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Jack McCallum
April 06, 1987
Coaches, players and fans tune in to new technology
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April 06, 1987

Videotape Is On A Roll

Coaches, players and fans tune in to new technology

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Listen to Ron Steiner, an administrative assistant to the football coach at the University of Louisville: "At a luncheon, instead of introducing people with the spoken word, it's all by video. And at our honors awards luncheons, each player is introduced by a video feature instead of by somebody reading something. It's very modern."

Gee, isn't that neat? The spoken word is just, isn't it?

Somehow it's not surprising that Pittsburgh Steelers president Dan Rooney, who came into the game when the grass was real, worries about video. "My fear is that this technology could intimidate players," he says. "They're under great pressure now, but with the way video pinpoints players' mistakes, it could create grave problems. What's wrong with being an individual in sports? You know, it bothers me that there's no room for a free thinker anymore."

A free thinker, suggests Rooney, like, say, the late Bobby Layne. Imagine how Layne would have reacted to three hours of videotape. "Well, hell, I don't need to watch no bleeping movies," Layne might have said. "I want to watch a movie, I'll watch John Wayne. I want to win a football game, I'll go do it out on the field."

Layne's time has passed, of course. Some may rue that fact, but no one can deny it. Videotape has tremendous applications for both the professional and the amateur. Consider Henry Hopkins, the 43-year-old track coach at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. On many weekends Hopkins can be found practicing the pole vault, while his wife, Suzanne, tapes him with their videocam. Hopkins's goal is to pole vault as high in Masters meets as he once did as a college sophomore at Indiana Central College in 1965—14'8".

"Age is working against me," says Hopkins, "but technology is working for me." There's something nice about that.

And there's something nice about an athlete's using videotape to maximize his or her potential. "Players today are 20 to 25 percent better because of video," says Morgan Wootten, the nationally known basketball coach at DeMatha High School in Baltimore.

Probably so. But coaches, athletes and parents should realize videotape's limitations and should guard against turning its application into a quasi religion. Sports need enthusiasm, spontaneity, joy and mystery. Videotape, used to extreme, works against those intangibles. Someone once asked poet T.S. Eliot why he did not often go to the movies. "Because," said Eliot, "they interfere with my daydreams."

Let's not let videotape do that.

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