Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



How Racing Safety Has Evolved 0

Posted on May 15, 2017 by Scott Huntington

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Former F1 pilot Hans Stuck is credited with one of the most memorable quotes in autodom.

“When I raced a car last,” Stuck proclaims, “it was a time when sex was safe and racing was dangerous, now it’s the other way around.”

Social commentary aside, Stuck is right. The advances made in safety for racing drivers over the last half-century have reduced the sports mortality rate by orders of magnitude, and even allowed drivers to walk away from crashes that at one time would most certainly have been fatal.

Even now, engineers and medical experts work tirelessly to continue to improve the safety record of a sport that is inherently dangerous. Let’s take a look back at how things came so far.

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History of NASCAR Pit Crews 1

Posted on December 07, 2016 by Scott Huntington

One of the most iconic aspects of a NASCAR race is the nonstop, top-speed action of the pit crew on the sidelines. These amazing individuals are in charge of high-speed maintenance and repairs for the cars that are tearing their way around the track. We’ve all probably watched them change a tire in a few seconds, but did you ever wonder how these pit crews got their start?

1950s -- 55 seconds

The Time Before

Races didn’t always need the skills of a pit crew. When racing became a mainstream sport back in the 1950s, most of the races were less than 100 miles, total. The only race that really needed the assistance of pit stop engineers was the Southern 500, which was arguably ahead of its time.

That didn’t mean the shorter NASCAR races didn’t have their own version of the pit crew. Cars would blow tires, bump fenders or destroy engine parts that required replacement in order to keep racing. Until the mid-1950s, all these changes were done by hand. The pneumatic air guns that we’re so used to seeing didn’t make a debut until later in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Back then, the fastest recorded time for a tire change was about 55 seconds utilizing manual tools.

Choreography and Timing

After the pneumatic air gun hit the mainstream and pit technicians were able to change tires and remove faulty parts faster than before, the focus switched to speed and efficiency. By using impact wrenches and much faster floor jacks, pit crews could reduce the time it took to change a tire by 17 seconds.

pit-crews-harrell-2015

Adding choreography and practicing the motions that each pit crew position needed to do brought the overall pit stop time down to 33 seconds.

Specialized Pit Crew Roles

Until now, the idea of pit crews included the concept that everyone was interchangeable. The guy handling the fuel one pit stop could be slinging a tire at the next. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the idea of specialized pit crew roles began to emerge.

By creating these specialized roles, pit crews were able to practice and perfect the nuances of their specific role rather than trying to do everything.

Today, the average pit crew is made up of 12 people, each trained to perfect their specific role, including:

  • Front and Rear Tire Carriers: As their name suggests, these are the people who carry the replacement tires into the pit and the worn tires away.
  • Fire and Rear Tire Changers: Changes the tires, handling the impact gun to remove and replace the lug nuts.
  • Jack Man: Operates the hydraulic jack that lifts and lowers the car.
  • Gas Man: As the name suggest, he refuels the car usually using two 12-gallon cans.
  • Support Crew: They pick up any slack and help the crew with little tasks.
  • Car and Crew Chiefs: The car chief figures out the best adjustments to make on the car itself. The crew chief is in charge of the crew.
  • Engineer: Works with the car chief to figure out the exact build for each race car.

There will also be a NASCAR official in the pit to make sure all rules are followed, as well as an extra man that may handle tasks like assisting the driver or cleaning the windshield.

By relying on these specialized roles, pit crews can pull off a four-tire change in an astonishing 12 seconds, getting their drivers back on the track that much faster.

The history of the NASCAR pit crew is an exciting and varied one, and every change and invention has helped it become the efficient machine that keeps races going. NASCAR wouldn’t be the same thing that it is today without the smooth motions and choreographed movements of the pit crew.

How “The Hunger Games” Helped Archery as a Sport 0

Posted on September 01, 2016 by Scott Huntington

When you hear the word archer, some of the names you think about are Robin Hood, Legolas and the Green Arrow. However, credit for making archery cool in the U.S. goes to a different archer.

After the 2012 release of “The Hunger Games” showed audiences the heroics of Katniss Everdeen, portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, the popularity of archery in the United States soared. Children dressed up as little archers for Halloween. Young adults started reading again, starting with the book series for the movie.

It wasn’t just that Katniss Everdeen was an archer – archers have been portrayed in movies before. Robin Hood is a legendary thief, Legolas is a somewhat magical elf and the Green Arrow is a superhero.

What made Katniss so cool is how ordinary she was outside of her skill with a bow and arrow. She was just a regular teenager from the poorest district in her country, and out of nowhere, she won an annual, deadly competition. Katniss gave archery a new coolness it hadn’t quite experienced before.

The influence of “The Hunger Games” has reached near and far throughout the country, making archery something of a phenomenon. Read the rest of this entry →

Worst Injuries in Football History 4

Posted on March 04, 2016 by Scott Huntington

NFL football is the most popular sport in the United States, which comes as little surprise to most Americans. From opening day to the Super Bowl, football is a weekly phenomenon. However, between all the dazzling Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed grabs and Aaron Rodgers successful Hail Marys, there’s an unsettling truth lurking: Football is – by far – the most dangerous popular sport.

In 2013, more than 4,500 NFL players reached a $765 million settlement with the league after being diagnosed with and/or suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease often caused by a severe blow to the head. CTE is impossible to diagnose until death, but many players report the symptoms, which begin to show around 8-10 years after the infliction. CTE sufferers can experience dizziness, headaches and disorientation, in addition to memory loss, poor judgment and erratic behavior.

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While a big tackle isn’t necessarily going to inflict future CTE among the player being hit every time, there’s no arguing that the potential for CTE is a growing concern every time players take the field. It’s a sad reality that, when you turn on a professional football game, it’s extremely likely that players you’re watching will develop CTE symptoms down the line, purely because how the game is played. No other sport involves as much contact or bang-bang tackles. Football leads significantly as the sport with the most head injuries.

When looking at the types of injuries that are fairly commonplace in the sport, certain gruesome injuries come to mind that effectively demonstrate the sport’s high-risk nature, even beyond the brain:

Mike Utley’s Vertebrae Injury

Mike Utley, a former Lions offensive lineman, suffered perhaps the sport’s more gruesome injury when he severely injured his sixth and seventh vertebrae against the LA Rams on Nov. 17, 1991. Although he gave the crowd a thumbs-up as he was removed from the field, his spinal cord injuries made him a paraplegic. Although his career was finished by the injury, Utley has turned it into a positive, starting the Mike Utley Foundation, which supports treatment for spinal cord injuries.

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The Worst Airshow Disaster in History 2

Posted on July 20, 2015 by Scott Huntington

Why do people go to airshows? The reasons are many.

Some people are serious airplane enthusiasts, eager to check another aircraft they’ve seen in person off of their list. Some people have an appreciation for the enormous feats of engineering on display.

Probably there are a lot of people who just don’t have anything better to do and attend airshows like they would a county fair — there’s a crowd and a spectacle, so it’s something to go see with the whole family.

But perhaps there’s another driving force behind people’s desire to attend an airshow.

It usually goes unspoken, and most people probably wouldn’t like to admit it. But when you are watching people go to war with gravity — sitting right below them as they rip over your head, temporarily defeating the ubiquitous force that — you’re not just marveling at human ingenuity. Part of you is also wondering what would happen if gravity won.

Read the rest of this entry →

The History of Shooting Sports… in 5-Bullets 14

Posted on September 03, 2014 by Scott Huntington

Firearms have been around since 1260, but were nothing more than a barrel, charged with a measure of black powder.  The first firearms where weapons of war, but once the technology could be refined into smaller, more accurate devices, they were primarily used for hunting.

One of the biggest problems with firearm precision had to do with the construction of the barrel and the shape of the round blasting from the muzzle.

• It Took 600 Years for Shooting Sports to Immerge

rifiling

It wasn’t until firearm manufacturers began to implement ‘rifling’ in mass production, rather than the conventional ‘smooth bore,’ that these devices were considered precision instruments.  The US Civil War (1861-65) was the first instance of large-scale implementation of the supremely accurate ‘gain twist’ rifling for military applications. Also before then, the round itself acted more like an unpredictable knuckleball, because it was nothing more than a lead sphere.  The musket ball design had to change to the more aerodynamic ‘bullet’ shape that we know today. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • George Musso: From Longshot to Hall of Famer
      August 5, 2017 | 4:52 pm
      George Musso

      George Musso

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month went from small college long shot to Pro Football Hall of Famer.

      When George Musso finished his college career at Millikin College in 1933, Chicago Bears coach George Halas offered the 6-foot-2, 265 pound lineman a tryout and eventually a $90 per game contract, but had serious doubts whether he could make the transition from small college football to the NFL.

      It took a year for Musso to adjust, but by 1935 he was an All-Pro tackle. Two years later, he moved to guard and again earned first team All-NFL honors. He became the first player in NFL history to earn first team All-League honors at two different positions.

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