Everything in sports is more efficient now. The film breakdowns. The statistical measurements. The offseason training. The postgame medical care. The nutrition. The travel. And the ease with which players can find kind and warm buddies with whom to snuggle during road trips.
So says ESPN the Magazine in one of the most thought-provoking pieces of sports journalism I’ve seen in weeks, a brief but compelling argument positing that technological advances have allowed NBA players to more efficiently score on the road, so to speak. Like, not in the basket.
The story suggests that human advancement in efficient coupling has increased the amount of sleep NBA players log on the road, thus perhaps even upping their number of road wins. So to speak. I think.
Quoting from Tom Haberstroh’s groundbreaking piece (which isn’t yet online):
Various apps have done for sex in the NBA what Amazon did for best-selling books. NBA road life is more efficient — and less taxing — when there aren’t open hours spent trolling clubs.
“It’s absolutely true that you get at least two hours more sleep getting [lucky] on the road today versus 15 years ago,” says a former All-Star, who adds that players actually prefer Instagram to Tinder when away from home. “No schmoozing. No going out to the club. No having to get something to eat after the club but before the hotel.”
Have the increased efficiency of rating a randy road rendezvous really resulted in rollicking reactions on the court? The Magazine has a fancy graphic demonstrating the gradual decline of the NBA’s home-court winning percentage over the years, after peaking in 1987-’88 with a 67.9 winning percentage. That means road teams won only 32.1 percent of their games in the darkest of pre-social media days, when the only way to holler was to yell, real loud-like.
Now look at a few recent years by way of comparison. In 2007-08, road teams had a 39.9 winning percentage. In 2010-11 (the season Instagram launched), it was 39.6 percent. In 2013-14 (the year after Tinder launched), it was at 42 percent. This season, by my math, it’s at 42.1 percent — although the Magazine calculated it at 42.6 percent, which it said was an all-time high. That means teams are finishing the job, sealing the deal and closing successfully on the road more often than ever before.
The ESPN story, being responsible journalism, posits potential reasons for this increase other than the easy of social-media triggered snuggling. Players drink less on team airplanes, for one thing. Players don’t want to be captured on social media doing anything silly, so maybe they’re less likely to venture outside for any reasons. There are also less amusing potential explanations, like more corporate and thus less rowdy home crowds, or more professional and thus less easily influenced officials. Also, the greater comforts provided by teams on the road, and the greater care athletes take with their bodies, almost certainly mean that road trips aren’t as taxing on anybody as they used to be.
But there are different ways the body can be taxed, and maybe even pro athletes are worn down by the time spent in various stages of flirtation. Haberstroh writes that he spoke with dozens of NBA insiders — from players to trainers to executives — “and most think the same thing is happening: NBA players are sleeping more and drinking less” during road trips.
Maybe they’re doing so purely out of conscientious concern for the finely tuned and easily disrupted biomechanics that keep their performance high. Or maybe the true thanks goes to Tinder and Instagram.