Technological Spoil‘sport’ — A Note of Caution
Repercussions of reducing sports to scientific explanations in the screen-and-scream era, we live in.
The greatest scientist of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, said that understanding physics is similar to understanding child’s play. There was probably a pinch of sarcasm in those words, but it’s hard to say now. Even so, one thing is certain: Adult sports or professional sports (as we prefer to call it) is being taken a little too seriously in the world nowadays by adults of greater than average intelligence.
Sports is indeed indisposed in this new era of digitalisation, a condition some future psychologists may diagnose as techno-utopianism. Technology has allowed experts in the business of sport to transform what was once just a common act of play into something bigger and more important than ever before. The result is clear: The sport now fights for its very soul, a factor that made it so enjoyable for both players and fans. As technological advancements progress to the point that they strip away the game’s romanticism and charm and turn it into an experimental endeavour, the sport begins to look less like a super-sport and more like a sub-sport.
As illogical as it may seem, over-interpretation of events on the field is actually the cause of underappreciation. For, any technical explanation robs the process of its intrinsic mystery. When you look into some of the football tweets, a player’s appreciation is generally linked with goals and assists and the terms like “overrated” and “underrated” are used quite frequently without any proper context. e.g. Someone providing a seemingly impossible assist with an apparent defiance of the laws of physics doesn’t often receive the same statistical significance as someone scoring a tap-in from the far side of the post.
The reductionist outlook is fine for science, but it doesn’t always work in the mundane routine of everyday life or in the mock-serious world of sports. I find it rather tedious to explain anything and everything in sport using technology. While one may not expect expert commentators to attain astounding brevity and incisiveness, it might be helpful to keep in mind that, often, the beauty of sport is best left unexplained. When you listen to Martin Tyler screaming “AGUEROOOOOOOOOOO!”, you can feel that his words encapsulate the sheer thrill and the importance of that goal in one gargling cry. Even in the screen-and-scream era, we live in, reducing these things to scientific explanations is nothing short of willful cruelty.
Adding more concerns to the aforementioned techno-utopianism, VAR’s unwelcoming accolade in football has also been quite a significant overindulgence of smart technology. Information has quickly become a part of our everyday lives, and we must learn to analyse the information as a basis for good decision making.
The information might overwhelm us, but only on our terms. There is no such thing as information overload. There is only filter failure.
Clearly, today’s sport requires filters because it does not reach consumers in an unmediated form. It is always welcome for the experts to debunk certain assumptions when the lack of critical information leads to myth-making.
But, always trying to reduce an uncomplicated and beautiful thing to a series of easy-to-understand explanations is nothing but an attempt to convert idiosyncratic qualitative experience into a forced quantitative reality.
Is this necessary for an activity that’s mostly insignificant in the larger context, though it doesn’t seem so when you’re following your favourite team or athlete?
Well, that’s a question we need to ask ourselves for sure.