Nesting

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.

politics in a time of obsolesced war

NFL Ref Mixed Signal

"So why is the disappearance of the fullback significant, then? The American military-industrial complex is at its core a technological apparatus. As such, we have seen its military superiority derived from its scientific innovation, rather than from any inherent superiority in its trained personnel. This innovation, as integral as it has been to American society, should appear in the model of gridiron football. Put another way, if the football-war metaphor is to hold true, it is because the NFL depends more on fighter jets than on ground infantrymen. The disappearance of the fullback in favour of more passing threats suggests that this is in fact the case." (sportsbabel, Oct. 2003)

-

"There's a reason ESPN's 90-minute SportsCenter that followed Monday Night Football did an astonishing 4.5 rating (the highest SportsCenter rating in 17 years, by the way) . . ." (Bill Simmons, Sept. 2012)

-

"We'll get the real officials back thanks to the gravitational pull of the money bet on U.S. football. Because the most lucrative random numbers generator on Earth, the NFL, needs every game to be played on the square. Even the appearance of a fix could send the planet wobbling into the sun. And given sufficient incompetence, the appearance of a fix was inevitable. That's what happened Monday night in Seattle. This wasn't about integrity or love of the game or player safety or the fans or even the quality of the product on the field. This was about a game so poorly officiated by scabs that sportsbooks were refunding money—because an NFL game looked crooked." (Jeff MacGregor, Sept. 2012)

-

"The farce is that the NFL owners are so isolated that they can’t see that everyone wants the union refs back, even the Governor whose political fortunes are underwritten by right-wing, anti-labor billionaires: Wisconsin's Scott Walker. Yes, that Scott Walker. The same governor who waged war on union teachers and firefighters without care for the social costs, wants his union refs back. Late last night, the Green Bay Packers fan tweeted, 'After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs.' The gall of Scott Walker possesses the power of a tsunami." (Dave Zirin, Sept. 2012)

-

"In the model of contemporary gridiron football, we retrieve the stadium games of Ancient Rome as well as the feudal-political model of chess, albeit both in modified form. While the stadium games of Ancient Rome often were re-creations of land and sea battles significant to the history of the Roman Empire, modern football, by contrast, is entirely in simulation: every play in every game models or describes a battle that has yet to take place — right down to the level of simulated death. The articulation of these battles is extremely accelerated, as if played in fast forward. Though an entire game of chess is based upon just one battle — a mobilization of Church, nobility and serfdom to protect the King — a football game models a battle on every play from scrimmage, with the sum of these battles allowing a team to capture or surrender territory, reach objectives, and eventually win or lose the contest/war sixty minutes later. We'll call it temporal dislocation in the former case (ie. the shift from archive to simulation), and temporal compression in the latter (ie. many discrete battles in one contest)." (sportsbabel, Nov. 2005)

simulation and control

(to be presented at the 2012 north american society for sport sociology conference in new orleans)

Tecmo Bowl

Three Simulations: Deleuzian Control Societies and Topologies of Temporary Enclosure

Sport scholars have for some time recognized the disciplinary apparatuses and techniques that govern modern sport and its athletic bodies (eg. Shogan, Bale, Smith, Markula). In the case of professional and quasi-amateur high performance sport, these enclosed, disciplinary sporting spaces have increasingly been permeated through with a variety of networked information and visualization technologies, both to improve productive efficiency on the field of play as well as to create more spectacular products to be sold on the entertainment markets. In this paper offering a case study of the Super Bowl football game, we explore Deleuze's notion of a "control society" emerging within a "crisis" of the disciplinary enclosure by engaging the concept of "simulation" seen in the works of three other thinkers: Foucault, Baudrillard and Virilio. Enclosure itself is understood as a topological form in the control society, in which regimes of the "visible" and "articulable" serve to govern the folds between outside and in.

Three Simulations

Logistics of Perception

(a dreamyface skin-film extravitanza)

Players and coaching staffs are getting ready for the big football game. With two weeks to prepare for their opponents, each team performs various breakdown drills to hone skill execution, but also diagrams and walks through the playbook of the other team — on both offense and defense. These walk-throughs are then sped up to more closely approximate game conditions: if Team X shows they plan to do this, then we plan to do that. All visual intelligence is gleaned from a central repository of film accumulated and distributed centrally by the league office. Call it Foucauldian simulation: a surveillant, disciplinary regime put into practice as a microphysics of the athletic body and a composition of relatively interchangeable forces called the team.

Coaching staffs are getting ready for the big football game. These are hierarchical regimes, with a head coach at the pinnacle of offensive and defensive coordinators, positional coaches, video assistants, et cetera. Information must flow through this hierarchy to make decisions during the heat of the game that will be relayed via headset to the key offensive and defensive players on the field (usually the quarterback and linebacker), but it does not reside solely in the expertise of the pinnacle figure. Some of this information is gleaned from layered database archives of video, searchable by situation and tendency: if it is third down and short yardage (0-3 yards), Team X runs this play 62% of the time. No longer is the image simply an image, but rather an image+text complex, with metadata blurring any singular punctum into a constellation of queried abstractions. Call it Baudrillardian simulation: a statistical reportage of prior dividuated tactics, put into practice contextually as a feedforward loop that contextually optimizes and (re)produces the newly emerging.

The host television network is getting ready for the big football game. Since this event is the epitome of sporting spectacle, every possible effort must be made to anticipate precisely how the game will unfold, so as to best present a telesthesic experience for those watching the broadcast from home. A high school team is taught the plays of both teams and brought to the super stadium for mock game action (the TV network, too, has done its video homework). Producers are better able to determine camera angles for specific and possible situations: if Team X runs an out pattern to the sideline, cameras 4, 6 and 12 will have it covered. The question here is one of exposure: not only does the TV viewer at home receive the benefit of assuming multiple perspectives of the game (vis-a-vis the spectator at the stadium who only receives one), but the truth of the game proper will almost certainly at some point lie in the instant replay footage provided by the broadcaster. Call it Virilian simulation: an arrangement of the logistics of perception, put into practice as strategies for organizing the visualization of space at accelerated speeds, both for spectacle and as "nonpartisan" justice.

Each helps to understand Deleuzian control societies, particularly within topologies of temporary enclosure.