Science & Technology That Revolutionized Sports

Like any human endeavor, sports evolve over time. Science and technology fuel these changes, improving athletic equipment design, training, and the value of information gleaned from player statistics. From everyday recreational activities to the highest levels of competitive play, these innovations were real game-changers for sports. These breakthroughs, in my eyes, have had the biggest impact.

Baseball –  Tommy John Surgery (1974)


Dr. Frank Jobe and Tommy John in trainer’s room at Dodger Stadium. [Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers]

Thousands of pitchers who play Major League Baseball have undergone the same elbow reconstruction surgery. First performed in 1974 by the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe, the surgery was only an experiment when Dr. Jobe first tried it on Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. Today, the surgery is routine. Although arthroscopy has revolutionized the way surgeons approach orthopedics, Tommy John surgery hasn’t changed much (probably because Jobe designed the operation to be minimally invasive). Who knows? Pitchers such as Mariano Rivera, John Smoltz, and many others might have faded into oblivion, were it not for Dr. Jobe.

Football – Helmet Audio (1994)

Patent drawing for football helmet radio


Though the Cleveland Browns experimented with the idea of placing homemade radio receivers inside the helmet of quarterback George Ratterman in 1956, it wasn’t until 1994 that the NFL first allowed quarterbacks to use built-in radios inside their helmets to communicate with football coaches on the sidelines.

Tennis – Composite Tennis Rackets (1968)

1970s ad for Wilson's T2000 tennis racket

1970s ad for Wilson’s T2000 tennis racket

Until the 1970s, tennis rackets were only fashioned out of wood. Although the functionality of wooden rackets improved with advancements in laminating technology (using thin layers of wood glued together) and in stringing methods, the rackets were still relatively heavy and the surface area of racket heads remained small. Compared to modern rackets used today, even the best-made wood rackets were unwieldy and lacking in power. Then, in 1968, Wilson introduced its T2000, the first steel racket on the market. The popularity of the T2000 racket skyrocketed after Jimmy Connors adopted it as his own.

Basketball – Breakaway Rims (1976)

That the NBA needed a new kind of basketball hoop became more and more obvious as slam-dunking became increasingly popular during the 1970s. If dunks didn’t damage the hoop completely, they shattered the backboard, putting the safety of players and spectators at risk. Not to mention that NBA games were often delayed for hours while the equipment was replaced. With a hunch that technology to build a better hoop must exist, Randy Albrecht, an assistant college basketball coach, approached his uncle Arthur Ehrat, a grain elevator worker, to explore the idea. Ehrat added a hinge and a spring from a John Deere cultivator to a basketball hoop rim. With the new setup, the iron basketball rim could bend–and immediately snap back into place–under pressure.

High Hopes in Tampa: NY Yankees Spring Training Looks Promising

Source: Yankees/MLB

Source: Yankees/MLB

It’s one of the greatest times of the year once again, sports fans. In American sporting history, the words ‘Spring Training’ ranks right up there as one of sport’s most energizing phrases that pull fans from their postseason slumbers.

After falling in the single-game playoff to the Houston Astros, our New York Yankees are back in Tampa, looking to improve on last year. Our club feels optimistic about its prospects too.

That includes catcher Brian McCann who loves our underrated rotation that includes starters CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and youngster Luis Severino. When talking about Severino, Joe Girardi compared him to a pitching legend. Girardi said, “I was around Greg Maddux when I was a young player…There was a ton of poise, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do. And I feel like Sevvy is the same way. He knows what he wants to do.” Throw in our bolstered bullpen and it makes why we are feeling good this spring.

It’s not just the arms that have expectations high within the organizations. If the early games have shown what can come, the Didi Gregorius-to-Starlin Castro combination could prove lethal to baserunners. Meanwhile at the plate, both of their bats give fans hope that we’ll have runners in scoring position early and often.

The youth of the organization also give Yankee faithful hope as top prospects Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge and pitcher James Kaprielian stood out in the first few weeks down in Florida. Whether they make the opening day roster or we eventually see them in the Bronx at some point this season, the future looks bright in the short and long-term for our club.

Spring training has been a great sign for our season ahead. Get ready for an exciting season ahead, fans. The Bronx Bombers will be back in town real soon.

L.A. Football May Be the End for America’s Multi-purpose Stadiums

Credit: BrokenSphere

Credit: BrokenSphere

With the NFL coming back to Los Angeles next season, the league and two teams are certainly excited over the developments. Unfortunately, the fate of three teams hung in the balance with this move. For the once-again-L.A. Rams, their return to the Golden State is secure. But for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, some details remain unclear. If the dust settles as expected, the Chargers will join the Rams in the two-team stadium at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 season. However if things change once again, the Raiders could still find themselves moving from the Bay Area.

If Oakland does lose its football team, the biggest winner could end up being the Oakland A’s.

Credit: Wikipedia user Minesweeper

O.Co Stadium During Baseball Credit: Wikipedia user Minesweeper

The reason is because Oakland is the last of America’s former infatuation with multi-purpose stadiums. Starting with Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium through countless other cities and purposes, dual sports stadiums dominated the 60s and 70s. As decades moved along, though, the trend began to die as each sport needed its own kind of stadium to adequately hold its events. In time, teams moved on to their own stadiums.

Since the Miami Marlins’ move out of its multi-purpose home a few years back, Oakland’s stadium became the last of the dying breed. In 2014, the A’s wisely renewed its lease for the next ten years despite being frustrated about the park. However, as USA Today notes, with the Raiders looking like they’ll stay in town, the A’s now must decide if they’ll stay at the antiquated stadium or seek its own stadium within the county. If the Raiders somehow have a change in fate, the A’s could be the last team left in town once the Warriors move across the Bay–a major boost to the team’s leverage for a new Oakland home.

All this talk doesn’t give proper attention to the fans of Oakland that may suffer most. Right now, their sports history looks mostly intact, but the city is no stranger to losing their teams. Could it happen all over again? Looks like we’ll have to stay tuned as this saga could still turn a few more times.

Browns Go Baseball with Paul DePodesta Hiring

Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, the dedicated fans of the Dawg Pound haven’t had much to celebrate. Years of management and roster overhauls created a tumultuous situation that resulted in mostly sub-.500 records and inconsistency across the board.

This season saw another failed year in the always competitive AFC North where the struggling club must contend with the often-powerhouse Bengals, Ravens and Steelers six times a season. The year resulted in another below .500 record, and the ouster of head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer almost immediately after the team’s loss to the Steelers on the final week. And just like that, the Browns and the Cleveland faithful were back to square one to start off 2016.

This time around, the Browns went outside the box, some would say extremely outside of it, with the hiring of baseball veteran and Moneyball originator Paul DePodesta as the team’s new chief strategy officer. DePodesta is known for helping usher baseball into the analytics era. Earning a name for himself in Cleveland, Paul joined the Oakland A’s front office in 1999, where he took his analytical focus to great success. After Oakland, Paul spent almost two years as the general manager of the L.A. Dodgers before moving to San Diego and then to the New York Mets.

The move to bring DePodesta to an entirely different sport certainly brought on some laughs, but the hiring could prove to be an excellent signing for owner Jimmy Haslam and the sluggish Browns. If you haven’t read Monday Morning Quarterbacks profile on Paul’s hiring, I recommend you do so now. The first thing that should be mentioned is that not only does Paul carry a storied football career that took him to Harvard as a wide receiver, he also thrives on challenges. He is a thinker that wants to challenge himself to improve, and in doing so, improve those around him. If Cleveland was searching for a brain trust to oversee strategy, they scored a touchdown with this hiring.

Beyond his familiarity with the sport, football is moving towards a data-focused game. Between player safety and more teams placing an emphasis on a Moneyball style of its own, the Browns could be the first club to really place a cultural emphasis on stats across the organization. If Paul can bring the same success he helped usher in with the Cleveland Indians, he may end up being the second coming of LeBron James to the beleaguered city, as exaggerated as that may sound.

And sure, it could go down as another failed move from the club, but it’s worth a shot. Now with coach Hue Jackson in place–a hiring that some think could cause a clash between DePodesta’s new ideas and Jackson’s traditional approach to the game–Cleveland can begin to focus on the future. There’s still a lot of work the franchise needs to improve, but this could be the about face it needs. If Paul and Hue can deliver, and the club practices some patience, the AFC North may just become even more competitive in the coming seasons.

Why Ratings for the MLB Playoffs are Improving

Postseason bag

So far, this year’s Major League Baseball postseason has been nothing short of incredible. Despite my beloved Yankees taking an early exit, a fan of the game has tons to look forward to every game. From the Blue Jays back after over two decades to the Cubs blasting the ball out of the stadium at an incredible rate, eyes have been justifiably glued to screens for hours on end.

This isn’t just coming from an uptick in fans talking about the games either. Viewership across the four channels airing the games (ESPN, TBS, MLB Network and Fox Sports 1) is up nine percent from last season. As the LA Times notes, TBS is especially reaping in the viewers with its best ratings since the 2007 playoffs.

The LA Times elaborates that a two major factors are keeping fans glued to the screen: DVR and major market presence. With on demand services becoming a norm for most cable subscribers, they are able to focus in on every pitch while knowing that their favorite show will be ready for viewing whenever the game ends. Additionally, the article goes on to note that of the eight teams in this year’s postseason (excluding the one-game playoff), five are in the top 10 markets in America. With those loyal fans in place, as well as the Cardinals long-reaching Midwestern fan base, this year’s series garners more eyes than the game has seen in some years.

Coupling these key points with the stellar games that have occurred, it should come as little surprise that ratings are on the uptick this year. We’ll have to wait to see how the ratings fare at the conclusion of the playoffs, but if the games continue to pan out the way they have, nobody will be hoping to see the action end.


Jose Bautista Celebrity Golf Classic Returns for a Third Yeard

via Facebook

via Facebook

Transitioning to college certainly causes stress and anxiety for most incoming students. As an athlete, these students face additional hurdles with rigorous schedules lasting all day, full course loads and being away from friends and family. Until they settle into university life, life can be rather trying for any student–much less a student athlete.

For students coming from another country, this transition can be even more trying.

Stephon Marbury

Stephon Marbury

That’s where Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista and the Bautista Family Education Fund (BFEF) come in. Since 2011, Jose and his great organization have helped student baseball players from Jose’s home country, the Dominican Republic, settle into collegiate athletic life in the United States. The BFEF dedicates its efforts to raise awareness and aiding these players by providing access to quality education so they can prepare for success on and off the field. In 2012, the program extended to Jose’s second home in Canada. For a complete look at the athletes the foundation supports, visit here.

This year’s third annual event was held at the Eagles Nest Golf Course in Maple, Ontario. While the weather wasn’t ideal for golfing, the day was still incredible. With a sell out crowd in attendance, the best way to follow all the fun was on social media. If you were following on Twitter, you may have caught a special message from the man himself:

I was proud to be on hand and take part in all the action. It was great to catch up with some great friends and colleagues like the legendary Stephon Marbury (above).

It’s great to see athletes and other prominent figures giving back. Jose has mentioned how the Latin Athletes Education Fund aided him as he adapted to life in the United States. To see him want to aide his fellow Dominican and Canadian athletes is a cause I am proud to support anytime. For more information on how you could submit an athlete for the BFEF, click here for further information.