What You Need to Know about the Future (Part IX)
If you’re like me and have spent 3+ innings waiting in line at Shake Shack only to miss valuable time with your kids at an Astros game, ordering food directly to your seat is a no-brainer. Enter startups like Seat Serve, Seatz, and FanFood. These apps, operating in select facilities, bring food, drinks, and even merchandise to your seat with the same ease you would get using Uber Eats or DoorDash. While certain regulatory hurdles (minors ordering alcohol) and logistical challenges (navigating through crowded concourses, aisles, and seats while keeping food fresh) exist, these are low barriers for startups to take off and take the in-game experience to the next level. Now if they could only deliver a bathroom.
It’s clear at this point that football, by the very nature of the sport, is causing irreparable physical and mental harm to some players through brain trauma. While positions are strong for both sides of the debate on player safety vs. “softening” of the sport, we can all agree that a better helmet and headgear should be mandatory for players of all ages. Enter companies like FITGuard, which developed a mouthguard that “visually displays the amount of force incurred through the illumination of LED on the front” of the helmet. This can lead to real-time analysis of the collision and spot leading indicators of concussion symptoms. Couple that with the use of magnets in helmets to repel force from helmet-to-helmet contact. This could spell great news for the players, their families, and fans of the sport.
I recently saw Lance Armstrong speak and he made the analogy of not doping in cycling was akin to bringing a knife to a gunfight. What ultimately led to his downfall wasn’t lab error but, in fact, human error. Secrets couldn’t be contained forever. What’s next in the realm of cheating? Rewriting athletes’ genes. With the potential to alter sports, fair competition, and record books, the fear of “genetic doping” is forcing some officials to recommend Olympic athletes submit copies of their genetic code. This raises numerous ethical concerns and questions the very nature of our oldest sporting traditions. While fans once cheered on Roger Bannister’s completion of a 4-minute mile, fans of the future may turn their backs on entire sports themselves as athletes cross one boundary too far in the pursuit of excellence.
Beetroot and Coffee: Football’s Nutritional Sports Science (Bleacher Report)
Across the pond and to the global version of football, Bleacher Report examines the role nutrition plays in performance on the pitch and beyond. They evaluate which optimal levels of fat, carbohydrates, and in some cases, alcohol, have played on fitness levels. While no one is suggesting that the 70’s era pre-game ritual of Budweiser and a pack of smokes is conducive to athletic prowess, the sheer caloric requirements during professional competition mean that sports science is moving beyond the simple carbohydrate-loading meals of the past. Understanding the length and type of exercise an athlete will be doing can help team nutritionists optimize performance. Regardless of the type of calorie intake needed for the task, high-calorie diets are still key to success on the field. And these diets are set in motion not merely the night before the competition, but months before during practice, weeks before during meals, and the days before during preparing. As much as soccer clubs want their players to follow these designed dietary protocols, documentation and education will be important to change player behavior while off the field. It’s already hard to get people to change their habits, but it’s easier to show them the why behind it.
The Houston Astros and the Transformative Power of Analytics (The Wall Street Journal)
While the science and practice behind advanced analytics, sabermetrics, and data consumption are relatively new in sports, baseball has been a pioneer of statistical analysis since its founding 150 years ago. (As a kid, I used to fill notebooks with box scores from my Nintendo baseball games and fell in love with the numbers at an early age.) At odds with this approach is the gut instinct of traditional scouting that relies on intuition, experience, and understanding the basic game fundamentals and of what it takes to compete at an elite level. Led by Jeff Luhnow, the Astros are one of the best examples of a modern professional sports team combining data with instinct and formulating a player evaluation process to field a championship ball club. It’s an arms race to outwit the competition, so the future of optimizing player distribution and play is a resource allocation problem that will confront what’s humanly possible. More and more we see human judgment being outsmarted by these deep analytical methodologies. I just hope that one day we don’t simply play baseball as a statistical model on a server somewhere because all sports still need little kids filling in notebooks and falling in love with sports.