Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sports questions - Speculation, RISP, and PEDs

What will popular sports look like in the year 2030? (All sports)

Technology is rapidly making new sports possible. 

Will improved cameras and laser gates make races with running starts viable? I would love to know how much faster the 100 metre dash can be without starting from a standstill.

Will drone racing or drone hunting take flight?  Will e-sports continue their growth and penetration into the mainstream?

Will self driving cars start competing in Nascar? Formula One? Rally car racing? Will all of these racing formats survive or maintain their scale in the next 15-20 years?

Demographics are opening new possibilities too. 

Shrinking populations and urbanization are leaving behind many otherwise livable and usable buildings as abandoned. Will terrain-based sports like airsoft and paintball take off with the abundance of good locations? Will GoPro and similar robust and portable camera make such pursuits into spectator sports?

Will we see a shift of focus towards women in sport, following the trend of tennis? Will we see mixed-sex competition in sports where size and muscle mass mean less?

Will extreme sports see a revival, led by Red Bull sponsored events like Crashed Ice and Flugtag?

What sports will decline? 

Will UFC mixed martial-arts continue to eat into the viewing market share of WWE wrestling? Why didn't Texas Hold 'em keep its hold on the public? Could the NHL (and the KHL) mismanage ice hockey into a fringe sport? Can American Football maintain its popularity in the face of growing concern over brain injury? Will American football adapt? Can golf maintain its popularity given its cost?

What about stadiums?

Instead of building stadiums for specific sports, or a limited set of sports, will new sports emerge to fit into already made stadiums? Will existing sports start to use stadiums that were built for other purposes, such as softball in a baseball stadium, or soccer football in an American football stadium?

On RISP, Runners In Scoring Position. (Baseball)

Batters do better (or pitchers do worse) when there are runners in scoring position. Why? Is it just a result of skill auto-correlation, such as a pitcher's tendency to do poorly in streaks of batters, or is it something else? Is it the distraction on the pitcher for having a batter who could steal a base or read signs? Is it the effect of the fielders having to do more than one job at once? 

A more measurable or actionable question: is the RISP advantage greater for certain batters? For example does a player with a reputation for stealing bases give a larger 'RISP bonus'  than another with ordinary base-running. Does the effect add with multiple runners? Does it change with base? Does it change with pickoff attempts? How much of this is balks being drawn?

Similarly, how should pickoff attempts be counted with regards to pitching load? My guess is that they have the effect of about half a pitch in terms of performance in that game and in that plate appearance.

What performance enhancers are 'fair'? (All sports)

A lot of drugs are banned from a lot of sports, but why? My assumption is that it makes the feats of one era comparable to another. We can take Usain Bolt's running records and compare them to the records of Donovan Bailey's in the 90's, and say with little or no argument that Bolt at his peak was faster than Bailey at his. The difference in their 100 metre dash times can isolated to the runners and not the chemical technology of their respective eras.

My assumption comes from the qualifying statements in hockey and baseball about different eras of each sport defined by seemingly minor changes in the equipment or rules of the game. Hitting feats from the 1990s seasons of MLB baseball are qualified with comments about steroid use by superstar hitters. Steroid use was allowed at the time, I presume on the basis that every player had access to the steroids.

Why is chemical technology is seen as unfair and other technology like improved running shoes is fair? Probably the hidden nature of drugs, and the related difficulty in directly regulating the 'equipment' used. It's much simpler to enforce rules about the volume of a golf club face, or the curvature of a hockey stick, rather than an acceptable dosage of steroids.

Things have gotten confusing lately.

Oscar Pistorius, whom had both his legs amputated below the knee as an infant, was until recently a competitive paralypmic sprinter. He used springy blades, described here, to run. He also wanted to compete in general sprinting competition but was barred from general competition as it was found that his prosthetic feet were more efficient for running than baseline human feet. So, even though paralypmic competition was designed to provide viable competition to those with physical disabilities, the technology used to mitigate Pistorius's disability was deemed too effective.

In January 2017, the IOC (International Oympic Committee) released the results of testing they had done on various drugs to test for performance enhancement in, of all things, chess. They found that caffeine, Ritalin, and Adderal all improved performance in double blind tests. So, if chess ever becomes an Olympic sport, should these drugs be banned and tested for? What happens if someone has a prescription for Ritalin, do they have to go without to compete?

Things are about to get a lot more confusing.

CRISPR is a technology that may have the potential to arbitrarily rewrite genetic code. If done to a human embryo to specialize the resulting human into a particular sport, what are the rules to be surrounding that? Generic editing seems like drugs and blood doping in that it's a hidden technology that would be very complicated to regulate other than to ban completely. It would be at least intended to be performance enhancing, and not every competitor would have access to the technology, at least not at first.

But changing the genetics of a person is not adding something foreign to the person, it is changing who that person is. That's who that person will be through their entire life growing up. Should we ban someone from competition for being 'naturally' too good at something as a result of a decision made before that person's birth?

Or, do we separate competitors into 'baseline' and 'enhanced' humans? This is starting to sound way more like a dystopian, racist dog show (with terms like 'best in breed') than the 'faster, higher, stronger' tone I was aiming for. It's something we collectively need to think about though, not just for sport but for all human interaction going forward.

Let's close with this thought on the subject by speedrunner Narcissa Wright: "All the categories are arbitrary".