Littlefield: Leave The Jumping To The Professionals

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Any vertical leap measurement tool should have a reading that says, "Less than L.A. Clippers star Blake Griffin." (Chris Carlson/AP)
Any vertical leap measurement device for average citizens should have a reading that says, "Less than Blake Griffin of the L.A. Clippers." (Chris Carlson/AP)

"VERT is a wearable miniature inertial measurement unit with a very high precision 3X gyroscope and high precision high rate 3X accelerometer." That's what the ad copy says.

I don't want one now, and I'm glad nobody had one back in my jumping days, which were modest.

"Why should athletes have all the fun?" asks the ad copy for VERT. The assumption here is that now spectators, who previously perhaps only thought they were having fun, can now really have fun looking at a small electronic instrument that registers how high the man or woman allegedly having all the previous fun can jump. And that's the positive side of VERT.

The negative side? VERT will confirm that, yes, some people can't jump much.

As one of the people, I think I resent the invention of a device which proves and quantifies that inadequacy.

VERT is the latest in a long line of mechanical devices such as radar guns, goal line laser beams, meters that pretend to measure how loud a crowd is in order to bully it into getting louder, and electronic encouragement to engage in "the wave."

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Check out Only A Game's 20th Annual Holiday Gift Guide. Bill Littlefield and Karen Given highlight fun and unusual suggestions for the sports lovers on your list.[/sidebar]But VERT is potentially more pernicious. Watching "99" light up on a radar gun excites a scout, but perhaps no more than a curve ball that breaks as if it has run out of room to roll. Goal line technology actually solves a problem. Arenas these days are so loud with rock anthems and bright with whirling lights that lots of fans probably don't even notice that their noise is allegedly being measured and that they are being encouraged to jump up out of the seats for which they've paid so much.

But VERT? VERT seems to have been designed for the lumpy, grumpy sort of fan given to mockery and worse. The cliché that those who can't do, teach is silly and unfair to teachers. On the other hand, an awful lot of people who can't play, watch, and some of them watch with envy and malice, and why should those people be provided with the opportunity to demonstrate with the certainty provided by a digital device that the fellow upon whom they delight in heaping abuse deserves it, because, in fact, he cannot jump?

I suppose the flip side – get it? flip side – of a device that measures jumps is that reading it could confirm that somebody really can jump out of the gym, as they say. But, of course, no. What VERT would do is prove that even the greatest of leapers would come up way short of jumping out of the gym. And then where would the sportswriters bound to hyperbole be?

This segment aired on December 19, 2012.

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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