Sports and Technology – An ever growing relationship

Have you ever thought about how much technology and social media has impacted modern-day sports and athletes? As our society evolves technologically, so do our sports. When you look at technologies being used in sports today, they are nothing short of incredible! The ability for us to see which car wins a race with slow motion cameras, to see if a receiver gets two feet down in football, and even animating the path of a tennis ball with Hawk-Eye technology are just some of the things that have completely revolutionized the way we watch and play the games. When considering all these amazing and fascinating technologies, it is only natural, as humans, to try and make them better! So, is there room for improvement? I’ll talk about any possible future technologies a little later in the post, so keep reading!! Another thing to consider when talking about technology’s effect on sports is social media. The impact an athlete can make with the click of a button, or shall I say, touch of a screen, is mind blowing!!

Since this is my very first blog post ever, I want to kick it off (no pun intended) on a good note and try to make things as neat and organized as I can. I aim to cover the three topics introduced above and not only provide videos to support my arguments, but I will also share one personal experience that left me outraged and still haunts my memory every now and again!! I will cover the topics in the following order:

  1. Current Technologies
  2. Future Technologies
  3. Social Media’s Impact
  4. Final Thoughts

Current Technologies

Many, Many Sports

Video replay is being used in a lot of sports and is arguably one of the best and most effective things that has ever been implemented in my opinion! Camera’s and video replay allows not only real-time replay, but also slow motion replay, freeze frame, zooming into frames, photo finishes, etc. the list goes on and on. Without video replay, I can’t even imagine how many wrong decisions would be made. Take a look at this race finish and tell me how the right decision could be made, with 100% certainty (meaning no assumptions or guesses), without the help of video replay and photo finish… (skip to around 2:40)

Did you hear that? “24 ten thousandths of a second”!! With the speed that these cars are travelling at, I do not care who you are, there is no possible way that anyone could’ve said with certainty who won that race without the help of video replay and photo finish. PERIOD!

Cricket, Tennis, and other sports

Another very interesting technology that is being used in cricket, tennis, and some other sports is called Hawk-Eye. Hawk-Eye is a computer animated ball tracking technology. Hawk-Eye tracts the trajectory of a ball and then animates the ball’s most statistically likely path. This is similar to video replay and is great, taking tennis as an example, when trying to decide whether a ball landed in or out-of-bounds. However, the way they animate it is just so much cooler than simple video replay! Why try explaining its awesomeness when I can show you? Here, watch this:

Okay, so although the video itself seems to be filmed by a potato, Hawk-Eye technology is clearly depicted. There, once again, was no way the right call could’ve been made with certainty without the aid of this technology. The human eye cannot focus on something so close that is travelling so fast. It is simply impossible. Computers and technology make up for human inadequacy!!

Future Technologies

To answer my question posted above, the one regarding whether our current technologies can be improved, the simple answer is ABSOFREAKINLUTELY!!! There is ALWAYS room for improvement, especially when it comes to sports and all of the controversies that come along with it. Let’s look at two sports: 1. Soccer, which embarrassingly has no technology implemented into its game other than a fancy digital board with two colours that indicates player changes; and 2. Football, which has some pretty solid technology right now, but more promising future advancements.

Soccer

How can the most popular sport in the entire world according to many sites, including http://mostpopularsports.net/ , which seems to have dedicated their entire website to sport popularity (which I find kind of hilarious), lack the world’s best technology? Wait, let me correct myself. How can it lack ANY technology?!?!

My long-awaited story begins now: I remember playing in the championship game on my rep soccer team a few years back. We were up against one of the only teams in our league that had beaten us earlier in the season and the pressure was definitely on. Late in the game, my team was up 2-1 and the opposing team got a corner kick. They crossed the ball in and it bounced through everyone towards the far post that our defender was covering. The ball was still a good foot and a half from the net when our defenseman kicked it out of our zone, but the referee called it a goal. We ended up scoring a goal in the 90th minute that sealed us the win, but I have to be honest and say that in that moment, when the ref signalled a goal on us when the ball was clearly nowhere close to being in, I’ve never been so angry in my life. The fact that our chances at the championship, something we worked toward all year, was diminished because of one stupid call… I can’t even put into words how I felt. I knew it wasn’t the referee’s fault though. He simply couldn’t see the ball and assumed it went in. Later on, with my mind still on the incident, I began to ponder why big soccer leagues, where things like this have happened, haven’t integrated any new technologies that would eliminate any possibilities of events like this ever occurring. In this video, Tottenham were robbed of a goal against Manchester United that would’ve won them the game.

Goal line technology or even something as simple as video replay would prevent things like this from happening. So why hasn’t it been done? Well, video replay would slow down the game too much and FIFA claims that mistakes are part of the “human element” of the game, so that seems to be out of the question. However, according to FIFA, goal line technology is on its way and will be implemented as soon as it is perfected!! This is definitely a step in the right direction for “the world’s most popular sport”!! If you would like to read more on FIFA’s approval of this technology, feel free to follow this link: http://www.espn.co.uk/football/sport/story/159034.html

Football

Football, unlike soccer, already has some very amazing technologies in place. Probably the most impressive of their technologies is the down markers. If you’ve ever watched a football game, you know exactly what I’m talking about! You know, it’s the line everyone uses to try to explain the game to someone who doesn’t understand it! “You see that yellow line? They have three attempts to pass it. If they don’t pass it in three tries, then on their fourth attempt they have to kick it to the other team.” I can’t even explain how many times I’ve said that line. Anyway, that technology is great, but only if you’re watching the game at home on TV. I attended my first football game over Christmas break. I went to the New England Patriots last game of the season; where they hosted the Miami Dolphins. The experience was incredible! I got to watch my favourite team “squish the fish” in a 28-0 stomping. Now, although it was great knowing the outcome of plays like 10 seconds ahead of the rest of the world, what I found a little bothersome was the lack of “yellow line” that I’ve become so accustomed to seeing. I often didn’t know whether we got the first down and found myself checking the jumbotron a lot! Luckily, the NFL is looking into implementing a new Laser System that projects a laser across the field that can be seen by players, fans at the game, and on TV at home! It’s a win, win, win! Technology rules! Problem solved! You can read more about it if you wish at the following link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/nfl-first-down-line-yellow-tv-stadiums_n_2538731.html

Social Media’s Impact

All Sports

Social media’s impact is not restricted to just a few select sports, which is probably why its impact is so huge. With the touch of a button, or a screen, anyone can interact with their favourite athletes. From the athlete’s perspective, imagine the power! Think about it, if a famous athlete, with millions of followers, encourages his followers to donate to a certain charity through a tweet, guess what’s going to happen. A hell of a lot of donations. Athletes can use social media to raise awareness, encourage fundraising, or even promote their off field products. It will work! Social media can aid an athlete in advancing their career beyond the playing field. They can increase their popularity, the possibilities are endless! Of course, the stupid ones can doom themselves if they don’t use it properly, but who cares about them anyway? The perfect example of how social media has impacted sports can be shown in one simple interview. Last season, on SUPERBOWL MEDIA DAY, Deion Sanders interviewed Chad Ochocinco and guess what they took the time to talk about? You guessed it, Twitter!! Keep in mind that this interview IS on Superbowl media day, so the entire interview is not just about twitter. If you want to watch the full interview, feel free to do so, it’s actually one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. The way Deion gets to the serious side of Chad is amazing. If you’d rather not watch the full interview, they talk about twitter from 0:00-0:35 and from 3:20-3:50. I highly recommend watching the full interview!

What the analysts say at the beginning of the video and what Chad says during the interview speaks for itself. They know how powerful social media and Twitter can be! I just want to point out that the only reason why I knew about this interview is because I am the biggest Patriots fan in the world and when they were in the Superbowl last year, I did not stop watching NFL Network! Now, of course the Patriots ended up losing the big game… again… to the same team… in the same fashion, you know what never mind, the interview was great, that’s all that matters!!!

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, no matter how much sports evolve with technology, there is no technology great enough to cure pure stupidity as seen by this unbelievable call by the replacement officials this past NFL season, which resulted in a Packers loss. What is even more amazing is the fact that THE CALL STOOD EVEN AFTER VIDEO REPLAY!!!!! This just may be the biggest *facepalm* EVER!!

I end my very first blog with a Captain Picard Facepalm… in response to that terrible, terrible call!

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