Racewalking And Robot Umpires: What Makes A Sport A Sport?

As someone who watches sports a fair amount– enough to get sucked into esoteric basketball conversations about “greatest” none top five draft picks at parties (answer: Kobe Bryant) but not enough that I’ve ever felt sad about a team’s loss for more than about ten minutes– I have been incredulous at the errors of officials more times than I can count. Plays right in front of their faces misassessed, and then we spectators are forced to endlessly review their failures in the replays. In fact, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul have devoted large parts of their total life’s work in basketball to creating less and less plausible scenarios where they will feint or dive or flail in order to get a referee to blow their whistle. As I’ve said to my TV so many times, its ridiculous.

Pablo Torre frequently predicts the the coming rise of robot umpires in professional baseball. These machines, hopefully still dressed as human umpires but with wheels for feet, would never miss calls and would add the precision of the touch pads in Olympic swimming or the finish line cameras in sprinting. The would remove the element of human error from the management of baseball games and eliminate the need for me to shoot up off my couch, disgusted with an errant call. While most of the time I think I agree with Torre, take a moment to watch this Minute Physics video on race walking. It probably will not change your mind on the situation, but (as the corporate automatons say) it may add some color to your point of view.

[Read more…]

A Guide To American Football

Here in Washington, DC, it is currently 16 degrees. The Midwest and the Atlantic coast have been dealing with really spectacularly cold weather over the past month or so, after the polar vortex was followed by the bombogenesis followed by whatever the silly name is for how painfully cold it is today. I mention all of this weather nonsense not because I’m workshopping my old timey farmer one man show at the improv theater later this week, but because the Super Bowl is going to be played NORTH of Washington, in the open-to-the-elements New Meadowlands (or as Nate Jackson would correctly note: [insert corporate logo]) Stadium, in East Rutherford, NJ. It is 18 degrees up in New Jersey right now.

I’m sure the weather will continue to be an interesting storyline leading up to the Super Bowl, but rather than going further down the rabbit hole of hyperventilating sports minutia I wanted to instead direct attention to this fantastic video by British animator Fraser Davidson. Its a three minute overview of “American football” and I guarantee it’ll make you more excited for the Super Bowl than any 10,000 word Bill Barnwell statstanza (statistics + bonanza = statstanza) could. Stay warm!

If your interest was piqued by the mention that one team in the NFL is named for an “antiquated racial slur,” check out our deep dive article into the Redskins’ name controversy.

[Read more…]

Retired Numbers In The NBA Data Set

As part of the research for our article on retired numbers in the NBA, I created a Google doc of all retired numbers from all teams to sort the information, and I ended up thinking it was interesting in and of itself. So check out your favorite team’s honorees*.

*Unless your favorite team is Memphis, Toronto, Charlotte, or the poor Clippers.

About the Author: Gus Caravalho is the editor of ALTTAB Radio, a blog and podcast about sports and other things. Go Lakers/Chargers/Tar Heels. Boo dook/olives/Mario Chalmers. Get more from Gus on ALTTAB Radio and Google+.

ALTTAB Radio’s Top Five Fun Facts About NBA Retired Numbers

On January 26, 2014, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett returned to the Garden in Boston for the first time since leaving the Celtics in the July 2013 trade that sent them (and Jason Terry) to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries’ expiring contract, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, and first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018. In the intervening time since the trade, both teams have been bad, at points almost unwatchable. Look at Boston coach Brad Stevens’ face in this screen grab from the Pierce / Garnett homecoming game.


That score! Blegh. But before getting to the game (or maybe putting off having to play it), the Celtics showed video tributes to both Pierce and Garnett on the jumbotron to continuous standing ovation from the crowd. (Pierce’s included that song from The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty—the one that goes “ah ah ah ah ahhhhh oh ohhhhhh”—which apparently makes me tear up immediately now.) Both videos included cuts to the rafters showing Boston’s retired jersey numbers, where two blank spaces were awaiting numbers 34 and 5. It was great.

But that got us talking here in the ALTTAB Dome. Obviously Pierce’s number will be retired by the Celtics—but Garnett? He only played there for five years. Look at his Basketball Reference page. Sure he won his title Boston, but he’s the best Minnesota Timberwolf ever and he was there for 12 years! Do they even have any retired jerseys? Stephon Marbury? Why would the Celtics take him away from Minnesota? Can two teams retire a player’s jersey?

On looking into it, I found that retired jerseys are way more interesting and complex than I anticipated. So here we go, ALTTAB Radio’s Top Five Fun Facts About NBA Retired Numbers.

[Read more…]