Archive for the 'Sports' Category

No Stork Involved

How are baseballs made?

Building a Better Soccer Ball

Better in terms of durability.

Joy That Lasts, on the Poorest of Playgrounds

The children, he learned, used trash because the balls donated by relief agencies and sporting goods companies quickly ripped or deflated on the rocky dirt that doubled as soccer fields. Kicking a ball around provided such joy in otherwise stressful and trying conditions that the children would play with practically anything that approximated a ball.

“The only thing that sustained these kids is play,” said Mr. Jahnigen of Berkeley, Calif. “Yet the millions of balls that are donated go flat within 24 hours.”

The solution was a foam similar to what is used in Crocs.

[H]e happened to be having breakfast with Sting, a friend from his days in the music business. Mr. Jahnigen told him how soccer helped the children in Darfur cope with their troubles and his efforts to find an indestructible ball. Sting urged Mr. Jahnigen to drop everything and make the ball. Mr. Jahnigen said that developing the ball might cost as much as $300,000. Sting said he would pay for it. An interesting logistical issue is also brought up: the balls are more difficult to ship than traditional balls, because they can’t be deflated (the reverse of a certain balloon issue I’ve run into) If you are so inclined, you can go to the website and buy a ball for about$40, in which case one will also be donated, or you can donate one for \$25.

Them’s the Breaks

Dynamics and fracture of Hunter Pence’s bat

If you didn’t see this Monday night, you probably saw a link to it later. It was the bottom of the third with the bases loaded for the Giants. Hunter Pence hit a broken-bat single through the infield that scored two earned runs and one unearned run on a misplay in the outfield. Giants went on to score two more runs in the inning and pretty much buried the Cardinals in the final game of their series.

What was remarkable about the hit was how Pence’s bat behaved.

One thing the author doesn’t analyze, but is important to the outcome, is how the multiple contacts imparted spin to the ball, which you can see in the breakdown — the first contact has the ball coming out with only a little rotation, but it increases with each contact. The result was a trajectory that curved away from the shortstop, who initially had leaned toward third base, only to have the ball go up the middle.

All of this is moot, though. Technically it was a dead ball, because you can only legally strike the ball once with the bat. The batter should have been called out, according to (my reading of) rule 6.05(h) But I’ll give the umps a pass for missing this one. (The Cards, on the other hand, may not be so forgiving)

Water Rocket on Steroids

New Extreme Sport Combines a Jet Pack with a Jet Ski
No, I didn’t lose balance. I was diving.

Making a Fist Instead of the Heimlich

Study: Athletes Perform Better Under Pressure When They Make a Fist With Their Left Hand

According to the researchers, freaking out is primarily associated with the left hemisphere of the brain, while the right hemisphere deals more with mechanical actions. Meanwhile the cortex of the right hemisphere controls movements of the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body. So they figured that if you can purposely activate the right hemisphere — in this case, by making a fist or squeezing a ball with your left hand — it will improve physical performance and draw focus away from the ruminating left hemisphere.

If you’re old enough to remember: Joe Morgan of the Cincinnati Reds used to flap his arm when he was at-bat, a trick he said was a reminder, from one of his coaches, to keep his elbow up. I wonder if that ritual also could have had this distraction effect.

‘Tis the Season, 2012

NFL maps 2012

What gets broadcast and where, along with an explanation of the rules for televising games.

Slicing it Right Into the Entanglement Hazard

ZapperZ has a takedown of an article that purports to apply QM to golf; the critique is Quantum Physics And ….. Golf?!

He addresses each point but I think he misses one important aspect of the first issue, on entanglement. Creating and maintaining entanglement isn’t easy, but more importantly, there’s the ol’ bugaboo

Entanglement might one day allow us to communicate instantaneously across the light-years of distance between stars. But for golfers, entanglement offers a more practical benefit.

I have watched golfers tee off and then twist and bend their bodies as they follow the flight of their ball, trying to influence the ball’s course through the air. It doesn’t work, of course.

But if the golfer and the ball could somehow be entangled, then every movement the golfer makes would instantly have an effect on the golf ball. The golfer could literally steer the ball in midair.

The body English would work!

No, no, no; a thousand times no. Entanglement does not allow for instantaneous communication and does not allow you to influence distant objects. Entanglement allows you to do one measurement and determine the states of two particles, with one particle possibly being far away — it does not enable you to change that state.

A Different Pitch Experiment

Challenging Batters and Physics Experts Alike

The conflict was this: A split-finger is usually gripped to reduce backspin on the ball because backspin prevents the ball from dropping. The typical Magnus effect on the ball will tilt it slightly in toward a hitter.

“But the particular pitch that was unusual broke away from a right-handed hitter,” Nathan said.

Stumped, Nathan sent the video to the physicist Rod Cross at the University of Sydney in Australia. Cross performed several tests — often using polystyrene balls for better movement — and came up with what he views as a plausible theory. He published his findings in an article in the American Journal of Physics in January.

Not Physics-Defying, But Certainly Unusual

Ball makes U-turn from foul to fair on Brian Dozier’s incredible infield hit (Video)

Some stories are saying it defies the laws of physics (which, unfortunately, does not defy the laws of journalistic hyperbole) but the stretch at about 0:45 gets it right: it’s like a cue shot in pool. There’s a lot of spin, and it looks a lot like a trick shot.

Veni, Vidi, Slamdunk

Uncle Drew

After spending four hours in makeup, 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving heads to the courts of New Jersey to devour some young bloods in a pick-up game.

The Basketball Kama Sutra

Analytics Reveal 13 New Basketball Positions

For as long as basketball has been played, it’s been played with five positions. Today they are point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. A California data geek sees 13 more hidden among them, with the power to help even the Charlotte Bobcats improve their lineup and win more games.

I think it has been long recognized that within any position you can have more of an offensive/defensive prowess, and that there are hybrid positions, regardless of what label you put on them. I’m also not close to being sold on NBA 1st team/2nd team, role-player or one-of-a-kind being a position. (Hey, I’m won the starting job at NBA All-Star on my team!) I think these are ways of categorizing the productivity of players, i.e their roles, rather than defining the position they play. You need a player or players with ball-handling skills, you need ball distribution, you need rebounding, you need scoring ability (interior and perimeter and also free throws), you need defense. How you divvy up those needed skills isn’t fixed, though some pairings might work better than others. This breakdown seems to imply that good players excel at a couple of skills (and the best at even more), or are somewhat less adept at each but possess a wider range of skills, and those pairings/groupings are given.

Now what would be really interesting would be looking at the depth and breadth of coverage of these roles as a function of the teams’ success. The diversity and output of the Mavericks that is shown — does that represent their success as well? Would a cellar-dwellar have the same breadth but simply be at a lower level of achievement, or do they suffer from not having some skill-set combination (e.g. single-skill players, rather than dual-skill), or both?

Here’s the Antidote

All too often the peripheral sports stories we hear or read — the ones that aren’t game summaries — are about people (or organizations) behaving badly. This is one of the exceptions: When There’s More To Winning Than Winning

When last we left the NCAA, it was February madness, colleges were jumping conferences, suing each other, coaches were claiming rivals had cheated in recruiting — the usual nobility of college sports.

And then, in the midst of all this, the men’s basketball team at Washington College of Chestertown, Md., journeyed to Pennsylvania to play Gettysburg College in a Division III Centennial Conference game.

Another story from a few years back, cut from the same cloth.