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Warning, technology crossing

February 21, 2010

To continue along an Olympic – or at least a sports minded theme, I’ve been reflecting lately on the gradual encroachment of new forms of viewing technology in our sports entertainment.

Of course, technological innovation has always gone hand-in-hand with sports – I suspect that the somewhat oxymoronic phrase “sports entertainment” was coined shortly after the first instant replay – by most accounts in the 1950s. By the mid 1960s we had slow motion instant replay and with the advent of digital technologies the race was on. Now I have my daughters asking me if the football players can see the yellow first down line on the field. Perhaps soon they’ll be able to. I read an article about NFL players pausing to watch their own highlights on the stadium Jumbotron (what a great word huh>). Why bother waiting for Sports Center when you can get your adulation in real-time?

As much as the technology factors in I wonder if the net result can’t be to somehow subtract from the magic and wonder of a live sporting event.

These technological aids have gradually become an indispensible part of our sports enjoyment experience. I know more than a few people who eschew live events for the comforts of their living room (or local bar) combined with the ability to enjoy multiple view of virtually every conceivable minutia.

Watching the Olympics provides ample reminder of how sophisticated these technologies have become. Cross Country skiers race virtual lines showing previous competitor’s times… Speed skaters race world records and down hill skiers even race against each other in quasi-real time. Mostly I think this is all good...

Interestingly enough, the Olympic events don’t seem as prone to having the technology become part of the event itself – as instant replay in basketball, baseball and football now factor prominently in event outcomes. I’m sure that’s in the works.

As much as the technology factors in I wonder if the net result can’t be to somehow subtract from the magic and wonder of a live sporting event. When we find ourselves looking up from the actual action to wait to gaze in rapture at the instant replay how long can it be until there’s no longer any need to live in the moment. If we miss it we can always catch it on Sports Center anyway…