A drug can be described to be at its purest, its most intoxicating, when it is uncut.

A reversal takes place, however, with television. It is the cut — or more precisely the irruption and synthesis of multiple cuts — that gives television its most narcotic quality.

A Vectoral Way Station

I have mentioned earlier that the sports videogame, constructed from the very real performances of professional athletes, is currently consumed or experienced as a 3-D experience via the 2-D screen, but only because commercially viable 3-D output devices do not exist yet. My conjecture was that such a 3-D output device would go one of two directions: either holograms, in which one (God-like) moves the players around the playing surface, as if moving pieces on a chess board; or virtual reality, in which one actually enters the space of the game via VR optics and haptic technology.

While this will be a welcome innovation for sports games manufactured after the technology has matured (and thus capable of producing data flows compatible with the new format), it does little for leveraging the value of existing libraries of games. The NBA, for example, has thousands of hours of television programming from decades of games in its library, all of which means very little once the consumption experience migrates from 2-D to 3-D. Thus the need to up-convert the legacy footage so as to wrest from it further surplus value.

We recall a passage from Wark: "The storage of information may be as valuable as its transmission, and the archive is a vector through time just as telesthesia is a vector through space. The whole potential of space and time becomes the object of the vectoral class."

With that in mind, ESPN's Bill Simmons offers us this tidbit from the NBA's Technology Summit, held during the recent All-Star Weekend events:

I was brought into a special room, handed some 3D glasses and had to watch a couple minutes of an old Suns-Lakers playoff game in 3D/HDTV. I've never been more freaked out by a sporting event in my life — it was cool, it was insane, it was surreal and, after about two minutes, I thought I was going cross-eyed. I'm extremely intrigued to see what happens if the kinks are worked out for this one.

Old video-image becomes simulated 3-D output. Consider this a potential way station for the vector-through-time on its trajectory between the screen and the space.

The Muscle Car

What is it to be "high performance"? Does it simply mean to be the best in the field of sports? If so, that is curious, as we do not speak of "high performance musicians" or "high performance actors" or "high performance doctors".

No, the language of late modern sport is the language of the machine, and one would talk of high performance in this context as if describing a particularly well-oiled engine, tweaked and tuned to achieve maximum velocity. Citius, altius, fortius is how one might understand it in translation.

In this sense we may consider the "high performance athlete" the siamese inverse of the "muscle car", with the machinic reading of the former intimately connected to the anthropometric reading of the latter.

With that in mind, one can only note the irony after Michael Waltrip's crew chief was fined and suspended at the Daytona 500 NASCAR race for illegally injecting a substance contained in jet fuel into Waltrip's car.

Citius, altius, fortius, copiosus?

Body Treble

In television and film, the stand-in allows the director to adjust lighting and block the performance of a scene (camera angles, etc). The stand-in's performance takes place entirely before actual filming takes place; that is, the stand-in never actually appears on film and is only incidentally integral to the final product.

We might contrast the stand-in with the body double, who actually appears on film, either as a replacement for the star talent in dangerous "stunt" situations, to provide some particular skill that the star actor is missing (such as piano playing), or as a surrogate for situations involving nudity.

The performance of the double is key to the final production, though it is usually performed anonymously. Generic credit is given for double work, but very rarely is there a specific acknowledgment for a particular scene delivered.

Moving to videogames, the situation changes further. Consider this passage from a producer of NBA Live 2007 (emphasis added):

Step 1: Make our players move and play like real NBA players. Make them plant and cut when changing directions. Make them explode with first steps when sprinting out of a stand. Make sure they aren't sliding around on the court when they're running around. Make them aware of their surroundings so that defenders keep an eye on both the ball and their man. Make ball-carriers look around to open teammates. Ensure players watch the ball fly through the air when it is shot. Make sure players play like their real life counterparts. So, Wade should play like Wade. T-Mac should play like T-Mac. Arenas should play like Arenas. Etc.

Part of this plan is to make sure we highlight some player specific animations that we can trigger to show that these players are indeed unique and authentic. This leads into the number one question people keep asking us: "Do you guys have signature jump shots in the game this year? If so, how many?" I'll tackle this first, since it's the hot topic.

Yes we do have signature shots. And, we have a lot of them. McGrady, Yao, Bibby, KG, Dirk, Brand, Tayshaun, Pierce, Vince, Nash, Ginobili, Webber, Ray, Camby and the list goes on and on. I couldn't even count the number of times a programmer has walked by my desk while I was playing with the Suns and laughed at Marion's shot. "He doesn't really shoot like that does he? That's a bug isn't it?" Nope. It's exactly how he shoots. All our shots are pretty bang on.

The process for getting these shots in the game was a pretty fun one. First, we began looking for video reference for all of the shots we wanted this year. We found a number of different angles so that we could see the front, back, and sides of the players when they shoot. Second, we booked a couple days in Mocap with one of our top talent and started shooting. We would start by reviewing and analyzing the videos with him and practice each shot. When he was ready we would start to roll. One person was the passer and would repeatedly fire passes to our talent to shoot the same shot as the player he was trying to emulate. While that's going on, a few of us would be yelling at him to change body posture, jump heights, follow through extensions, etc. Get your elbow in more! Jump higher! Kick that right leg out more! Quicker! Extend that follow through! When we got the shot nailed we'd move onto the next one. Once we were done our animators quickly cut them up and got them into the game. It's made the playing experience a lot more fun, as players not only look different, but feel different. Shooting with Yao is going to feel much slower than shooting with Arenas. You really need to know who you are shooting with when you're pulling up for shots to avoid being blocked. Or, with the shot clock running down get the ball to someone with a quick release to get the shot off. We didn't want to make these shots just visual fluff. There will be a skill component to using them. The more you get to know the shooters the better you will be with them.

. . .

In addition to these shots we've been pretty fortunate to have had the opportunity to bring in some NBA players into Mocap this year. Wade, Melo, Pau and Diaw have all come in and we've captured a number of their shots, dunks, lay-ups and free throw routines. So, when you're playing with these guys when the game comes out, you are actually playing with them. When we are striving towards realism and authenticity we can't get much closer than bringing in the actual players.

So we have anonymous "talent" acting as a body double for the athletes whose constructs appear in the game. The performance of the double is key to the final production of the construct: the points of light recorded in a motion capture session create the "skeleton" of the construct, to which the star athlete's "flesh" is texture-mapped on at a later time (From NBA Live 2004: "The motion-capture data allowed designers to build individual players from the ground up, as single data points morphed into wire-frame figures, which were then shaded and textured to produce amazing player reproductions.").

We still do not have a final performance, however. Though the construct possesses a skeleton (via motion capture), musculature (via programmed algorithms) and flesh (via photos/video/facial scans), it lacks the central nervous system with which it performs. It is the "user" — or the body treble — that brings the construct to life and animates the final performance.

Resample: "The biomechanical disintegrates, but the electrical re-integrates. It is not the original body that becomes re-integrated, however, but a mass social body connected through the prosthetic digital nervous system."

Interactive Waste Disposal

Ever wonder what happened to all of the gear that gets produced for championship games in the North American professional sports leagues? In a story that appeared before the Super Bowl, the New York Times reports what happens in the specific case of the NFL — the unwanted gear is sent to Africa as part of the league's charitable outreach.

"Where these items go, the people don't have electricity or running water," said Jeff Fields, a corporate relations officer for World Vision. "They wouldn't know who won the Super Bowl. They wouldn't even know about football."

If we consider this gesture from the perspective of heat and thermodynamics and caloric energy, a donation of t-shirts as supplemental skins seems very generous indeed. "At least somebody needy will get use out of them, right?" It isn't the shirt or hat that is important, though, but the inscription that each one bears: team, league and sponsor logos, along with the phrase "Super Bowl Champions". It is the vector of information that is of interest to us in this situation.

We must begin to consider this question in the context of what Virilio describes as the "logistics of perception". For Virilio, the military battlefield is first and foremost a site in which flows of images and information must be coordinated and transmitted so that soldiers and factors of materiel may be coordinated in movement thereafter:

[T]he idea of logistics is not only about oil, about ammunitions and supplies but also about images. Troops must be fed with ammunition and so on but also with information, with images, with visual intelligence. Without these elements troops cannot perform their duties properly. This is what is meant by the logistics of perception (Life in the Wires, 2004, p.130).

The logistics of perception assumes a slightly different form when we are discussing the (post-nuclear) battlefield of sports sponsorship. In this case, there is only one company contesting the real battlespace of the stadium (by dint of exclusivity in any sponsorship deal), though the virtual space of the media-net theatre of operations still features several contesting companies.

For the sponsoring company to maximize its sponsorship investment, it must first maximize its radiated exposure in the live televisual transmission and subsequent archived representations. This means that getting sponsored merchandise — such as Super Bowl Champion caps and t-shirts — into the appropriate positions is of paramount importance. Sight lines replace firing lines in the sportocratic logistics of perception.

Distribution is a science. Twelve employees from Reebok and the N.F.L. huddle midway through the fourth quarter and handicap the game. If the score is lopsided, they stalk the sideline of the winning team, keeping the boxes out of sight.

But if the game is close, half the group goes to one side and half goes to the other. Each employee is assigned a star player to outfit. If the Colts win, for instance, someone immediately has to get a shirt and cap to quarterback Peyton Manning. If the Bears win, someone has to find linebacker Brian Urlacher.

This can be a difficult job, dodging joyous 300-pound linemen. But the advertising potential is priceless. Once the scoreboard clock hits 00:00, clothing manufacturers around the country start churning out championship merchandise. If Manning is seen wearing a T-shirt Sunday night, it will be flying off shelves in Indianapolis by Monday.

But simply being in position is not quick enough to satisfy the temporal demands of the media-net, since we are unable to instantly produce clothing on-demand for the winning team. Thus, the requirement to produce two sets of championship gear. In other words, the sportocratic logistics of perception demand an overproduction of images to meet the temporal requirements of the media-net. And due to the architectural form of the sportocracy (binary, hierarchical, arborescent), this overproduction is precisely double what is otherwise required in the end. Production thus bifurcates into oppositional signs that precisely cancel out one another — a Colts championship t-shirt possesses a positive semiotic energy for the sponsoring company that is only equaled by the negative energy that could potentially return in a sort of boomerang effect from a wayward Bears t-shirt.

So we come full circle to the question of what to do with the surfeit of clothing that accumulates after a winner and a loser have been decided in the big game. It cannot be solely a matter of clothing the disadvantaged, since there must certainly be those existing in local contexts who similarly require a gift of clothing and warmth. As the article points out, "by order of the National Football League, those items are never to appear on television or on eBay. They are never even to be seen on American soil." The negative energy cannot be allowed to return.

Thus, the need for disposal. Once the positive semiotic energy of the winning jerseys and caps has been released, the losing jerseys are cast away like so much radioactive waste. Instead of burying it underground or ejecting it to outer space, however, the NFL ships it off to pollute Africa with its interactivity ("interactivity is the equivalent of radioactivity"–Virilio) while claiming a tax writeoff in the process.

Tony DungyFor RBKNFLCBS the operation was flawlessly executed, as the last shot before the first commercial after the game ended featured a slow motion replay of Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy being carried triumphantly onto the field by his players. Dungy was in the process of changing from his Colts ballcap to his official Super Bowl Champions cap, and turning his head ever so slightly, as if in collusion, threw the Reebok logo into perfect relief for a brief moment before the fade to black.

Score and Indeterminacy in Pickup Hoops


[Aside] I have played pickup basketball for over 25 years, and the one thing that is almost universal about the pickup experience is the indeterminacy of the actual score as it is passed by word-of-mouth and memory from player to player. Somehow the game manages to exist just fine anyways…