Comment: Man versus Machine

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Back in March of 2011 I crafted a feature for MEI that stated £Technology is KingØ which did not take any of the lustre off the tried and true, accepted and acknowledged, fact of life that £Content is KingØ, writes Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US.

But the reference, at that time, was to the impact of technology on all that we do€ªmorning, noon, and night; awake or sleeping; working or resting; thinking and actively contributing to the world around us or becoming sadly sedentary. Learn to swim in the tidal wave of technology that is drowning many are driven beneath the tidal wave of it all and find yourself thrashing about before you are dragged under gasping for a nearby techie to pull you towards the surface where you can breathe again. But, now, we have a new conundrum, the reluctance of the powers that be sitting on their thrones on the top of Mt. Olympus, sports version, dictating what will, or will not, be regardless of the realities that confront them, that are blatantly regulating the rotation of the planet these days and for the foreseeable future. Instead of accepting that which will enhance sports for both the player and the fan experience they are reluctant to let go of yesteryear and cling to their horse and carriage version of regulation and pleasure, of truth and fact versus mounting human error and frailties. There is an obvious inability of the arbiters of every sport€ªjudges, referees, umpires, et al€ªto maintain the pace. They simply cannot do it. Look at it this way€ªNike has at least 12 computer knowledgeable technicians that also happen to play golf working on improvements for the clubs that Tiger Woods uses. And, they do not have wooden shafts!!!That exercise in golfdoms version of rocket science and going to the moon is mirrored by Callaway, Cleveland, Cobra, Maxfli, Wilson, Ping, Taylor Made, Titleist, Tommy Armour, Wilson and a host of others for those whom they endorse€ªor, conversely, endorse them. Technology, physics and biomechanics to achieve ones proper swing. See what is happening during set–up, back–swing, impact and putting. Visualising ideal body mechanics is so easy now and progress never more at hand. The physical laws of motion for golf are not different than those for throwing a softball, javelin, hitting a baseball, serving a tennis ball or taking a slap–shot in hockey, All of the equipment for the professionals utilising them, from race cars rounding the tracks at 220+ miles per hour, to baseball bats and gloves€ªballs that go further than ever before, football and hockey equipment, basketball, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, track and field, swimming and€ªwell, you know that it is unending. The bottom line is that athletes can do more and more today than those that came before them in decades past because they train on better equipment, have superior regimens dictated by what computers have found, have even better equipment to wear or use and the ability to watch countless hours of computer generated programs that leave nothing to chance. What did your competition do at such and such a moment, what was his or her reaction, can they run all races the same, hit every pitch thrown to them, catch every football, run only in one direction or the other, show certain flaws in their performance that you would never have otherwise known without the technology to put it on display? Those instantaneous photos on the sidelines of a NFL game preparing you and your team–mates to take the field again and overcome the flaws or advantage those of the competition. Determining whether there was an appropriate call at a tennis championship at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows, Paris, Melbourne; was it a touchdown in a NFL game; safe or out at second or first; was his foot on line for a three point shot; did the puck enter the net; who touched the wall in the pool first; the photo finish that determines the winner of the Kentucky Derby? Technology can tell you all and bring absolute truth to the game(s) you love so much, to verify what your own eyes have seen. The NFL, in its not so Solomon–like desire to be dragged along but, yet, to seize upon and clutch yesteryear, allowed for instant replay€ªhowever limited that use can be during a game€ªand the hedge phrase that there must be incontrovertible visual evidence to overturn the call on the field but still leave it up the referees to determine whether there was, or was not, that diaphanous piece of incontrovertible evidence which they took from the courts of law and just adjusted a bit€ªi. e. , must be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. No one was going to take over their game despite all the evidence and common sense demanding same. Technology would be used under their rules. They just love being king. Too many reviews and replays will extend the game beyond a reasonable period of time. Really!? !? !? The current stipulated time for a replay review is 60 seconds. Be still my beating heart. Some take that time, some even faster but the operative word is some. But, even if it takes a few moments and brings us truth isnt that result worth it, in any sport, given what is at stake and the effort that has gone into the competition by the athletes? Of course it is. Shorten the time between quarters, halves, periods, consider time–outs, injuries, arguments on the field between coaches and referees, general dawdling and a host of other situations that take up excessive time, including the over–abundance of commercials that pay for all that is going on during the game(s). Surely, truth and accuracy must come first. Human error is a thing of the past and must be treated as such. It does not make the game more natural, it ruins it. The employment of technology must enhance live sports events and nothing less is acceptable, not even from the distorted mentalities of those on Mt. Olympus that fight every effort to wrest control from them , control that is misplaced. They are supposed to improve the game(s), the contests, to recognise the efforts of those competing, what they have done to get to a point that can be destroyed by an errant decision from an arbiter that should have retired 10 years ago before his eyes began to fail and his feet no longer allowed him to keep pace with the athletes. Guessing is unacceptable!!!Egos must be set aside in the face of reality. That is why technology has been employed to bring state–of–the–art scoreboards to the arenas, giant screen TVs that can be seen from Mars, punctilious seating arrangements dictated by technology, enhancement of fields of play€ªfrom auto racing tracks to indoor arenas for everything from football to basketball€ªice skating to gymnastics. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Nothing has more truth than that statement for the multiple worlds of sports that stretch from one nation to the other, one sport to the other. Those that dictate the rules of cricket, for example, still think that the US is group of colonies under the rule of the British Empire. There are lessons to be learned from the broadcast community with the attention that they pay, technologically speaking, to production, graphics, audio, anything at all to improve upon the viewers or listeners experience of watching, listening to, the event. It is connection€ªfan to event. The decision–makers say they are connected but are they really€ªto anything beyond the bank account and their own fears of losing control? The inventive are harvesting and harnessing€ªlatest developments in digital TV, computer graphics, animation, video, user interfaces, merging live action with easy to see data and statistics€ªand more. Watching the event does not only have to be compelling, it must be an experience that is real, factual, down to the last detail. Bloomberg Sports in the US has already gone where no man has gone before for Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Yes, details that only players may want right now, with some of fan interest, but proof of what can be done to take sports to the next level and leave the past in old videos, as the basis for documentaries and memories. If the concentration is on the fan experience then it certainly seems it should be an experience that is not flawed from the field. DirecTV in the States has taken the viewing of the NFL to a new dimension but to what end if the product is not completely accurate? That means precise details in scoring, passing, rushing, tackling for the NFL€ªall based upon errorless efforts by the referees. A fair game and the right of the team, the fan, the broadcaster to have a contest devoid of incorrect decisions (like taking a no–hitter away from a pitcher with an obvious bad call last season!!!) is settled by technology that does away with all the squabbles and questions. Technology is here to stay. Accept it!!In Europe, for their sport €" soccer, instant replays can be used to decide about goal line conflicts, penalty decisions, off–sides, handball and other crucial decisions. Hawk–Eye has to be used, as it is in tennis, for cricket and soccer. Simple and no argument about it. Clothing, equipment, facilities at the event(s), broadcasting, physical fitness and truth€ªaccuracy, preparation, all determinants to bring us the best there is without debate or doling it out an inch at a time instead of the full yard. That is what technology can do for us to enhance the sporting event from every aspect imaginable. To deter or delay it, to avoid embracing it while clutching yesteryear is a disservice to all and reflective of a mentality that is constricted and absent imagination or truth. Try this€ª T E C H N O L O G Y. F A N S A T I S F A C T I O N. R E A L I T Y. The future of yesterday is today and must be embraced because tomorrow is waiting. 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) 441–5767The views expressed in this article and throughout the MEI site are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Major Events International.

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