Photo by Salt Water New England

Monday, August 23, 2021

When is adopting new technology in a sport wise, and when has the adoption of new technologies ruined the spirit of a sport?

 

A reader question:

 At what point is it OK to reject tradition and accept new technology for the sake of performance. For example, I’ll duck hunt in an old Barbour, but not if it going to rain all morning. In that case I’d wear an actual waterproof shell because I don’t want to get wet and cold just for traditions sake. 

 

38 comments:

  1. Taste and preferences my friend! I have a 30 year old Barbour Durham, leaks since last rewax about 12 years ago. Do I still reach for it during wet New England weather walks with the dog? Yes! Do I use newer waterproofed jackets as well? Yes! I grab what I feel at the time - stubborn English gent, I go with the leaks. New England mariner, I go with the stay dry HH.

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  2. I miss the old round-head wooden squash racquets. Today's teardrop-shape graphite racquets may improve performance, but they also change the look and feel of the game, making it somewhat less aristo.

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  3. So I stopped playing tennis for over two decades and golf for a decade before taking them both back up in the past year. While I miss my old Wilson ProStaff racquet and some of my older golf clubs, I have needed to replace most everything after so long not being used. I am genuinely shocked about how much technology in both tennis and golf have advanced in the past two decades in equipment technology.

    I will say I do respect those golfers who still play and find joy in the old hickory clubs and play in tournaments like the Hickory Open. It's not for me, but I get the desire to play the game how it was a century ago. Same for still using wood racquets in tennis.

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  4. The minute you start overthinking "tradition" this much, that's the point at which to reject it.

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  5. I have lost interest in all sports because it has turned into getting an edge on your competitor by using technology and not on being an athlete. Americas Cup and the Tour-de-France are good example. I think you have to change with the times but the most important is the athlete not the technology.

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    1. To clarify, I am not against technology/advancements. If it is used properly. I think certain technology has had a detrimental affect on
      some people. Asked a kid to give you change or address an envelope.

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  6. In reality, tradition is what you did last year, not what someone did a hundred years ago. That may not hold in some places, like the U.K.

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  7. If the new tech keeps us warmer, dryer, or let us safely play at a more advanced age, then I’m all for it. As long as I don’t end up showing up like an astronaut to the gym/course/court, why not? There are always options to stick with more traditional colors etc.

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  8. Previous posters have answered the question well. I think David Hansen raised an interesting issue discussing racquets and golf clubs: When is it different but still just as good to take the traditional approach? I can think of several things in my daily life that have been overtaken by technology but are still delightful, perhaps in some ways better than newer technology, such a ancient tinned copper pans, fountain pens, a turntable for playing records, and my beloved old Mizuno MP-29s. So much of what is newer and more advanced is prevalent because it also costs less to produce. I think it is wonderful that more people have access to nice things because of this. Now if they would just embrace the New England virtue of using it forever rather than replacing it when the newer version comes out! And if they failed to get their Barbour waxed recently, grab an umbrella as penance!

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  9. The “new” America’s Cup… the beautiful 12’s have been replaced with NASCAR….

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    1. Actually the 12s were replaced with the AC class.

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    2. Still miss the 12s. “Vim” just won the 12 meter WC in Helsinki, Finland…

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  10. I will always go to that old Barbour! Just like our vintage Land Rovers, and MG's. They just make us happy! Thank you!

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  11. I'm glad I rowed in the (fading) era of wooden racing shells and oars. The new composite equipment has no appeal for me. They just don't sound and feel right. George Pocock as recalled in 'The Boys In The Boat' had it right.

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  12. For me it is a balance of tradition and practicality, with clothing and lifestyle.

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  13. I agree with many comments here about how technology has replaced (or changed) traditional equipment and skills. America's Cup no longer uses boats, as its crafts merely use human crew as an interim solution until automation is possible. Modern consumer products are generally more durable and reliable, but prefer "stock" racing on water or land that recognize the tradition and purpose of such pastimes.

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  14. astroturf,electronics ad nauseum,the demise of wooden tennis racquets

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  15. Name a modern material that will stand up a thorny hedge A Barbour will. Modern is not always better

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  16. At my age, I’m happy that parabolic skis were introduced almost 30 years ago. Going on 70, I avoid moguls. Steepness is generally not an issue. Steep and narrow is fun. And it’s a lot easier with modern skis than what we skied on prior to 1993. “What we used to cross these things?”

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  17. Case in point is the English Premier League and other football leagues with the introduction of the video playback or VAR. Although technically the technology makes the match more fair, it takes some of the joy away from the spectator since there is a delay between a perceived goal/celebration and the actual ruling. At least before there would be an immediate ruling one way or another if the goal was scored with an offside advantage. Imagine a Grand slam match point being overruled by video playback well after the crowd and athlete had celebrated the match point. Fair? Maybe. But the disappointment hurts much more. (Did I lose you)

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  18. Newer technology has allowed me to play golf longer and increased my enjoyment of the game. I had to give up tennis because of an injury but I had converted to the newer racquets 20 years prior. My old Bancroft wooden racquet is prominently displayed in the family room but please don’t make me play with it. I admire you Barbour stalwarts but to me they are cold, wet, and uncomfortable.

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  19. Probably no other sport has been more impacted by technology than pole vaulting.

    We've all seen them being catapulted and shot upwards with wildly bending carbon fiber poles, but originally the poles were made out of stiff materials like aluminum. Really a TOTALLY different sport.

    For example, the American vaulter Bob Richards won Olympic Gold in 1952 and 1956 using an inflexible pole. He cleared 4.72 meters in 1957. (What's that? Don't you hate it when sports are reported in metric? Please tell us what this means in feet and inches -- something we can understand. Anyway, that's 15 feet 4 inches.)

    The current world record is over 20 feet, but once Richards challenged the younger carbon fiber equipped pole vaulters to beat his old record -- using an unbending aluminum pole. I doubt if any of them could, or would even try.

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  20. Not being a gifted natural athlete, technology is a godsend to me (the above note on parabolic skis resonates). Even a drug-free professional bicycle racer on a beach cruiser could outrun me on my titanium road bike. In a macro sense, carbon fibre is the greatest innovation in the past couple of decades. It's lightweight, strong, but not cheap (we have a saying in the outdoors industry, "light, cheap, strong - pick two") and used in everything from ice-climbing tools to bicycle frames to skis. The major drawback, other than the expense, is carbon fibre can fail catastrophically and doesn't repair easily or well). Ubiquity has lowered prices somewhat, but most who athletes buy carbon fibre equipment do so with performance in mind as opposed to design longevity.

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  21. I posed this question and I'm thankful to Muffy for soliciting input. At some point performance outweighs tradition and maybe there is no real formula for establishing what that point is or maybe that threshold is different for us all. I mentioned duck hunting in an old Barbour as an example. I do that frequently in the winter, just not when it is really cold and raining. I will then opt for performance over tradition even though hunting in a traditional jacket is more enjoyable to me. Same with the gun. Where I usually duck hunt, my gun is likely to take a beating and possibly fall in the water so I normally use an automatic that is synthetic. If my hunting conditions are such that my gun can be cared for while in the swamp, then I'll usually opt to bring an heirloom gun that I don't want to bang up or submerge in water. Now for upland hunting or going to the skeet club, I always use a nicer heritage gun and wear more traditional attire (at least by American standards). I play a lot of tennis, but that is a pursuit for me when performance is most important all the time. I play better with a modern racket, shoes, and wicking clothing and I want to win. The same types of decisions are made for all of my other outdoor pursuits as well, fishing, hiking, camping, etc. I appreciate the comments. GLH

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  22. As I age I find, smarter not harder....

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    1. As I age, I agree with those who say, “life gets harder, but more interesting.”

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  23. I'm amused by people who think it's the same sport when played with technological devices. Might as well play online. Please don't call tennis, golf, etc.traditional sports if they're played with non-traditional materials.

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    1. Seems like traditional sports ended for you when James Naismith replaced his peach basket with a hoop and net?

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    2. Sartresky, that's great. I would be fine playing tennis with a wooden racket so long as my opponent used one too. That is unlikely to ever happen for me and that's fine. I like the exercise, but I also like to win. GLH

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  24. The ancient architect Vitruvius said all great building share three qualities: they're beautiful; they're sturdy; and they perform their function well. I think we can apply the same principle to athletic gear, and most other things! If it looks good, holds up, and functions, then it's okay by me. Older isn't always better. Newer isn't always better, either.

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  25. Next, we'll be having followers of this blog recommending synthetic fibers over wool, cotton,silk, and linen.

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    1. I would never do that but I think the washable wool shirts that Pendleton makes are a good example of progress.

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  26. You're on the summit of Mount Washington on New Year's Day in whiteout conditions. I think we're better off with a handheld GPS (carry a compass, batteries can fail); insulated plastic mountaineering boots vs. leather; anti-fog ski goggles vs. glacier glasses; modern gore-tex shells vs. heavy, non-breathable wind shells. Innovation has made winter climbing safer and more comfortable, and I'm perfectly fine with it.

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    1. Based only on my own experiences, tightly woven cotton wind shells are both lighter and more breathable than a Gore-Tex shell of the same size. That doesn't mean I'd choose a plain cotton windproof smock over a Gore-Tex shell. I have several of each and Gore-Tex is the thing to have in wet weather. One is a Mountain Hardware brand, the other an older US Army Gore-Tex parka that's heavier than any other shell jacket that I have. But I'm never going to climb Mt. Washington and I'm not so sure I'll ever make it up to Shenandoah National Park again, either. So it really doesn't matter that much anymore.

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  27. For the riders present:

    Worst "modern" innovation: Foam-flocked saddles, rather than wool. Ackkk! Thpppt!

    Best "modern" innovation: Zippers and elastic gussets in tall boots! Woot!

    Best "back nine" adaptation: Gaited instead of jumpers!

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