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.)

Association

longex

Miami Heat

OKC Thunder
Tampa Bay Lightning

Vancouver Whitecaps
New York Islanders
Seattle Storm

Miami Hurricanes

San Jose Earthquakes
Colorado Avalanche

Phoenix Suns
Calgary Flames
Chicago Fire

Desperation Moves

onside

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.

Linear

Linear

 

"On the surface of things, water offers us this paradox: it is at once capable of gently propagating a wavy ripple to near-infinity, and yet it is also surprisingly resilient or responsive to dramatic changes in amplitude. A peculiar elasticity, then, this distributed and complex musicality in which we-swim."

(Jock Cousteaux, Aqua Rara, p.69)

a new relationship to the law

helmethelmethelmet

American Pragmatism

oshie

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).

oshie

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.)

oshie

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.