Strange but true: we’ve been looking for an entry point to write about Tinder, which we describe as the casual dating app that connects people with the mere swipe of a screen.
Tinder has no use in our life, having been married for 7 years, but we’ve still been trying to sort through our feelings on the concept of it. Does it merely speed up the process of traditional matchmaking — noncommittal as it might be — or is it a hopelessly shallow means to an end that is about as romantic as calling (or texting) a “good time” phone number scrawled on the stall of a bathroom?
This is a sports blog (usually), so there wasn’t really a good way for us to express those sentiments without seeming terribly off topic … until, of course, Washington State football coach Mike Leach had his weekly news conference. Leach never met a topic he couldn’t veer toward, and this week he delved into the notion of modern romance — not specifically Tinder, but close enough. Said Leach (and yes, we swear this was at a news conference about football):
“I’m not really good with technology. All this button pushing and whatnot. I mean, you can just imagine based on what’s happened in the last 15 years. Conversations won’t happen 10 years from now. There aren’t going to be people to talk to, it’s going to be this (mimics pushing buttons). ‘Do you want to go out on a date with me?’ ‘I don’t know, what do you look like?’ ‘Well I look kind of like this.’ ‘OK, what are your interests?’ ‘Well, what do you think my interests are? Looking into this thing and typing into this just like yours are.’ ‘Yeah, no kidding, that’s what everybody’s doing.’ ‘Well, where do you want to go?’ ‘Well, what difference does it make? Because all we’re going to be doing is looking into machines anyways.’ Well, that’s true and in the end it’s going to be tough to perpetuate the species. There’s no question about that. So we’re all going to look in this box and eventually be extinct. That’s how it ends.”
Leach got pretty dark pretty quick there, diving headlong from the problems of dating in 2014 to the extinction of the species. But we can’t say we entirely disagree (not really about the extinction part), even if we’re not sure it’s fair to judge a process in which we are not an active participant.
The broader connection to football here, aside from a colorful coach going off on a tangent, is that in some ways we feel Leach’s sentiments mirror how some sports are played these days — and part of the reason some are in danger of extinction, too.
For all football’s inherent beauty, savagery, problems and triumphs, it has regardless felt wonderfully unscripted. The best athletes on a given day were going to triumph based on their prowess on the field — within a set of scripted plays, of course, but typically the plays were predicated upon players following general assignments and physically bettering their opponents.
Baseball, too, was a very intense battle of skill — pitcher vs. batter — with a “here it is, if you can hit it” mentality.
Football now feels more and more like a set of sophisticated simulations playing out on a field after coaches spend grueling 18-hour days devising the best ways to defeat an opponent — not by outplaying them, but by outthinking or confusing them.
Baseball is killing itself with information. We know exact splits and tendencies, so why wouldn’t a manager use 7 different pitchers, often more than one in an inning, if he sees a way to get an edge? It fundamentally changes the way games are played, and more so it creates absurdly long games that will eventually drive fans away in droves if it can’t be fixed. But would you stop using information and technology available if you found it to be useful? Probably not.
That brings us back to Leach and modern romance. He’s decrying something he doesn’t understand, but fundamentally he has a point. Someone who uses Tinder, though, is merely using a tool that provides a quicker means to an end … often though (we would imagine) without thinking about thinking about the consequences or even the rationale for using it other than “it exists and therefore it is progress.”
All of this probably raises some larger points about the blindingly fast pace of technological advancement in society beyond just sports and sex, but that’s a story for another time.
For now, we’re left to wonder how it will impact the sports we love, while Leach is left to wonder if there will even be people around to play them.