Technology has become an important part of everyday life, and a sport is no exception. Sports have been an important part of cultures across the world. However, the world has since evolved the advent of sports, leaving sports with no option but to evolve with it.
Furthermore, many games are played at a much faster rate than ever before, with the players running faster, shooting, or at least looking to shoot more accurately and generally making it harder for referees to do their job, at least without some of assistance.
This is where technology comes in. When playing baseball, for instance, stats and analytics are just as important today as the actual gameplay. However, for a certain school of thought, the experience of sport and its essence is in its pure, unadulterated nature. The use and continued introduction of sports messes with that, chipping away at the fundamentals of sports and the required skill set. Is technology making sports better, or is it contributing to its erosion?
Even though progress is admirable, for most people sports fall under the category of things that should not be tampered with. While technology has in some cases been immensely helpful, there are cases of technology resulting in controversial outcomes. For instance, the Polara golf ball is often cited as a case of innovation making sports easier, essentially de-skilling it.
The design of the ball favored the less skilled players, those who had a greater tendency to make mistakes. This ended up being an unfair advantage for them when considering the more skilled players who were already capable of making accurate plays. It was subsequently banned. Another example is the full body suits which captured the imagination of onlookers at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. These suits were shown to improve the performance of the swimmer dramatically, and were one of the factors attributed to the breaking up to tens of records in less than a year at the 2009 World Swimming Championships.
Global swimming bodies later voted to have the full length suits banned. Another recent case is that of the South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who in 2008 wanted to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic games. Whether his prosthetic leg gave him unfair advantage was a matter of furious debate, one which was never solved. Oscar was allowed to run in both events after a long dispute with studies and counter studies, with the final verdict believed to be because of a lack of agreement on the matter.
Technology is supposed to signal the evolution of sports, buts sometimes this evolution does more harm than good, especially when it comes to the idea of a level playing field. The introduction of technology to sports is especially controversial and detrimental when the actual effects are not exactly known.
Unfortunately, things often remain unknown until it is too late. For instance, it took the better part of a decade for swimming authorities to ban the full body swim-suits that were making swimmers much faster. Records that were broken during that time, however, still stand. Such technology moves sports from fun and competition to who can leverage technology to make their situation better. It is no longer about the level playing field that was eating healthy, high fiber food and or for instance exercising using smith machines to improve strength. Technology introduces a whole new dimension that is not necessarily in the spirit of fair competition.
The Relative Positives
Sports technology is not all doom and gloom though. There are areas where technology can be said to have genuinely improved sports and leveled the playing field. One such case is in goal line technology and video replays. With players getting much faster and stakes getting much higher, referees are finding it harder to make accurate calls.
Video technology makes the job slightly easier, as they have a chance to step away from the adrenaline of the match and maybe see dimensions they might not have caught in real time. Even then, video replay technology comes with its issues. The referee retains the right to make calls, meaning there is still some element of subjectivity. Further, there is the issue of disruption and games taking much longer than usual.
Technology is filling a gap in sports, and in hindsight, has always been around. It is only in the last few decades that it has taken on a more prominent role. Each case and sport is different, but sports must not just blindly embrace technology. The fact that it is the future does not necessarily mean it is a good thing, at least not always. Maybe some elements of sports should and must be religiously guarded.