It seems appropriate for the inaugural GearCaster post to comment
on the heated debate around technology and innovation in sports.
A couple of days ago, The NY Times discussed the subject in
their “Room For Debate” segment. They sought opinions from various equipment
manufacturers, professional athletes, sports officials and technical designers.
Is It the Athlete or the Equipment?
Ask any economist and they will tell you the key to long-term
growth and viability for any industry is technological progress. Innovation and
technology increase output and performance without more input or effort being
Historical examples of this principle abound in the sports
industry: carbon fiber Vaulting poles (banned in the 1972 Olympic games and now
commonly used,) the Fosbury flop (debuted by Dick Fosbury in the 1968 Olympics
to world record success and now a commonly used technique in High Jump), and
more recently the LZR swimsuit worn by the US Olympic Swim team. Notice the common theme? Innovation
once regarded, as an unfair advantage soon becomes a common element, thus
propelling the nature of the sport forward.
Many people will argue that this technological advance
changes the nature of the game. You bet it does! Changing the game is a good
thing- it forces everyone to compete on a new and higher level. That’s not to say the old games were or
are bad (as in Baseball with wooden bats) but the new games should be given an
opportunity to be played by those that want to participate- think X Games.
Over in the high technology world game changers happen all
the time to the ultimate benefit of the industry and the consumer. Apple changed the music industry with
iTunes and has now changed the historically closed minded mobile phone industry
with the iPhone and App Store, thus stimulating a flood of new innovation. In
the sports world, Chouinard and Frost pitons changed the game of Yosemite big
Change happens and innovation
is good for any industry. Don’t
stifle it please
Update: As predicted, the International Swimming Federation has banned the use of high tech swim suits in competition. So we have now officially fallen into the Trough of Disillusionment and I predict in a few years time we will be back up the Slope of Enlightenment and see these suits commonplace in competition once again.