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.)

pulse, relay, switch

high five

The ways in volleyball and basketball that hand touches — high fives, low fives, fist bumps, etc. — maintain an energetic and affective flow throughout an athletic context, during play as well as during stoppages: congratulating, rewarding, acknowledging, affirming, but also dissipating sad passions, situational failures, and the like.

The difference between the two is largely structural: volleyball centralizes and ritualizes the hand touches, with all 6 players on the floor coming together after each point for a group exchange that appears quite indifferent to whether a point was scored or surrendered. In basketball, meanwhile, the hand touches are more distributed through the 5-player system as multiple haptic relays and switches, one player high-fiving another one here, another over there, and yet again; the energy staying on the move, diffuse, leaking into defensive transition opportunities and brief game stoppages as an occurrent "computational art" based on physical proximity, tempo, context, and event.