Volumetric Boundaries

baseball power

Baseball's anachronism is that it still favours power over speed (borne out as an optimization strategy in quantitative 'sabermetric' analysis); whereas basketball, football, hockey in particular — while once celebrating power in greater proportion — have all reversed the equation today to favour speed over power; meanwhile volleyball and tennis stand perhaps as the best examples in which the development of speed and power have maintained a relatively stable balance.

One imagines in baseball this is due to the relatively discrete separation of offensive and defensive bodies during play on a baseball field, which stands in stark contrast to the immediate intermingling of bodies that occurs in basketball, football, and hockey (after the brief formalist separation of bodies that indicates an address to one's opponent in advance of the agonistic event — ie. the jump ball, snap, or faceoff).

But don't volleyball and tennis have an even more discrete separation of bodies, given the net that separates both teams? True.

Baseball tilts the equation in favour of power because the ball is not required to stay in the park in order to score: the possibility of the home run encourages the balance of skill to tilt heavily in the direction of power.

volleyball power

Volleyball and tennis do not necessarily require the ball to stay in the court, either, so long as the ball hits the ground on the opponent's side before exiting the space of play. Not over a wall with no possibility for defensive intervention, as with baseball, but spiked to a floor with all of the defense waiting for your very stroke, power and speed required to score the point.

(This leads to the question of speed and power in cricket, for example, which also does not require the ball to stay in the park during play but permits batting in a 360-degree direction, as opposed to baseball's 90-degree home run; etcetcetc for other sports.)

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.

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