Posts Tagged ‘FiveThirtyEight’

Trendwatch 2K18: Jumping Up and Down On Special Athletic Boxes

March 3, 2018

Grim days as the United States confronts a missile-wagging Vladimir Putin, unreasonable natural disasters and now, an embarrassing Olympic chapter on the increasingly nuclear Korean peninsula. Despite the best efforts of Shaun “Flying TomatoTM” White and several mighty American curlers, the country that eagles built went home the most medal-poor in 20 years and badly underperformed its podium-claiming potential, according to FiveThirtyEight, a blogging website concerned with important numbers and equations.

To reclaim international glory, the U.S. is counting on the only tried-and-true solution to overwhelming sporting odds: the ragtag band of misfits. Skateboarding, a sport ostensibly invented in the U.S. (if one ignores Josh Stewart’s ‘ancient alien’ theories), offers the best chance for America to assert its citizens’ physical primacy on the planetary stage, while justifying all that feigned ignorance of Japanese security guards’ exasperation over the years when the Olympic torch is lit in Tokyo. No doubt, federal data scientists are building algorithms to rank candidates based on flatground contest consistency, after-black hammer intensity and general ‘swagger,’ that hard-to-quantify ‘X factor’ that could help put the USA over the top in a tight medal race.

But it will take more than gumption and snappy one-liners. To achieve ultimate glory, top-tier skateboard competitors are thinking inside the box: specially designed space-age boxes, to be exact, which have become involved in unique and revolutionary exercise regimens. Jumping up and down on these expensive exercise boxes, human scientists believe, is the closest approximation to the ollie that is possible within the confines of a properly sanitized, chromed-out gym.

Physical advisers to Ryan Sheckler, no stranger to tightly plotted TV dramatics, suggested that he jump up and down on a box as part of his gym exercise regimen. Sean Malto, pursuing a comeback from his gruesome ankle injury, similarly employed a variety of special gym jumping-boxes. Danny Way, in his envelope-pushing way, perhaps already has moved beyond the box to swinging giant medieval spheres. But Americans do not hold a monopoly on advanced box technology, as Brazilian Street League phenom Leticia Bufoni also has come to know the box-jumping technique and its powers.

Nyjah Huston could represent the United State’s best hope for a 2020 golden coin. Having balanced his energy by finally shifting the mass of his long-shorn dreads to his torso, arms and neck via assorted tattooings, Nyjah Huston is pushing the boundaries of possibility on handrails, this week releasing an 11-minute long video part to help promote new Nike products. It is a video filled with tricks made to end lesser full-lengths, such as the curvy-wurvy frontside 5-0 grind, a backside smith grind backside 180 out on a kinked handrail, a mile-long backside tailslide and, perhaps in tribute to Dan Pageau’s freshly funded legacy, a switchstance trip down the fearsome El Toro handrail. It’s unclear how heavily Nyjah Huston has been box-training, but a watchful eye on his Insta Gram site shows that a high-tech training box is never far away in his gym.

Is jumping up and down onto a special athletic box how Nyjah Huston gained the power to contort his body and achieve his ‘Til Death’ tricks? Will advanced box jumping sets help ward off chronic traumatic encephalopathy or are the bros cracking some brews and hoping for the best? Did Omar Salazar predict all this with his yelpy off-board parkour stylings? Is Shaun White already jumping up and down off boxes as he pursues his life goal of becoming a multi-board Olympic gold medallion holder, but putting himself at risk of overgolding?

Could X-Games Technologists Blind Us With Science, Risking a Troublesome Singularity (And Humankind’s Extinction)?

June 12, 2016

In an age when Nyjah Huston walks back gender-insensitive comments, where male nudity is a feature and not a bug within one of the top recent videos, where online used goods bazaars place frothy premiums on Alex Olson’s ‘Lover’ gear while Flip’s ‘Hate Kill Destroy’ slogan is relegated to a vintage acronym, and where crust-merchants Jake Phelps and Grant Taylor close an interview by sharing their mutual love, it is fair to regard skateboarding as residing within a more sensitive place. Whether the metaphorical pendulum has careened too far away from ganging up on a dude with a drill and harassing RuPaul is a question best left to international criminal tribunals and/or the Sabotage dudes.

Which elixir could restore the balance? ESPN proffers one brewed with the cold, unfeeling logic of pure machinery. In an example of the synergistic genius that may have lured data-mining soothsayer Nate Silver from the cold-shouldery NYTimes to ESPN, the X-Games recently gave his FiveThirtyEight media web site access to a new device being tested within the increasingly embattled X-Games universe that bids to inject empirical data points into the scoring regimens, training programmes and wily banter of colourful commentators.

This Intel-developed transceiver pod, dubbed Curie after the mythological radioactive monsters, measures speed, height, spin velocity and other extreme metrics. Its powers appear handy for geometricized pit crews as they calculate roll-in height lumber purchases and the required torque speed to achieve the spins and twists necessary to bring home sweet, juicy X-Game gold, a rare earth mineral rumored to be worth its weight in gold. The device’s immediate value-add is harder to envision for the street skating discipline, however, where calibrating push strength toward rainbowy contest rails and formulating precise back-leaning to avoid sticking on ledges may deliver only incremental improvements.

But the invention may hold the potential to usher in a new and camera-ready discipline with nearly as much drama, intrigue and catastrophic injury potential as the Mega RampTM. The Curie’s ability to rapidly graph speed and trajectories could allow construction of precision-designed pyramids, quarterpipes and other obstacles able to be skated consistently without pushing, or indeed, looking — opening the way for a blindfolded best trick competition hinging solely upon instinctual foot placement, flick and catch, in the grand tradition of New York street shaman Billy Rohan.

Given his propensity for combining gnarliness with vulnerability and his captainship of Blind Skateboards, is Bill Weiss some type of cosmic shoe-in for such an event? Would Alexis Sablone’s King of the Road tenure give her an edge over a decade later? Will advancing technology eventually make such Curies small enough to embed into skateboarders’ skulls, saturating the gene pool even as humans go to war against self-aware artificial intelligence systems that assign low scores and occasional executions in response to shortcakes handrails and tic-tac’d landings?