Basketball’s Eye in the Sky

Basketball as we know it is changing before our eyes! Zach Lowe from has been following the NBA’s plan to install complex data-tracking cameras that will track movement of every object on the court including players, referees, and of course, the ball.  Although expensive, this new innovation will impact the game at all levels as less sophisticated systems will work their way down from the professional level.  Let’s take a closer look at this quasi-Big Brother approach and how it will affect the game, but also consider the merits of an eye in the sky for each of us in our life and faith.

BASKETBALL – Too Much Information?

About ten years ago, I watched an up and coming men’s coach completely reconstruct a fallen program at our school.  All of us in the athletic department were amazed, enlightened, and at times disturbed by the micro-managing way he took control of every detail. It was truly an eye-opening experience.  One such detail involved using a camera to control and direct the body language, focus, and team spirit of players on the bench. Once a player’s demeanor was exposed and shown in film sessions, the behaviors of players on the bench changed immediately!  It was even used to evaluate the intensity and loyalty of fans sitting in the prime seats near the home bench! While I understood it and even now check our bench behavior on film every once in a while, it made me a little uneasy.

I’m a tad uneasy about the NBA camera systems as well.  I’m curious and anxious to see all the information it can provide and know that people a lot smarter than me will find trends and keys we never had before.  Improving officiating certainly is a plus, as positioning and effort can be evaluated instantaneously.  Information about player reactions to loose balls and rebounds will tell us a great deal and using physical measurements of release points, arc, and spin of the ball when shooting will provide incredible teaching points.  As Zack Lowe outlined, these and a whole host of other aspects of the game can be scrutinized like never before and more than likely, the game will be changed.  Just look at how expanded statistical analysis is changing modern sports in the fashion of Moneyball.  

So, it’s all a good thing, right? Why am I uneasy?  Is it because I don’t like change? Is it because I feel like I’m back in high school reading about Big Brother?  Or does it feel like we’re ignoring the soul of the game – you know, the intangibles like heart, handling emotions, and building unselfish attitudes.  I guess I’m not sure how having so much information from the cameras and stats will truly affect the parts of the game I love most.  I’m going to keep an open mind and I’m going to adjust.  If all the new stuff will help us win, I’m all for it, but at the same time I don’t want to ignore the soul of the game and that’s where my true focus will remain.

LIFE – You’re being watched!

As a college graduate, my first position took me to the great state of Texas – where everything is big, including the cockroaches!  While dating my future wife, a frequent feeling of being watched came upon us while watching movies in our apartments.  We’d get this bizarre feeling that somebody was watching us and usually after a few moments, we’d sense movement around us or above us and she would shriek when we located a roach peering at us from high on the walls! That feeling sticks with you!  These days, cameras seem to watch everything we do at traffic lights, in shopping malls, and in schools and it’s completely understandable – it helps us feel more secure. Does it change behavior?  Do you think twice knowing that you’re being watched?  Can a camera monitor your thoughts or motivations?  I’m amazed at what people will still do, even though they know they may be seen on camera, so does it really change behavior?  Once again, I’m a tad uneasy.  I know there’s some merit in the security of camera-technology, but I’m still sorting out my feelings about Big Brother.

FAITH – God’s surveillance system is the only one that works!

I’m thankful that God doesn’t need a high-tech camera system.  I’m thankful that He sees every angle and every aspect of my life.  Many in this world would fear that notion – the idea that God sees everything and stands in judgement of all that we do, but you know what?  It’s not a new innovation!  It’s who God is.  After all, He created us and He cares for us:

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)

And while God does see all of our faults, mistakes, bad intentions, and sin and has every right to judge our actions, for me there’s comfort and security in that.  Unlike the NBA cameras, God sees my heart and my soul.  He knows my weaknesses and knows my failings and because He sees it all and still loves me, I can have a relationship with Him that will improve my life and walk with Him!  When I realize that no thought or action is hidden from Him, I give in to His guidance and to His promptings, not by gauging statistics and trends, but my leaning on His guidance and truth.

then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart) . . . (1 Kings 8:39)

So Big Brother and the NBA are trying to watch more, but God sees everything and I like that . . .