Nick Schulz writes a blog about the nexus of sports and technology. He wrote a post about how the various sporting bodies were redefining the rules for javelin to keep the distances reasonable. I’m sure there is a logistical concern about keeping them on the field and away from other athletes. But still, couldn’t it be a lot more interesting …
Responding to an earlier post on how javelins were modified to make them harder to throw far, a reader named Mark says maybe track and field officials should think in the other direction. He says that javelin doesn’t have a huge following world-wide and that’s certainly true. But maybe if you harnessed technology and developed javelins that could fly unheard of distances, that might increase interest in the sport.
Maybe he’s right. When most people are confronted with a problem, their instinct is to impose limits, get the problem under some kind of control.
… Maybe javelins that fly the distance of 16 football fields would make for a cooler sport than the one today.
The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, is going through a similar discussion now. These days the concern is equal parts safety and cost. The teams are moaning about development costs and are asking the FIA to impose regulations which will slow the cars down. There are a host of changes including a single tire manufacturer, harder tires, moving to 2.4 liter V8’s instead of the 3.0 V10’s of today, eliminating traction control, etc.
Of course the entertainment is in the natural sporting aspect of it – who will win this week, but it cannot be denied that part of the lure is the absolutely insane feats the cars are able to achieve as well as the technical backgrounder pieces where the teams talk about the various technologies involved. Exotic materials (carbon fiber, titanium), incredible machine precision, computerized componentry all make up what F1 is about. If not for all this, why not just watch NASCAR?
The key to success is to keep things as simple as possible. My theory on F1 is that there should be one rule concerning the weight of the car and that’s it. Other than that it should be an open season. When you try to apply too much control you lose all of it. There have already been some grumblings among manufactures in F1, in other words some talk about getting another formula car league going. It wouldn’t take much more than the loss of one or two of the major teams for it to be the end of the game for the FIA.
If I were business advising for this non-existant new league I would try to sell them on the idea of a single weight rule and make it an open season for tech. The ‘purist’ and the ‘traditionalist’ carries little weight in the new technology world. Entertainment is big business. Don’t bore your audience. I can say with reasonable certainty that if they used those javelins that fly 16 football fields the ratings for that Olympic event would be the highest they had ever been.
The devil’s advocate response on the F1 bit is of course safety. How can you guarantee that the teams will keep their drivers safe when there is no financial motivation to. I suppose you could keep the crash tests. One advantage of a truly open format is that you might get wildly different looking cars from year to year and manufacturer to manufacturer.
The javelin bit would likewise need some kind of cap on the construction otherwise they’d been building gliders rather than spears that would rely on wind currents and whatnot to achieve distances. Plus here how would you keep poor athletes on the same field as rich ones?
Perhaps loosening up on the regulations can actually make F1 safer. With the elimination of the false psychological safety net that F1 can actually be made ‘safer’ through regulations the drivers can focus on what actually makes them safer, good driving.
regarding the ultra high tech javelins, i have a funny image in my head a la winter olympics a few years ago when the north koreans showed up having no idea the new speed skates were invented.
FYI in that case i didn’t feel bad since they’re commies, but a poor Nigerian showing up with a stick while the ROW has rocket powered javelins would be very sad.
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