And, one wonders who John McEnroe is going to yell at if there are no officials? And who would pay to watch?
Electronic Scoring in Fencing, or: Touch Me There And You've Had It
Fencing may have been the first sport to gear up electrically. Equipment manufacturers at the turn of the century began to offer battery-operated foils and sabers for training to alert the novice with a beep when a touch was scored.
The system was first used in the Olympic Games in 1936, in men's epee. By 1956, it had been allowed in the men's and women's foil.
Not surprisingly in such a formal, traditional sport, there was an outcry against these devices.
"There were some people who said, 'That's it! I'll never fence again,' " said Dan DeChaine, chairman of the U.S. Fencing Assn.'s technical commission and member of the international federation's commission for electronic scoring, installations and materials.
DeChaine said there were some protests because the implements were heavy and unwieldy. Officials prevailed because of problems caused by subjective judging.
"In order to salvage the sport, we went to this," he said. "There was nothing blatant, but an awful lot of arguing. Politics were a big part of it."
Electronic scoring in fencing is fairly simple. There is a switch on the end of the weapon, which, if pressed hard enough, registers a touch. The switch is fixed with a calibrated spring and plugged into a scoring machine that records touches. Most touches wins.
"The machine has no politics," DeChaine said.
Still, there is a human element. A president of the jury is in charge of the bout. Like a referee in boxing, he starts and stops the bout and watches for certain things. For example, if a fencer is attempting to touch an opponent and misses and hits the floor, the official ensures that no touch is scored even though one may register electronically.
DeChaine says the system has worked "marvelously well," but there are ways to beat it.
The sport experimented with a wireless scoring system for a time, but soon found people in the stands with little black boxes, busily punching in their own scores. The rules now say that the fencer must be connected to a scoring box in a completely closed system.
Fencing suffered its darkest moment at the 1976 Olympics when a Soviet pentathlete was caught with a switch built into the grip of his epee. He needed only to press his finger on the handle to score a touch.
"It was embarrassing to all of us in the sport," DeChaine said. "We were outraged that someone, a world champion, would do something like that. I heard he wound up driving a taxi in Kiev."
Electronic, Computerized Judging In Boxing, or: Switched On Box
Next to gymnastics and diving, what sport has had more judging controversies than boxing? Some boxing decisions make one wonder if the judges saw the same bout as everyone else.
The Seoul Olympics featured what was perhaps the most wild and unpredictable competition in the history of boxing. Some purely political decisions were made and most observers agreed that boxing--in an ironic metaphor--had given itself a black eye.
Officials in the sport were told that politics had to be taken out of judging. Thus, for the first time, an electronic scoring system was used in this year's World Championships.
Judges sat before a computer keyboard and registered each scoring blow when it happened. Information was transferred to a video screen, showing the scoring blow and which judge had registered it. For a blow to count, three of five judges had to register it.
The system is more precise, linking a point directly with the blow, and also holds judges more accountable.
With a videotaped history of each bout, protests are more easily handled. And monitors show the judges scoring at the boxing jury's table, so there is constant review of the scoring status of each bout.
According to Jim Fox, executive director of the U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation, the system was implemented with some difficulty.
"It is a major issue, getting the coaches and federations to realize that this is the way they have to go," he said. "The issue is that by moving in these directions, we may bring rhyme and reason to the sport where the general public can understand what's going on. Seoul was a major factor in the scoring machine."
Track and Field, the NBA and everybody else, or: Plug Me In, Coach
Jim Terrill was the meet director for the three years of the International Track Assn. This professional track circuit was around from 1973 to 1976 and was responsible for not only some of the most blatantly gaudy gimmicks, but also technological innovations ahead of their time.
The ITA would do nearly anything in the name of promotion.
With that in mind, Terrill brought in pacing lights, a system of lights designed for training. The ITA rightly guessed they would made great theater.
A string of large light bulbs, encased in plastic, was placed around the inside of the track. Time was programmed into the device and lights "ran" at that pace.