite a difficult shot. This is because the restitution exists somehow outside the normal context of play: the shooter goes to the line alone while the rest of the players must stand and watch out at midcourt, unlike the regular free throw situation in which players from each team line up in staggered formation along both sides of the painted key to rebound the potentially missed shot.

But there is no rebound to be had with the technicality. Again it exists outside of game play, which is to say it exists outside of the game's historical time. And further, it exists outside of its usual relations: while not having the players line up for a rebound is meant to be less distracting for the shooter, their absence is actually quite viscerally felt, a denuding of the multiple body's co-composition that leaves the one shooting very naked and alone.

So on the one hand a player gets whistled for a technicality, but it is paradoxically the one who has been offended (or their agent) who will face the intensity of exposure in exacting a restitution. And the purportedly cybernetic technique of shooting free throws reveals its limits in turn: it is the messiness and chaos of co-present bodies — even if they are competitors — that lubricates this technical machine towards its successful realization.