In 2010 Rob Dyrdek and Street League™ introduced a relatively new concept to the world of “street” skateboarding: mathematics. The “Instant Scoring eXperience,” or ISX, that immediately quantifies the quality of maneuvers has changed the way competitors approach the “streets”. Skaters may now rely on pre-engineered trick lists to assure trick score quotas are met and sponsors remain happy. The utilization of numbers to produce wins is nothing new in the world of sports and baseball’s General Managers have been using a scientific approach to build teams since the 90’s. It’s called Sabermetrics and it may be the future of skateboarding.
Bill James, one of the system’s inventors, defined Sabermetrics as, “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.” The theories of Sabermetrics have been around since the 60’s and they may have already been adopted by wealthy skate sponsors like Nike SB and Monster Energy who are looking to cash in at the next contest. But will this “objective knowledge” about skateboarding trickle down to the actual streets? Will the skate videos of the future come complete with an ISX scoreboard? Will skateboarding’s youth hit the streets with hand-help ISX companions that will help rate the performance of other members of their skate team? Dyrdek breaks down the possibilities on the ISX website:
“Now, like when Kobe Bryant hits a three pointer at the buzzer, street skaters, as well as all action sports athletes, will experience the connection between their competitive achievement and the parallel emotional experience fans have while watching them at a live event or on television. It’s game-changing technology and is the next great leap forward we’ve been waiting for.”
Sean Malto was the first to harness the power of Sabermetrics in the first season of Street League with his conservative approach that emphasized consistency over difficulty. By taking advantage of the scoring system he was able to win the title of Street League Champion first in California and again in New Jersey. This new approach to skating was almost immediately productive for Malto and his ability to produce wins was impossible to ignore. Perhaps Nike, who has been supporting baseball players since long before the era of Sabermetrics appreciated Malto’s calculated consistency. Nothing can be said for certain, but not long after his wins Malto captured a lucrative contract with the company, one of the wealthiest footwear manufacturers in the world.
Big-budget companies have the assets required to engineer the perfect skate team and many have already managed to slap logos on the chests of many ISX-inclined skaters. The companies that cannot afford the top-performing skaters may have to resort to more drastic measures. New company standards could potentially be put in to place: only tricks that score 6.0 and above can appear in videos, all enders must be 9.0 or above, all tricks between 3.0 and 5.9 are OK’d for web content, etc. The dangers of Sabermetrics are obvious, but they must be acknowledged. If skateboarding succumbs to the boundaries of a ten point scoring system we may never see another crazy hill-bomb in a video part, or a video part at all.
Just like in baseball, the widespread use of steroids in the world of professional skateboarding is imminent and the consequences are yet to be seen. Tricks and boundaries are destined to be broken and the assistance of steroids will guarantee jaw-dropping stunts. Will Street League Champions of the future be spinning and flipping tornadoes, covered in logos and injecting performance enhancing drugs? It only seems more and more likely as the stakes continue to rise.