Indeed, it seems as if sports, in America and beyond, drives a segment of the world economy with the same human necessity and regularity as plumbing or construction. People need their toilets fixed, people need their homes repaired, and people need to watch professional sports.
The side industry of sports analytics has always thrived, seeking new ways to measure individual achievement. This is the great glory of sports: it is a celebration of human beings that push their limits, that smash barriers, that turn the human machine into something that performs in truly magnificent ways. In American football games, sports announcers never seem to run out of odd analytics with which to qualify players—“The most interceptions in Qualcomm Stadium during the first half of a fourth quarter since 1998,” etc.
In Great Britain, only the sports are different. Manchester United dominates as the world’s most profitable sports franchise (America’s Dallas Cowboys trails as a far distant second), while cricket remains a traditional fascination not only for England but for a large portion of the world.
England’s national cricket team recently announced that GPS tracking devices have been installed on the tops of all players’ uniforms. This no doubt has sports analysts worldwide salivating. The GPS monitors track players’ movements with pinpoint precision, allowing entire new metrics of statistics to be created and monitored.
Strangely, England is not the first cricket team to institute GPS tracking. Australia came first, utilizing GPS trackers as a method of recording, then improving, player performance.
Is GPS tracking likely to become an ubiquitous part of professional athletes’ lives? At this point, the answer is yes. Sports make money—and businesses are always looking for new ways to monitor athletes, track changes, and turn them into athletic monsters. It will be fascinating to see how GPS tracking gives sports commentators new stats to breathe into the microphone.