I am going to stray off the normal path of these rants today. I have run across some reports which are tangential to the sports world or which involve sports that I do not comment on regularly here. Let me start with European professional golf. The Euro Tour is an established professional golf tour in Europe and according to reports, they will experiment with a rule imposition in the Austrian Open this year.
- The Euro Tour will use a shot clock in the Austrian Open this year.
Here is the deal:
- Players will have 40 seconds to get off their shot. The report I read was not clear on what constitutes the beginning of the countdown, but once it starts a player needs to execute the shot within 40 seconds.
- The first failure to get a shot off in the required time will get the player a “yellow card”. [Aside: This is Europe after all where soccer is king. There should be no surprise to see a “soccer-influence” on the penalties here.]
- For each subsequent violation of the shot clock, a player will be given a penalty stroke.
I think that this sort of rule would be a boon to golf on TV. I am not a consumer of golf on TV except for the weekends of the major tournaments; so, I am not the target demographic for people at the PGA who want to increase TV audiences. However, what will get me to change the channel quickly is to watch a professional golfer take 3 minutes to study and line up a putt. That is not good TV and that is not critically important to a professional golfer.
As with just about any rule change, most of the current pros will probably not like it; I get that. However, if it gooses TV ratings even 5%, that means increased ad revenues for the networks and that means more prize money for tournaments down the line. Yes, that is trickle-down economics; but in this case, it works. You can read more about this concept here.
Another interesting development tangential to the sports world is a report that Nike has received “a swath of patents” related to a new self-lacing sneaker that will sell for $700. Lest you think I only imagined something so out of the ordinary, here is a link to a report on the subject.
These are going to be high-tech shoes. They will have sensors in the soles that will keep the shoe attached to the foot with the same pressure as the wearer does different things with his feet. Nike says this new shoe – currently called the Hyperadapt 2.0 – will be used in NBA games and that would indicate to me that Nike has already set in motion plans with some of its NBA player-partners to sport these shoes in live competition.
According to the report linked above, this new shoe represents the first “high-tech” adaptation to the shoe industry since “light-up shoes” about 25 years ago. Fortunately, there is no mention of marrying “light up shoes” with “self-lacing shoes”. I recall when light up shoes first hit the market and I was officiating a basketball game where two of the players were wearing them. Talk about distracting…
There was a time about 2 years ago when stories about the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar were front and center on a regular basis. In more recent times, that subject has been quiescent other than a few stories recently alleging that Qatar has been using North Korean workers to build some of the needed venues and that those wages actually go to pay for parts of the North Korean nuclear development program. I do not know if that is the case; I would hope it was not the case; it would surprise me to learn that it is indeed the case.
Now, there is a hint that perhaps the 2022 FIFA World Cup will not take place in Qatar after all. We know for sure that there were “irregularities” in the bidding process that awarded the tournament to Qatar in the first place. We also know for sure that the summer weather in Qatar is not conducive to playing championship level soccer; the average high temperature in Qatar from the beginning of May until late in September is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher – – and it tends to be humid then too. FIFA may need to stage the World Cup tournament in the winter months and many of the powerful leagues and associations around the world are not thrilled with that idea. Notwithstanding those “irregularities” or the “climatological realities”, FIFA has pressed on with the idea that the 2022 World Cup Tournament will take place as announced. Until now …?
The BBC obtained a copy of a report prepared by an international management consulting firm which concluded that the 2022 World Cup tournament in Qatar is a “high-risk project”. Let’s count some of the ways – over, above and beyond the health risks imposed on players and fans by the heat of the day:
- Qatar is currently embroiled in diplomatic squabbles with some – but not all – of its neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula plus Egypt.
- The current cost estimate for presenting the tournament is in the neighborhood of $200B. We are still 5 years away from the start of the tournament and none of these sorts of projects ever come in “under the estimate”.
- The FIFA President – the guy who took over after the “Qatar bidding irregularities” led to investigations that led to a housecleaning at the top of FIFA – has said that Qatar is in a “diplomatic crisis” but that FIFA is not considering any change of venue.
For the record, FIFA has moved a World Cup Tournament in the past. In 1986, the World Cup was to take place in Colombia but economic factors and some ongoing drug wars in the country suggested that a change of venue would make sense. Those games were played in Mexico that year; there is precedent here.
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the emergence of professional tag as a competitive sport in Europe:
“There is a new competitive sport: Tag. The good news is it shouldn’t take long to explain the rules.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………