ways of seeing

ways of seeing

NFL / Jan. 3, 2017:

"The National Football League has announced it will honor John Berger during halftime of the AFC wildcard game this Saturday between the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. Berger's pioneering contributions will be remembered with a 2-minute jumbotron tribute and military flyover of Heinz Field."

splitscreen personality




Sport (and its various mediations) perhaps best expresses that "interdimensional" experience of Being-in-the-City within its logic, offering at once in the same "subjectivity" both flâneur (player) and surveillance functions (diagrammatic x's and o's, archival game video).



involution: a phallic object and its envelopment, the relation seemingly turned upon itself; rhythms and waves and particles reconfigured; breath blows the resonant signal that stimulates production.

the only thing that appears to be the same is the prophylactic device.


Chicago Pile-1

We have discussed earlier that the squash court at the University of Chicago offered the site of the first successful critical nuclear reaction in 1942 — thus implying a genealogical link between the material specificity of a sporting space and that required for this most uncertain of laboratory experiments. Chicago Pile-1, the mound of graphite bricks and wooden timbers that constituted the first nuclear reactor, found itself nested neatly within the squash court, the only place on campus with thick enough walls and a sufficiently elevated ceiling to house the experiment.

But it bears keeping in mind that a second architectural nesting takes place, the squash court proper being located underneath the bleachers at Stagg Field football stadium. In other words, the form of the stadium offered the space for a squash court, which thereafter offered space for Enrico Fermi and the Manhattan Project team members.

Put differently, a particular energetic system that is the football game becomes sufficiently popular when "converted" to or "expressed" as a semiosis that there is sufficient demand for larger-scale bleacher seating to be constructed. A new self-contained energetic system emerges in this fold: two bodies orbiting around a tiny rubber part-subject that pings around the concrete bunker, perhaps an allegorical metastability for the rupture that is to come.

Chicago Pile-1

Injection Moulding

injection moulding

We speak often of the relative rigidity of late modern sports, of the hard lines that constitute their disciplinary diagrams and rigorous production of athletic bodies and somewhat statistically-determinate "uncertain" outcomes. We are aware that these lines are in fact legislated as planes and that the sporting space is usually regulated as a volume rather than strictly a spectacular surface.

But it bears remembering that if the stadium is the factory of postmodern sporting production, then it is a certain plasticity which allows one form of assembly to substitute for another on the production line. Put differently, if the NFL is so easily able to transfer production to Wembley Stadium in London, or the FA is likewise able to travel to Washington for production at RFK, it is not only due to a relative congruity or topology between the rectangles that constitute gridiron and association football codes, respectively, but also to certain malleabilities in material and discursive space.

That turfgrass grows sufficiently long for it to be mowed and erase the very "painterly" conditions that govern production in other forms of sporting assembly, for example, is highly relevant to this modularity — an artificial green ecology in the service of a plastic injection moulding called sporting spectacle. And the televisual possibilities of programmed camera angles, intensive lighting, overlay graphics and audio commentary to constitute a coherent and consistent sporting narrative from anywhere in the world only adds to this plastic capability.

Indeed, what is most potentially intractable in this calculation of malleability is the plasticity of the live crowd in attendance at the factory. To what degree can this fleshy thirdness between sporting capital and televisual spectator mediate and suture together the filaments of an experience both synthetically fibrous and viscerally empirical? This is what is at stake in the economic decision to produce or shut down in non-local contexts under the contemporary conditions of plasticity.


(thank you to amy for reminding me about "craptacular" or substandard production under certain plastic conditions. ;)

eye spot the law, and the . . .

nfl instant replay

with the assistance of instant replay, the media announcers of sports spectacle often modulate the rule of the referee (and the Law) — at least in the court of public opinion. which is then also to say in the boardrooms of vectoral capital, where the Law is written. the referee here should be understood as a chimera of policeman (the whistle) and judge (the penalty meted).

this modulation of the rule is three-fold: first, "bad" calls made in real time which the television broadcast instant replay shows to be wrong after the fact; second, the use of video review as a training tool by officials themselves; and finally, the introduction of instant replay during games as a means of adjudicating the Law itself.

concerning this latter use of instant replay in adjudication, it may be initiated in one of three ways: the coach (a complainant), the referee (policeman and judge), or the league (vectoral capitalists whose governance system writes the Law).

the NFL, for example, has a limited number of coach's challenges that use instant replay, as well as certain rules codified by the league in which all instances must be reviewed automatically (eg. touchdowns in the final two minutes). to my knowledge, there are no situations in which the referee has the discretion alone to initiate an instant replay review.

in the NBA, on the other hand, the referee may initiate an instant replay review, though under a discretion limited to certain categories of instances — such as "important" out of bounds calls. there are no coach's challenges, but the league still mandates certain categories in which all instances must be reviewed — such as buzzer-beater shots at the end of any quarter.

the Law constitutes the rules of the game, in other words, but also the rules that govern a league, which are different, though unrelated things. it isn't the rules that are under dispute in any particular ludic case, but rather the plays themselves and their provisional judgements (the differend). it is the play that is being reviewed and the play that has become problematized by television and spectators.

these human policemen and judges are fallible, and sport is a game. its "objectivity" is ambiguous at best, and moreover a product of modernity. instant replay was not brought in at the outset to remedy those "imperceptibles" of human vision and judgement, but is rather a byproduct of television and the subsequent flows of public opinion, nielsen ratings, etc., it produces.