Comment: Technology is King

Sport Business News

£You can hold your breath but only for so long and then you breathe again,Ø writes Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network.

That is the situation with technology today. It is evolving with the speed of light. Steve Jobs [the co–founder and chief executive officer of Apple Inc] announces a new iPad and then, before the line that has waited for a day or so to purchase one ends, he is on television presenting the next generation with more than that which you just purchased, or were about to. It is a simple agenda for the rest of the world, in our case. . . that of sports. The applicability of technology is changing the face of the planet, the universe, life itself and every aspect of how we live. Young children cannot write a complete sentence with pen and paper but they can text faster than Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt, Jr coming down the speedways last lap towards the chequered flag. They move from one app to the other like a Nolan Ryan fastball. I told some of my grand–daughters that I once had to get up and approach the television set to change the channel and they just laughed thinking I was joking with them. . . Nah, pop, you never had to do that. Youre just kidding, right? What to do but go on to the next topic? If you want to know anything at all today your research consists of the internet. Books? A thing of the past and collector items. Kindles mean that you can now read anywhere. Communications? Need I explain or elaborate? Technology is a tidal wave that reaches the shore, makes a huge deposit of genius, and heads out to sea again. . . actually, to that place where a new version of creation is underway, picks up a few items and then returns again, over and over. We are drowning but we continue to breathe and grow. It is a good drowning. Wet feels great. We speak and lights go on. We sit on planes and avoid total boredom with more games at our disposal than clouds or stars outside out windows. We take it all, and then some, to our favourite sports, to the world we know so well. We convert it to become a Watson of recent IBM fame, able to play and win at Jeopardy with capabilities well beyond that, perhaps to soon call balls and strikes with unerring accuracy. We transport its capabilities to that which we at The Sports Network do, where technology has created advancements that are built upon daily. In our case, we work within parameters that are elasticised on a moments notice, amazingly so, particularly relative to how we acquire, format and distribute our content. In the case of sports, it is an ongoing process removing the foibles and inaccuracies of human error which, contrary to the opinions of some, do not make the sport, any sport, better on the field of play. . . from soccer and rugby to tennis and golf, and on to baseball, basketball, football (NFL) and hockey. Human error is no longer acceptable as part and parcel of the game, any game. Nor is it acceptable within the walls of our office building. Consequently, we carry that thinking to our product. . . i. e. , there is no margin for error. Will that dictum stop it entirely within our organisation? I hope so but realize that to be wishful thinking so we concentrate on minimising it, mostly through perfecting what we do and employing every facet of technology possible, from speed to corrective applications, expansive spell checkers, cross–checking and double checking. Perfection, in as many ways as possible, is a human necessity and the errors of referees, judges, arbiters of any sport do not make it more human€ªthey make it more inaccurate, inconsistent and fraught with frailty. Technology negates that and sport, in my opinion, is much the better for it. Regarding the reporting of sports, as we do in every manner imaginable – with content that is, seemingly, unending, technology allows us to reach anyone, anywhere, at any time, with instant news, scores, statistics, injury and weather reports, game match–ups and summaries, historical data, graphs, audio, video, projections – whether Manchester United has won and the fixtures relating to same, which players the New York Yankees has acquired, what city has won the rights to the Olympics, whether Tiger Woods has again made it to the final pairing and endlessly on. Technology allows us to cater to our clients in fashions they would not believe nor have conceived of a decade ago. For example, the erroneous thought that conversion from a competitive and not as complete a service as our own will take time and expense. Our staff can come in and seamlessly accomplish that transition within weeks, not months; days, not weeks; and hours, not days. It all depends upon what they have, needs to be replaced and/or what we are adding. Yes, we are that good with a track record of having done this a number of times, much to the satisfaction and, frankly, pleasing amazement of our client(s). Technological innovations in sports have had a more than dramatic impact upon athletes and their abilities to compete at much higher levels than ever anticipated. The equipment, training, venues, clothing they wear, techniques, greater knowledge and understanding of their opponents skills or lack of same in defined instances, all lend to victories and record breaking performances. Technology allows athletes to gain more than a step or two as the fans have access to in–depth data sources such as our own allowing them visibility into every aspect of a game. The athletes get better and the fans have enhanced experiences. Nice, very nice. Before officials drop the green flag at the Daytona 500 or Indy 500, before Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon, of Hendrick Motorsports are close to gunning their engines the engineers have crunched more data than the sounds of a class of adolescents on Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran or Corn Flakes. Projections of weather and wind, texture of the track and its effect on the tyres and speed of the car, airflow through the engine, fuel distribution through the carburettor, weight distribution, tire pressure, engine tune–up requirements according to track and weather conditions, checking shocks. All for openers. Problems reported instantaneously and repaired faster than that. IBM attends a tennis match at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York and Maria Sharapova slices a backhand past Serena Williams. The speed of the shot, length of the rally, winning stroke, new score is captured courtside and sent to the huge scoreboard courtesy of IBM. These women, and others, have trained on equipment their predecessors never had available to them, use state of the art racquets honed to their personal preferences and have watched images of themselves over and over to perfect their game while studying others to determine any evident weakness of their opponent(s). The element of human error is counter–productive and an intrusion upon the reality of the moment, the second. The athlete deserves better. The athlete deserves perfection, as he or she has trained to achieve the highest degree of same. Anything less than that is a disservice to him or her. They did not have it in past because it was unavailable to them. We did not have cars so we rode horses. We did not have television so we listened to radios. There were no mobile devices so we waited on lines to use payphones. Life moves on and it is called progress. Hawk–Eye works, a revolutionary technology that shows where the ball hit. Snooker and cricket were the first to jump on this particular bandwagon. Instant replays do not perceptibly slow down any game. And, for the minutes, or seconds that it does, it provides an accurate assessment and decision. It shows the truth and we all have always been taught that truth matters. Am I missing something here? In soccer, problems being eliminated by instant replays are errors regarding goal line conflicts, penalty decisions, off–sides, handball and other crucial decisions. It is a good thing. In golf, the playing pros, and teachers, are embracing technology, physics and biomechanics to achieve the proper swing. Nike has a staff of a dozen people working on Tiger Woods clubs. Using technology golfers can now see what is happening during their set–up, back–swing, impact and when putting. They can visualise body mechanics and improve upon same. Referees, umpires, judges – most of whom have aged beyond years when they can keep up with the games of baseball, basketball, football, hockey – must accept the fact that the games are faster than their reflexes and failing eye–sight. They negate the historical achievement of a no–hitter in Major League Baseball, turn a win into a loss in the NFL, forego more fouls in the NBA than Frank Perdue, allow mayhem in the NHL and cannot tell if the puck made it into the net or not on a close call. Technology can, and will, undress them, perhaps embarrass them in front of the crowd but that comes with the territory and has to be accepted. A legitimate win is more important than hurt feelings or the nakedness of the moment. Athletes, thanks to technology, are better than ever. More records will be broken in an on–going process of shattering them. Equal footing has gone by the wayside, into a time capsule. What was was and what is is. It is a world apart today and growing farther apart all the time. It is a good thing. They train and strive for perfection, as close to it as they can get and a blown call is not acceptable. Better athletes, technologically crafted training and preparation, equipment one step removed from Star Wars and Star Trek, taking the Enterprise where no man has gone before. That is what these athletes are doing and to deny them that because of human bungling and blunders, errors in judgment, is wrong. Technology is the tidal wave referred to and it is incumbent upon us to get out the surfboard that will permit us to ride it again and again without falling or being victimised by anyone that says €ÿIt cant be done. It can and we have already proven that. So, for all those holding their breaths and waiting, stop! Just inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, go with flow, know that what you are taking in, technologically speaking, is fresh air that is changing your lives, your very being and, for the most part, for the better. Discount, if you can, the occasional glitch, burp, cough and inconvenience. They all come with the territory and the territory is getting better all the time. PDF download for MEI readersSports Activated is the latest offing on the internet, an electronic magazine that empowers innovators to share concepts and help create the future of sports technology. The publication asked Mickey Charles, to be the cover story for the inaugural issue and that interview can be found by downloading the PDF below. The publications objective is to pursue the evolution of technology in sport with an exclusive focus on the most creative minds in the world today. About Mickey CharlesMickey Charles is president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US. For further information about The Sports Network, visit: www. sportsnetwork. com. The Sports Network2200 Byberry RdHatboro, PA 19040 Tel: +1 (215) 441–8444 Fax: +1 (215) 441–5767

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