I am reading a real interesting autobiography called,” The Outsider” by Jimmy Connors. Now, Connors was a contemporary of mine and I loved to watch him play in the 70s against Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Classic matches and lots of vitriol between Connors and Mac but Borg was the consumate quiet competitor who left the game before his time.He amassed 5 straight Wimbledon titles among other victories. But I really loved to see Connors at the end of a victory, facing the crowd, hunched down, both fists pumped at his sides, and screaming ” Yeah!!!” to the adoring fans. He was a real competitor and honed his game around the fabled Wilson T-2000 racquet. From personal experience, this was a very stiff racquet and it was very hard to control the ball. But Connors used the racquet in his hey day to perfection. It was his weapon of choice and his game was formed around the performance of this particular make from Wilson. As Connors aged, he had to move on to newer technology because Wilson was headed in the direction of all the other racquet makers. That being oversize and composite materials. This led to the statement by Connors in his book which reads: ” A word about technological advances in tennis:I think the racquets players use today make a lot of them look and play better than they actually are. Add to that all the other advantages available now,like the high tech machines to build strength and fitness, scientifically tested diets to increase stamina, slow grass, fast clay, trainers allowed on the court when the players have an itch, permission to disappear to the locker room for a comfort break as many times as they want-man they have everything they need.” Is Connors correct that technology has made better players out of current competitors who perhaps are less than world class in talent? What do you think?
Lets bring it down to us mortals shall we? I have always embraced new technology. When the first Prince oversized racquet came out, I bought it and loved it. I played better, until all the other guys bought new oversized racquets and then we all were on a level playing field. I moved on to other pursuits. When the first shaped skis came out, I embraced that technology and still do to this day. I noticed that improvement right away wth a shorter, more high performance ski that allowed me to turn easier and be less fatigued during a day of hard skiing. There is no doubt that shaped skis make intermediate skiers out of beginners, advanced skiers out of intermediates, and experts out of advanced skiers. These advancing technologies I still embrace and the equipment has definitely made me a better skier. Most people share the same sentiment on the slopes.
When the oversized 29er wheels came out on a mountain bike, I jumped on that technology. The frames were lighter, the wheels rolled better and the oversize allowed me to ride up and over some things that I would never have attempted with a smaller 26 inch wheel. Tubeless rims are lighter and without a tube in the tire, the weight is reduced even further allowing better rolling performance than standard wheels. Again, technology improved my riding. Another good improvement for the 58 year old kid which allows me to “stay in the game.” Am I cheating? I don’t think so. I had a conversation with the 3 time Tour De France champion Greg LeMond about his use of the aero bars in the 87 Tour which he won by 8 seconds. His arch rival Laurent Fignon chose not to use the bars and lost in the final time trial to LeMond who was an innovator in cycling equipment. Lemond stated that Fignon had the opportunity to use the same equipment but chose not to use it. He lost. By 8 seconds. Did LeMond cheat? What do you think?
Golf courses are becoming more tame because of the over sized heads on drivers and the hollowed out irons which allow greater club head speed to send the ball greater distances. The only way, any more, for a quality course to tame the pros in an event like the U.S.Open is to speed up the greens and grow the rough. But for most tournaments, the winner is well below par due to his or talent, for sure, but the technological advantage of the new clubs and golf balls is key. Are they cheating? How far do you take technological advantages until they ruin the game? It is a great debate. But one thing is for sure, for the common weekend warrior, the tech advantage in better turns on the ski slopes and less fatigue is welcomed by most skiers. Over sized racquets on the tennis courts allow longer rallies thus making the weekend tennis match more fun. The average hacker can maybe shoot some better scores allowing him to enjoy the game of golf instead of getting mad and taking it out on his clubs as he hurls them into the closest lake and goes home in defeat.
I think there is some debate as to how far technological advantages can be taken in a game played by professionals. Most often you really cannot go back as in the case of the buoyant swim suits that were allowed in the Olympics 6 years ago but not allowed in the most recent Olympics. Will those records never be broken by not allowing the speed suits to be used again? The sporting world’s governing bodies need to really sort this out because technology is not going away. But it must be a level playing field expecially when it comes to records and money in sport. But again, for us mortals, bring it on. Check out the picture above of my buddy Hutch with our shaped cheater skis- yea baby, I love them. And how about Heff and I with our 29ers in West Virginia on the roots, rocks, and mud? Sure is a lot easier than the old bikes we used to ride. So, weekend warrior, get the best stuff. When you are a 58 year old kid like me, you take every advantage you can. Thanks for reading.