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The Game of Numbers?

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We have all been there. You'll be in the middle of enjoying a riveting game of (insert your sport of preference), when suddenly the game is halted to discuss a player's performance. Once upon a time, discussing a player's performance in a game involved saying, "he played really aggressive and strong and knew exactly when he should do what when." Now that dialogue involves a lot of numbers, statistics, percentages and solid data and video to back it all up. Why do all these numbers matter, and why go to such great lengths to figure them out?

Way back when there were no numbers except for those, which had already happened such as a result from a race. This was a time before technology and sports had such a blurred line between the two. In this time, things like the type of shoes, clothes, and eating habits didn't matter, you ran and did your best and that was that. Now we have all sorts of technology that tells you your pace, how much you should eat for your body size before a race, lighter shoes, specific clothing, and countless other "things" that do increase your time, but is it still "your" time? What if someone's mile time dropped 30 seconds because the first time they did it with regular shoes, shorts, shirt and had a normal dinner before compared to the second time, which involved all these outside improvements?

Running is not nearly the only sport where this happens. With basketball it's better shoes, baseball better bats and with football, it's better "bulkiness" to prevent getting taken down. Today, every sport has some sort of connection with technology, whether it is through apparel, gameplay or even eating/sleeping habits.

On nearly all basketball courts, there are around six cameras called "SportsView." SportsView cameras follow all players on the court and collect data such as how many times the ball is dribbled, percent accuracy at a shot, foot movements -- anything you can imagine these small cameras pick up. All the information gathered is sent to Northbrook Illinois, where men with advanced degrees in computer science or statistics filter through this information. Then, in real time during said game, they publish the numbers and updated player statistics during the same game. This means that a coach with an iPad can watch how his players are doing on a technical scale during a game and make decisions on what to do for the rest of the game.

What is so strange is that superfans of sports love these numbers. They love watching their favorite player move up a tenth of a percentage point in some category. SportsCenter throws these numbers everywhere because they sound and feel professional. While the fans can't get enough of this minute, and sometimes-menial numbers, some athletes feel bogged down by them. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Shane Battier jokingly said, "Big Brother is watching" when asked about how he felt in terms of all the tech and numbers involving everything he does in the sport, but in a way it's very true.

Some day in the future, laws may have to be made so that a coach won't be able to control every aspect of their athlete's life. In the same interview, Shane also remarked how eventually all athletes will wear chips on their jerseys, which will record speed, the amount of steps and countless other events.

While all this technology and information is daunting to think about, I think it was bound to happen. Ever since humans' brains have gotten larger thanks to evolution, we began enhancing our abilities. It started with using sharp objects to catch prey instead of our bare hands, then fire to cook the prey and even to rid it of bacteria, and innumerable more inventions to better our lives. I believe it is part of our evolution as a species to utilize what we discover and create to better our possible capabilities, whether it be through statistics or clothes.

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