The Narcosis Effect

From The Sports Guy column at

Q: What is your greatest video game achievement ever? Is it the famed 52 at River Highlands? Or have you accomplished an even greater feat? — Jason Giza, Chicopee, Mass.

SG: That 52 is old news. On "Tiger Woods 2002," I shot a 49 on Pebble Beach, playing on the treadmill, no less. A 49! I haven't played the game since. How do you top a 49?

Now I'm eagerly awaiting the release of "Madden 2003." I haven't been this excited for a video game in years. The defending champion Patriots getting some love in the introduction. Tom Brady's first appearance with a rating in the high-80s. The video opening of CMGI Field. Troy Brown and Adam Vinatieri finally getting their proper Video Game Due. The chance to re-enact Super Bowl XXXI over and over again, although it won't be as fun without seeing sullen Rams fans stumbling out the Superdome after the game like they had been quickly replaced by the pods from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Hopefully, they'll even include a feature where Mike Martz makes excuses right after he gets badly outcoached in the biggest game of his career; his video alter-ego could say things like, "We didn't play our game," and "They caught all the breaks," and even "I still feel we're the better team." Then we could electroshock him with the L2 button.

It Gives New Meaning To Artificial Turf…

McLuhan (1964) saw all of man's technologies as media, as forms of communication. He postulated that the introduction of any new technology caused a shift in the sense ratio of a culture, with the effect of altering the very form of that culture, from the way individuals communicated with one another to the very institutions upon which the society existed. He sensed that automobiles, which he referred to as the "mechanical bride," sped up the movement of information (particularly in American society), giving rise to an explosive energy of fragmentation. He notes in Understanding Media:

"The simple and obvious fact about the car is that, more than any horse, it is an extension of man that turns the rider into superman" (p. 197).

This super-powerful burst of energy has had its toll on sport as well. Roads exploded the gymnasium, causing driveways in every suburb to become miniature basketball courts. At electric speed, these courts are beginning to diminish in importance, as we are drawn inexorably by TV, radio and videogame back to Madison Square Garden or Staples Center.

McLuhan points out that obsolete technologies often end up surviving by assuming a different form:

"The horse has lost its role in transportation but has made a strong comeback in entertainment. So with the motorcar. Its future does not belong in the area of transportation" (p. 195).

The same can be said for roads. As the automobile recedes into history, kids are converting city streets into asphault playgrounds, imbuing their sport with a collective style and emotion that is far different from the individualist nature of literate sport.


McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media. New York: New American Library.

Opening a Can…

"Do you know what a metaphysical can of worms this portal is?"

– John Cusack, in Being John Malkovich



[Aside] I have had a burst of creativity all day and night, and then I realize it is the one-year anniversary of sportsBabel … holy karma!!!

I've learned a hell of a lot in the last year, both about sport media and the ecosphere of blogging. I hope next year is as fruitful as this one was…


Thug Life

ESPN's Ralph Wiley writes an excellent piece on Allen Iverson sinking in the downward spiral of "Thug Life" and the sportocracy.

Sport Amputees

Americans, more than any other culture, are stats-hungry when it comes to sport, which is one of the reasons that football (soccer) has never firmly taken hold in its national sporting consciousness. The "Big Four" major professional sports — baseball, basketball, football (gridiron), and hockey — all have the common denominator of producing reams of information, despite few other similarities between them. This abundance of information, coupled with American dominance in the media and entertainment industries, places into serious jeopardy the future of these sports.

We turn to Marshall McLuhan (1964) in Understanding Media:

"By putting our physical bodies inside our extended nervous systems, by means of electric media, we set up a dynamic by which all previous technologies that are mere extensions of hands and feet and teeth and bodily heat-controls — all such extensions of our bodies, including cities — will be translated into information systems" (p. 64).

McLuhan also referred to "extensions" as "amputations" of a particular function; for example, the automobile serving to "amputate" the function of man's legs. In the context of sport, this amputative effect is readily apparent when considering sport videogames. The game console amputates the user's entire musculoskeletal system, allowing him to crack a 475-foot home run, rush for an 80-yard touchdown, or dunk on the opposing centre, within the information system's environment.

Given the symbiotic relationship between sport and media, it is imperative that we explore the effects electric technology will have on sport sooner rather than later. In the same passage, McLuhan continues to say:

"Man must serve his electric technology with the same servo-mechanistic fidelity with which he served … all other extensions of his physical organs. But there is this difference, that previous technologies were partial and fragmentary, and the electric is total and inclusive" (p. 64).


McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media. New York: New American Library.