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Get with The Program
STEVE RUSHIN
December 20, 2010
Will sportswriting software lead to a robotic Red Smith?
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December 20, 2010

Get With The Program

Will sportswriting software lead to a robotic Red Smith?

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To technophobes it sounds as though StatSheet, from its headquarters in Durham, N.C., is plotting to take over the world. The robots are coming—slowly, inexorably, with a mechanical thrum, like the automated tarp that once ate the leg of Cardinals outfielder Vince Coleman.

There are two ways sportswriters can respond. We can do nothing and hope that our human prose is seen as a quaint, retro piece of ballpark embroidery, like the Wrigley Field scoreboard or the NFL chain gang, both of which are kept around to humor nostalgia buffs.

Or we can try to vanquish our robot doppelgänger. Allen says the robot is doing us a service, "writing the kind of stories you probably don't like writing anyway." I asked if his company was really the Tyrell Corp., that sinister conglomerate in Blade Runner that built human "replicants" to do mankind's menial tasks, androids that eventually had to be hunted down by Harrison Ford. "No," he said, laughing. "Not yet."

In the 19th century the British textile workers known as Luddites sought to destroy mechanical looms before mechanical looms destroyed them. But fighting back didn't work for the Luddites, and it is unlikely to work for sportswriters. As Robbie Allen's robot-alien might put it, citing decades of sci-fi cyborgs, "Resistance is futile."

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Read Steve Rushin's column, Rushin Lit, every Wednesday at SI.com/rushin

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