Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's True Because Science Says So

Today is Thursday, which made yesterday Selection Wednesday for college basketball. Apparently, the Big Blue Nation is in a frenzy about another #1 recruiting class, which includes freshman Nerlins Noel. And perhaps I should be writing about that, feeding the hype behind the possibility of a 9th UK national championship. The thing is, I don't get all that excited about the possibility of someone. I am more of a "let's wait and see" kind of girl. Let's wait and see if he severs his ACL in the first game and is out the rest of the season. Let's wait and see if he rocked a high school gym, but gets performance anxiety in anything that seats over 300. Let's wait and see if he can be successful at UK, academically, and not get arrested for meth/DUI/sexual assault/growing pot in his closet/burning couches just for the hell of it.

So, I'm not going there today. Instead I'm going to share an interesting nugget of research I heard on the John Tesh radio show yesterday. I blame my newly acquired interest in Tesh squarely on Shana. While I was in NYC last June, we got on the subject of Tesh and she essentially convinced me that I'm missing out on tons of tidbits for daily living. And now, almost a year later, I agree.

Yesterday, he covered a research article written by a professor at Calgary University regarding the distraction of basketball players while shooting a free throw. Specifically, how to. Since basketball is the only sport where fans are sitting within the line of sight (and it's fans from the opposing team for the first half of the game), she did a study on the most effective way to distract a player while he/she is shooting a free throw. I've always felt like a player's free throw shooting percentage was based more on the amount of time he/she actually spent practicing a free throw, as opposed to what the fans are doing behind the goal...but here's quantitative proof.

Fans are always waving signs (unibrow signs in our case last year) or "thunder sticks" or humming (for the record, I hate the humming) during games. But this researcher discovered that making a sudden loud noise right before the ball is released is very effective because it sends the brain into fight or flight mode. The brain regards sudden, loud noises as danger and thus the body reacts accordingly.

However, even more effective than that, is to trick the player's brain into thinking the room is moving. Apparently, our brains are hard-wired to constantly intake information about the speed, distance, and angles that it's moving, which allows us to do something as simple as bend over and pick up a pen without misjudging the distance or angle we need to be at to accomplish it. So, if all of the fans are standing and, right before the ball is released, lean to one side, the player's brain will think the floor just moved, resulting in a missed shot as his body compensates.

I have no idea if this works or even if you can get a crowd of 500 people behind the backboard to do anything all at once (except rush a court when your team beats UK at the buzzer, apparently), but it's certainly worth a shot. And an interesting study.

I now return you to Selection Wednesday hype and...isn't it time for baseball or something?


  1. I told you John Tesh was interesting!

    I think I heard something like this once about driving in a if you are driving at someone and the driver pretends to swerve and all the people in the car also lean sideways like they are swerving, the person facing the car will think the car is swerving even though the car never moves.

    It's pretty interesting and would be kind of cool to see happen in an actual game.

  2. In all my years of watching sports, I've never noticed which side fans are on when teams are shooting free throws.

  3. Well, I'm in nearly the same boat. I knew one was facing the opposition during one half, but never realized that it's always the first half! duh!

  4. Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?? Heck, yeah!!!!!!