A QUIET EYE
ALAN ALDA I'm going to be trying my hand at calling
balls and strikes in one of the most hallowed
ballparks in the land, Fenway Park. But I'll be
getting a little help from technology.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) We see how a system once
used for tracking missiles will soon be giving
umpires a second look.
ALAN ALDA That's a definite strike.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) We discover how a "quiet
eye" helps even a novice shoot hoops… And how
a Canadian Olympic team is getting a new view
of their game.
ALAN ALDA Wow!
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) I learn how to balance
ALAN ALDA I'm a cloud!
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) And become a Tiger on the
miniature golf tour.
DEBBIE CREWS Beautiful.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) And I hold my breath for
longer than I thought was possible -- although
not as long as a champion.
ALAN ALDA I'm Alan Alda. Join me and the scientists
who are helping athletes -- and the rest of us
-- keep our eyes "On the Ball."
A QUIET EYE
ALAN ALDA At whatever level this is I play, I
really love playing tennis -- for all the reasons
most people enjoy playing sports -- the exercise,
the competition, the rush that comes from pulling
off a difficult play. But until now, the world
of sports beyond tennis hasn't interested me much.
And then we became intrigued by all the science
and technology that's now being focused on sports
and how that's not only improving performances,
it's also offering a new window into how our bodies
and brains work together. And as a result I've
been in some places I never expected to be: a
basketball court, a golf links, a hockey rink,
even behind the plate at a major league baseball
park. And you know what? It's been fascinating…
BARRY MORTON Ready?
ALAN ALDA Oh yeah.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) For instance, there's the
question that has long intrigued the University
of Calgary's Joan Vickers.
ALAN ALDA Can you get CNN on this?
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Joan wondered where athletes
look when they are playing their sport -- and
so she devised a way to find out.
ALAN ALDA Okay.
JOAN VICKERS So now Alan, would you look at point
one? Point two…
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) That black spot on the
screen is where my gaze is resting. The pupil
of my eye is being tracked as is scans the target
with the aid of the cameras and mirrors mounted
on my head.
JOAN VICKERS And nine. Excellent.
ALAN ALDA Okay, here I go.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Now, my experience with
putting is limited to the miniature golf courses
I play with my grandkids. Which makes me a perfect
subject for Joan Vickers, because she wants to
know if there's a difference in where a rank amateur
like me looks when I'm putting as compared to
someone who sinks putts for a living.
JOAN VICKERS Notice how your gaze actually goes
with the ball? Ninety-five percent of beginning
golfers do that.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) David Lindsay is a golfer
who doesn't hit putts for a living but plays a
pretty good amateur game. And he's been working
with Joan for several years now. David has been
taught by Joan to use his eyes the way she has
discovered the experts do: to look steadily at
the target for a second or two, then look back
at the ball and let his gaze rest there -- before
and even after the stroke.
ALAN ALDA Your gaze is so steady before you hit.
And it's very-it's as steady after you've made
contact. I want to see if there's a jump at the
moment of impact -- if your eye flicks unconsciously.
JOAN VICKERS It's rock steady.
ALAN ALDA It didn't jump at all.
DAVID LINDSAY Well, when I'm doing it well there's
no question in my mind my putting improves dramatically.
But when my putting is starting to go out the
window or that type of thing, it's because my
eye movements are starting to become erratic and
I'm following the pattern that I've established.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So let's see if any of
this helps me. For starters, I'm just going to
try one steady look at the target before bringing
my gaze back to the ball.
ALAN ALDA It's really amazing. It really works.
I only tried to do one thing. Although I was aware
that there were two other things that I wanted
JOAN VICKERS Actually you changed a phenomenal
number of things.
ALAN ALDA Oh I did?
JOAN VICKERS It's amazing, actually.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) By changing how I looked
at the target -- one steady stare -- I'd stopped
my gaze from jumping around. That obviously helped.
But I'm still not holding quietly on the ball
as I hit it.
JOAN VICKERS You're still really-
ALAN ALDA Jumping a little.
JOAN VICKERS Actually you'll see the club's coming
through there, the ball's coming through there
and your eye wants to go with it and it does.
It just takes off. But you have to resist that.
ALAN ALDA Okay.
JOAN VICKERS 'Cause you want that really nice
ALAN ALDA Right.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) This time I'm going to
concentrate on looking at the ball with what Joan
calls a "quiet eye" before and after hitting it.
On my previous tries I'd never made more than
three putts out of six attempts. This time...
ALAN ALDA Four under pressure.
JOAN VICKERS Did you stop thinking about the
mechanics of the club?
ALAN ALDA I don't know if I was ever aware of
the mechanics of the club. Like what? What would
be an example of that?
JOAN VICKERS Well, so many golfers are overwhelmed
with the mechanics of their stance.
ALAN ALDA Oh, no-
JOAN VICKERS And-where the club is moving--
ALAN ALDA Oh no, see, I would never think of
that because nobody told me how to do it.
JOAN VICKERS There you go. You're a free man.
That's the other comment we get, that by stressing
the focus then all of a sudden you're not completely
preoccupied with the mechanics-
ALAN ALDA I can see that.
JOAN VICKERS --Of the stroke and that gives people
more strategies and more things to pay attention
to and they play better.
ALAN ALDA If I do anything, I think about the
cup sucking the ball in. I have bizarre ways of
getting the ball in there.
JOAN VICKERS That's excellent.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Joan Vickers believes her
"quiet eye" concept can help other athletes in
pressure situations -- and she has the statistics
to prove it. For several seasons she's worked
to improve the free throw percentage of the University
of Calgary's women's basketball team. The team's
coach is Shawnee Harle.
SHAWNEE HARLE I want you to look right where
the net goes through the little ring on the front
of the rim. When you look up there, I want you
to say "sight focus" and then you're going to
BASKETBALL PLAYER Out loud?
SHAWNEE HARLE Yes. It all has to be out loud.
BASKETBALL PLAYER Yup. Nothing but net. Sight
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The "Nothing but Net" mantra
is to settle the player down. Saying "Sight, Focus"
ensures her gaze is steady on the target for at
least one second.
SHAWNEE HARLE Good. One more.
BASKETBALL PLAYER Nothing but net. Sight focus.
SHAWNEE HARLE When I watched our players shoot,
I was amazed at how few of them even looked at
the rim for probably any more than two to three
hundred milliseconds. We had shooters on our team
that were looking at the top of the backboard,
the bottom of the net, who were completely unaware
that they were doing that.
ALAN ALDA This was before they studied the quiet
SHAWNEE HARLE Yes. Before we gave them the training.
JOAN VICKERS Shawnee's team was shooting 54 percent
when we started working with them. During that
first season they improved 12 percent here in
this experimental setting. But it didn't show
up in terms of that season of play. But the next
year-you were what? Thirteenth or fourteenth in
the nation that year. In the next year you were
second in the country. And they improved by 22
percent which is unheard of.
ALAN ALDA What's happening in the brain when
you do the quiet eye thing?
JOAN VICKERS It seems to really recognize how
the body wants to really work. The mind wants
to get it organized and the body wants to do it.
But when you put those two things together, you're
putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the
whole system and it breaks down. It especially
breaks down when a person is under stress.
JOAN VICKERS Okay, Alan.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) And speaking of a person
ALAN ALDA Sorry about that. Let' see if I can
do that again.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The idea here is that during
the "quiet eye" moment, my brain is absorbing
and organizing all the information it needs for
taking the shot. Once my body starts the action
itself, vision becomes irrelevant. In fact, according
to Joan, trying to keep my eye on the hoop as
I'm throwing is a harmful distraction.
ALAN ALDA Boy, it's very hard to give up on it,
you know, and really-
SHAWNEE HARLE Yup.
ALAN ALDA So, I did take my eye off it as soon
as I started to shoot.
JOAN VICKERS That's what you're supposed to do.
ALAN ALDA It builds up trust. Actually seeing
this, I believe now that I only have to look at
it two seconds and then I can let my body do what
it does. And it goes right in. It's amazing.
ALAN ALDA It works. I'm living proof it works.
JOAN VICKERS Excellent.
ALAN ALDA Well that was really fun.
JOAN VICKERS Was it? Good.
ALAN ALDA It's amazing. You know what I love
about it? You do what all the scientists on this
program do who we interview. You find a way to
look at what people haven't looked at yet and
to measure it. And you just lift up the carpet
and show what's under. And we've been walking
on the carpet all our lives and we don't know
what's under it. You just take a peek at it and
all of a sudden we have a whole new way to look.
And it's counter-intuitive.
JOAN VICKERS One of the things I was thinking
about when we were shooting is that you actually
changed your technique from when you began to
a much softer shot. And David in golf was saying
the same thing. He's changed the mechanics of
his stroke. But we don't teach that. We don't
actually teach a change in technique as much as
we teach a change in focus and attention.
ALAN ALDA You change the way you look and when
you look, hmm? And that changes the way you do
JOAN VICKERS Right. And then you reconfigure
your body yourself in order to do that.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Knowing my love of tennis,
Joan indulged me by setting up a version of a
study she's done on return of serve in volleyball.
What's she's interested in is how the eye tracks
the ball as it comes across the net. What she
found is that good players don't try to follow
the ball all the way. Instead they let the ball
out of their sight once it gets close and hold
their gaze steady while they hit it.
JOAN VICKERS If this is the ball coming through
here and you know you have to hit it there, then
you stabilize the gaze actually in front. But
the point is you don't have your eye on the ball
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Well it's nice to know
I've been doing something right.
ALAN ALDA Take that.
BECKY KELLAR I'm ready.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) We obviously couldn't come
to Canada for a show on sports science without
BARRY MORTON Here's your helmet. How does it
feel? Something like your hockey helmet?
BECKY KELLAR A little heavier, but-
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Becky Kellar is one of
a group of young women hockey players having their
gaze tracked in the stadium that housed the 1998
Winter Olympic Games. These players are Canada's
best, training for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The
idea here is to find out where Becky is looking
when she's playing defense -- what she's doing
to read the situation in front of her as she and
a teammate skate against two opponents. To me,
everything happens so fast I can barely see the
JOAN VICKERS The best players are seeing things
very soon. Much earlier than we ever imagined.
What-on the order of two seconds? Two seconds
earlier. And that's what's separating the really
skilled players from the not so skilled.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) A slow-motion replay of
Becky's gaze shows her checking on the positions
of all the players as well as the puck as the
play comes toward her and she's deciding on her
move. Watching the replay with us is the coach
of the Canadian national team, Danielle Sauvageau.
ALAN ALDA When I was wearing the helmet I would
be surprised sometimes to find out I wasn't looking
where I thought I had been looking. Do you find
that with your players, too? Do they come back
and tell you "I was looking at her, I was looking
at her"? And you'd say "no, here's where you were
DANIELLE SAUVAGEAU This is an excellent point
because sometimes a player's gonna say "yes, this
is where I was looking" because they know this
is where they should be looking but with that
kind of analysis we could go back and say "well,
no, here, see, you were looking at that."
ALAN ALDA It's a tool then not just to improve
a player's ability but to improve communication
among all of you so that you understand the player's
DANIELLE SAUVAGEAU That's right.
ALAN ALDA So you really can see it through the
DANIELLE SAUVAGEAU Yes. Sports science helps
us coaches in today's way of coaching to understand
a little bit more of the players and to help them
understand a little bit like how it's all about.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Before we left Calgary,
I asked to wear the helmet one last time. My question
was this: How does a juggler -- even an amateur
-- keep track of several objects at once.
ALAN ALDA I always wondered where your eye was
when you saw things peripherally and now I see
that you can look at something and never move
your eye and beware of all this stuff happening
peripherally. It's great. You have a vision into
stuff that's happening that nobody ever saw before.
ALAN ALDA So what is this? What are you going
to do to me?
DEBBIE CREWS We're going to hook up some electrodes
to your head and we're going to look at the electrical
activity in different parts of your brain and
they're going to be an indication of what state
you're in. Okay, so, when you perform in sport…
you play tennis, right?
ALAN ALDA Yes.
DEBBIE CREWS You play golf?
ALAN ALDA No.
DEBBIE CREWS You're going to play golf today.
ALAN ALDA Well, I can tell you right now what
state I'm in.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Here we go with the headgear
again, this time a brand new helmet designed to
pick up my brainwaves.
ALAN ALDA Well, this is a rubberized one. I've
never had one like that. I know all the fashions
in these caps.
DEBBIE CREWS You do. That's a new one, isn't
that right Steve? That's the newest.
ALAN ALDA This is probably nice for street wear.
Blinking. One, two…
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) With my brain on line,
it's time to choose my putter.
ALAN ALDA Well, this seems nice. I don't know
what's good or not.
DEBBIE CREWS You like that one?
ALAN ALDA Well how would I know?
DEBBIE CREWS Feel.
ALAN ALDA Feel? Yes.
DEBBIE CREWS Look and feel. You got it.
ALAN ALDA That seems nice. Is this part of it?
Picking out your putter? So I feel like I'm in
touch with it. Always be in touch in your putter,
folks. Okay. Are you sure Tiger Woods started
this way? About seven.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) As I make each putt. Debbie's
asked me to rate how I feel about it, on a scale
of one to ten.
ALAN ALDA That seems pretty good…like a seven
or an eight. Um…another eight.
DEBBIE CREWS Nice.
ALAN ALDA A six.
DEBBIE CREWS Nice putt.
ALAN ALDA An eight.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) We've come here to Arizona
State University straight from Calgary, and my
quiet eye training is paying off.
DEBBIE CREWS 1,2,3,4,5…
ALAN ALDA Pretty good, huh?
DEBBIE CREWS Six…yeah.
ALAN ALDA You know what's… you've been keeping
DEBBIE CREWS Six out of twenty.
ALAN ALDA But it feels like, I got closer when
I thought, when I felt better about it, you know?
There seemed to be a real correspondence there.
DEBBIE CREWS And you smiled.
ALAN ALDA And I smiled? I smiled when? Before
DEBBIE CREWS When you were getting ready.
ALAN ALDA No kidding.
DEBBIE CREWS Yeah.
ALAN ALDA Oh, that's right. I started to notice
that…I was starting to feel…
DEBBIE CREWS You were smiling.
ALAN ALDA In fact I was starting to act-Toward
the end I was starting to get the feeling-this
doesn't make any difference . It's fun. I'm just
playing. There's a hole. And I'll just swing and
I'll let the ball go in the hole.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) It turns out that -- without
realizing it -- I'd been doing pretty much what
Debbie's research suggests is the key to good
putting -- getting the two halves of my brain
DEBBIE CREWS As you're getting ready and you're
getting prepared and you're reading your line
and you're making decisions, the left hemisphere
which is your analytic side, your verbal side,
your self-talk is going to be quite active. As
you get closer and closer to actually moving the
club, the left hemisphere must quiet. That's the
consistent finding we've had through all the sports.
It must quiet. In essence, the right hemisphere
becomes a little more active. The right hemisphere
is your rhythm, timing, balance, coordination,
creativity, imagery. And, so what you achieve
in the last second before you move, which is where
you're still focusing attention…You achieve a
state of balance in essence between the two hemispheres.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So the question is: How
do you get your brain into a state of balance?
ALAN ALDA What's the idea? Just to go back and
DEBBIE CREWS No, the idea is to balance.
ALAN ALDA Oh balance? Oh balance? That isn't
easy. Boy, that's impossible. Whoa!
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Exactly what balancing
my body has to do with balancing my brain isn't
immediately obvious. But as I stop trying to figure
out how to balance -- a left brain activity --
and let my body take care of itself -- helped
by a little right brain imagery -- things get
ALAN ALDA I'm a cloud.
DEBBIE CREWS Ha! Very good.
ALAN ALDA Every time I think I'm a cloud…
DEBBIE CREWS That's your imagery.
ALAN ALDA It balances. That's really weird.
DEBBIE CREWS That's your imagery. That's excellent.
ALAN ALDA I'm done.
DEBBIE CREWS You're done. Very good.
DEBBIE CREWS Stand.
DEBBIE CREWS Okay, we're gonna have you putt.
ALAN ALDA Have me putt now?
DEBBIE CREWS Yup.
ALAN ALDA Okay, over down there by the hole?
DEBBIE CREWS Beautiful.
ALAN ALDA Also eight.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The EEG confirmed my brain
was more balanced after balancing my body -- and
I'm giving better ratings to my putts
ALAN ALDA That felt good. Eight or nine.
DEBBIE CREWS Now that's a competitor. They always
put the last one in the hole. That's true.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) But Debbie isn't finished
getting my brain into the right putting mode.
Just as I'm getting used to the idea that relaxing
and letting go is what's important, here I am
on a stationary bicycle, getting all pumped up.
DEBBIE CREWS 60 seconds. Okay, we don't give
you much warm down on this one. Putter? We're
gonna hook you in, it'll take a couple seconds
for the signals to come in.
ALAN ALDA Yeah.
DEBBIE CREWS We're on.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) This time my EEG shows
my brain is definitely revved up -- but, crucially,
the extra activity is still pretty well balanced
between the two hemispheres.
ALAN ALDA Eight.
DEBBIE CREWS Wow.
ALAN ALDA Eight.
DEBBIE CREWS That was a nice putt. That's in.
My tape can't stop it. That's a nice putt.
ALAN ALDA Um…nine.
DEBBIE CREWS Beautiful putt. Last one.
ALAN ALDA I knew it was a nine before I saw it
DEBBIE CREWS Excellent.
ALAN ALDA That was good, too. That was like nine.
DEBBIE CREWS Beautiful.
ALAN ALDA Last one in.
DEBBIE CREWS That's right. Always last one in.
ALAN ALDA You should tell me that on every shot.
DEBBIE CREWS But you know what? When you get
your arousal state up--just like here-If we say
last putt and we get your arousal up, that means
you have more activity to work with. And you focus
it, which you did beautifully on that putt, and
the ball goes in the hole.
ALAN ALDA That true for me on the stage, too.
Before I go on stage, I do a lot of exercises.
DEBBIE CREWS That's right.
ALAN ALDA And the audience of course gets you
DEBBIE CREWS Yes.
ALAN ALDA There's an excitement. And you're…It's
very interesting that that extra charge you get
helps you concentrate sometimes.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Debbie has got me tuned
up just in time for one of those little surprises
the producers of the show love to pull every now
and again. Also invited to Debbie Crews' lab today
is a real golfer, LPGA tournament player Tina
ALAN ALDA Whoa.
TINA TOMBS It's luck.
ALAN ALDA How much of the game is putting, Tina?
TINA TOMBS The older I get the more I think that
putting is basically all of the game. It comes
down to hitting a drive. I mean, don't think you
have to think as much over a drive, at least I
don't-I don't as much over a t-shot as I do over
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Tina's here to add her
expert brain to Debbie's EEG data -- but also,
I'm just now discovering, to put me under pressure
and up the ante on my new found putting skills.
DEBBIE CREWS I think what we'll do now, is we're
gonna go sets of five. And we'll look at number
of putts made and go back and forth and put a
little money of the condition.
TINA TOMBS How many did you make?
ALAN ALDA Oh, I don't remember.
DEBBIE CREWS Oh, I don't remember. I have it
right here, Tina.
TINA TOMBS That's alright. That's alright.
ALAN ALDA I'm so competitive it's just unbelievable.
Everybody thinks I'm a nice guy. Is that the hole
over there? It's a little thing we developed at
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Debbie has done several
studies on what golfers call choking.
DEBBIE CREWS And you get a dollar for every one
ALAN ALDA I know, I know. You're trying to make
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) That's when anxiety about
performing under pressure means your game falls
TINA TOMBS One for one. But you've never played?
ALAN ALDA No.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Of course, I was getting
a little help from the special rules of this particular
DEBBIE CREWS Two for two.
TINA TOMBS Are we counting that? Even though
it's the speed?
DEBBIE CREWS If it goes through.
TINA TOMBS Are you serious? So I can belt it?
So even if it goes through, it's in?
ALAN ALDA Can we have it quiet on the golf course?
TINA TOMBS Sorry, but I'm trying to get it in
ALAN ALDA Do you know how many years I've devoted
to this game?
TINA TOMBS And that would never stay in the hole.
But that would never stay in a hole.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) It feels as though with
my quiet eye and newly balanced brain at work
-- and most importantly with low expectations
-- I can do no wrong.
TINA TOMBS I think that's a made putt. That one
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Tina, for some reason,
who clearly should be beating the pants off me,
is having a hard time.
TINA TOMBS There it is.
DEBBIE CREWS She doesn't have a chance in getting
the ball in the hole in the state she's in because
the state is having the perception that she should
be beating and winning the match. What Alan's
doing is he's looking at the hole, going there,
coming back, getting the bottom of his breath
and go. His mechanics aren't anywhere hear as
solid as hers. But he's putting the ball in the
TINA TOMBS Are we done?
DEBBIE CREWS Actually, you can just pay him.
No, I'm just teasing.
ALAN ALDA Here's the thing: You have a lifetime
of experience hitting, playing real golf. This
is a toy thing that's all chaotic. You couldn't…it
was different…all the bumps were different every
couple of times you hit. It doesn't matter to
me…all my whole experience in golf is on this
stupid rug. You know, so…
TINA TOMBS You should play.
ALAN ALDA If I could take this rug out to the
golf course, I'd be great.
ALAN ALDA Okay, step back.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Ah, if only…
ALAN ALDA I almost fell over.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Once out on the driving
range, my true golfing skills are quickly exposed.
But even here, apparently, things aren't hopeless.
The Arizona State research program that Debbie
Crews is part of is best known in golfing circles
for its work on imaging. The pro golfer Phil Mikelson
ascribed a recent tour win at least in part to
imaging techniques he'd learned here at ASU.
DEBBIE CREWS What we're gonna do at this point
is we're gonna put an image in first of what you
want to have happen. There's two things you can
do. You can put an image of the ball flying, landing
in that target, okay? And that's gonna prep everything
to set up the motor program to perform. Them the
other thing is, you can put an image, you know,
of how you want to swing. Do you have any idea
of how you swing?
ALAN ALDA Of course not.
DEBBIE CREWS I don't think so.
ALAN ALDA No.
DEBBIE CREWS So we're gonna skip that one.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So here we go. A little
arousal… add a pinch of imagery -- there's the
ball sailing into the target -- stir in a little
brain balancing, and for old times sake, top it
all off with a nice quiet eye.
DEBBIE CREWS Yeah!
ALAN ALDA Where was it?
DEBBIE CREWS Just is front.
ALAN ALDA Just in front?
DEBBIE CREWS Beautiful.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) But enough about me. The
real reason we're here is to see Tina at work
out here where it counts while Debbie is actively
monitoring her brain-- something that's never
been done before.
DEBBIE CREWS So it's really exciting. We're gonna
look for that state-same as we did before-a second
before. And theoretically she gets very quiet,
so we should be able to get the data. She's doing
full swing outside into a target. And now we have
the technology where we can actually go outside
and do that.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) And Tina, of course, now
that she's where she belongs, drops the ball right
into that impossibly small square in the middle
of the target.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Last baseball season, the
Boston Red Sox were kind enough to let me spend
a little time behind the plate…
ALAN ALDA Strike one.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) …trying my hand at what
is surely one of the toughest jobs in baseball.
ALAN ALDA That's a strike, huh?
CATCHER That was a strike.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) What I'd find most alarming
about the job is that you can't second- guess
yourself -- though plenty of other people do.
ALAN ALDA That was outside the zone, wasn't it?
BATTER That was a strike.
ALAN ALDA Was that a strike? No kidding, was
PAUL BAIM You're the umpire.
ALAN ALDA Jeez, I know. I would talk it over.
I mean, don't we want to arrive at consensus here?
We don't want to be, I mean, dictatorial, you
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) It's clearly time for a
review of the strike zone, courtesy of baseball
buff Paul Baim.
PAUL BAIM The area over the plate, okay, from
the hollow just below his knee--.
ALAN ALDA Oh, all the way down there.
PAUL BAIM To about-to about here.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Paul Baim is also an engineer
in an aerospace company, whose specialty is tracking
fast moving objects -- usually things like missiles,
but more recently baseballs.
PAUL BAIM Now where was that. Outside? Looked
outside to me.
ALAN ALDA Looked outside to me. I'm just watching
out for my life here.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Paul's been working with
the company that has brought pitch tracking to
television, allowing viewers a 3-D graphical view
of where a pitch goes and at least a good approximation
of the strike zone. It gives TV watchers yet another
way to second-guess umpires.
ALAN ALDA Whoa! That just dropped in, didn't
it? That's a definite strike. This guy's doing
better and better. And he's not hitting me hardly
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) But the current commercial
system isn't accurate enough -- especially in
defining the top and bottom of the strike zone
-- to be useful to umpires themselves.
PAUL BAIM No one else in the park has as good
as view of the pitch as the umpire does. So there's
really no opportunity for umpires to get any sort
of feedback on what they're doing that's objective.
They get lots of feedback but most of it isn't
ALAN ALDA It's kind of instantaneous.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) So Paul Baim set out to
give umpires some objective -- and almost instantaneous
-- feedback by upgrading the pitch tracker already
installed in major league ballparks like Fenway.
PAUL BAIM One of the interesting things about
Fenway is that because it's a very old park and
everything here is pretty much set in its ways,
is finding locations for the cameras that would
number one, not get in anyone's way and number
two, get the job done that we need to get done.
ALAN ALDA So where are they?
PAUL BAIM Well, we have a pair of high cameras
that actually track the ball are up in the rafters
and you can see there are a pair of cameras there
up above the first base line. A pair of identical
cameras are up in the rafters up off the third
ALAN ALDA So from the time the pitch leaves the
mound here, what is happening?
PAUL BAIM What we do is we concentrate on a piece
of that corridor that the ball travels through,
with the cameras running continuously. And what
the system does is it automatically determines
when a ball size ball-shaped object traveling
in the right direction at about a reasonable speed
enters the field of view. And at that point the
system says "Well, this is probably a pitch.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) These images show both
the predicted and the actual path of the ball
on its way to the plate. A graphic is constructedfrom
the images showing the ball's flight from different
viewpoints. The cameras stop tracking the ball
where the batter might interfere with the image
-- which raises an obvious question.
ALAN ALDA If the cameras can't take a picture
of the ball for the last three or four feet, how
are you able to give us a picture here of what
happens to the ball when it drops off sharply
and that kind of thing?
PAUL BAIM What we do is use a model of the physics
of the baseball in flight. And apply that to the
data that we actually measure. And that lets us
extrapolate the path of the ball for those last
three to four feet very accurately. The system
is accurate to within essentially about an inch
and a quarter in the case of the commercial system.
And in the case of the umpires' system, it's accurate
to about half an inch.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The trickiest thing to
measure accurately is the top and bottom of the
strike zone. Because it's set by the batter's
height and stance, it's different for every pitch.
The new system uses two additional cameras --
located in the dugouts -- to take a snapshot of
the batter just after the pitch is thrown. This
snapshot is used to define the strike zone as
the pitch crosses the plate a few tenths of a
second later. The Umpire Information System generates
a CD-ROM within an hour of the game's ending.
Popping it into his official Major League Baseball
laptop, the plate umpire can check out any pitch
in the game. Calls the system disagreed with are
marked N for no. Clicking on them brings up a
graphic showing the pitch's actual location as
well as a 6-second video clip of the play. Paul
Baim and Major League Baseball are emphatic that
the system isn't meant to replace umpires or publicly
second guess them. Rather it's to give umpires
a sort of instant post-game self-analysis.
PAUL BAIM The issue here is not about helping
umpires get those pitches quote right that they
miss by half an inch. The point is not to split
hairs. The point is to give them the view of pitches
that might be within the upper part of the strike
zone that they're not necessarily used to calling
a strike but in fact was a strike. Or pitches
that curve a lot and fall through the bottom of
the strike zone and get caught by the catchers
down near the ground and to everyone watching,
look like well, that obviously must have been
low but in fact was passed through the strike
zone because it's curving so much. Those are the
pitches that we are trying to help the umpires
get another view of.
ALAN ALDA If umpires routinely start to look
at the pitches again after the game, do you have
any evidence that that is going to improve their
behavior when they're on the field the next time?
PAUL BAIM Because nothing like this-nothing even
faintly like this has ever been available. We
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) But he'll probably soon
find out. As this year's baseball season gets
underway, the plan is to equip most of the major
league ballparks with the system now at Fenway.
ALAN ALDA That looked like a strike to me.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Then umpires around the
country will not only be calling them as they
see them. Later, in the privacy of their hotel
rooms, they'll be able to see them as they called
ALAN ALDA Strike! Three of them. Out. He's out.
And I'm in the shower.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) While in major league parks
this spring the sound will be the familiar crack
of the ball on wooden bats, on college ball-fields
the sound will be very different. Aluminum bats
replaced wood for college ball in the early 1970s
to save money -- aluminum bats are essentially
indestructible. But they also hit the ball much
harder and faster than wood. In 1998, concerned
at the increasing potency of aluminum bats as
the manufacturers competed on performance, the
NCAA called a bat summit meeting in Kansas City.
JIM SHERWOOD The college World Series had just
been decided by a game with the score of 21-14.
More like a football game as opposed to a baseball
game. They were concerned about players possibly
being injured from batted balls, particularly
pitchers, even though they didn't have a lot of
data showing that pitchers were dropping like
flies. There still was the potential for this
occurring. So with that they said, we're gonna
to have a ceiling on performance and we're gonna
go out and study this.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Jim Sherwood's lab in Lowell,
Massachusetts, is one of the few in the country
equipped with a machine that can swing a bat at
a ball that is at the same time being flung at
the bat. We filmed both wood and aluminum bats
with a high-speed camera. Much of the energy of
the collision goes into squashing the ball. But
the compression is less with aluminum than it
is with wood. The reason is that the hollow aluminum
bat itself is distorted by the impact. This stored
energy flings the ball off an aluminum bat at
speeds up to 5 miles an hour faster than it comes
off a wood bat. As the NCAA struggled with how
to set a ceiling on the performance of aluminum
bats, Jim Sherwood came up with a simple suggestion….
DAN Taking a hit.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Restrict aluminum bats
to hitting no better than wooden ones.
JIM SHERWOOD And with that the baseball research
panel elected to go with a wood-like rule and
they chose to base it on the largest wood bat
that a college player could potentially use. We
would test that on the Baum hitting machine and
whatever the best wood bat hit, that's what the
speed limit would be.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) But as every player and
fan knows, how well a bat hits depends on just
where the ball makes contact. So the Lowell team
adjusts their machine to hit the ball in different
places along the bat, moving it a half inch at
a time. For a wooden bat, every half-inch makes
a big difference. The fastest speed off the bat
is typically about six inches from the tip, at
what players often call the sweet spot. From tests
like these, the lab established the speed limit
for a ball a coming off an aluminum bat. Now the
lab spends much of its time checking sample aluminum
bats from the manufacturers to ensure they meet
the NCAA specifications for size and weight, as
well as observing the speed limit when hit in
the machine. Outside, on the UMass Lowell's baseball
field, another key difference between wood and
aluminum bats is about to be investigated.
BOB COLLIER What we'd like you to do is take
a few hits right on the sweet spot area. Make
it a good hit, really go for it, and then move
the ball contact area out to the end of the bat.
Do three or four hits there, really consciously
trying to meet the ball on the end of the bat.
And then move into the handle area and we'll pick
up the acoustics for those three areas.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Bob Collier and his colleague
Ken Kaliski are fascinated by the sounds of baseball.
Today they're recording the sound of wood bats
-- which the Lowell team routinely uses for batting
practice -- to see how different the satisfying
crack of the bat is when the hit's on the sweet
spot… From the sound of a hit off the end of the
bat… Or off the bat's handle. BOB COLLIER When
they hit on the end or, particularly those last
handle shots-very, very different sound. Of course,
that compounded by the feeling, the sting--poor
batter. "What did you tell me to hit it in on
the handle for? Oh!"
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) A wood bat, like a piano
string, vibrates when stuck. In this exaggerated
view, there's a node -- a point where the vibration
is at a minimum -- near the sweet spot. A ball
hit on this node meets the bat solidly, giving
that satisfying sharp crack. Hits on the end of
the bat or on the handle, where the vibrations
are greater, make a duller thud. Some outfielders
claim they can use this difference in sound to
help them field the ball. What Bob wants to know
is whether aluminum bats also sound different
depending on where they are hit.
BOB COLLIER End.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The question is complicated
by the fact that aluminum bats are so noisy.
BOB COLLIER This ping that you're hearing is
a good 15-20 dB louder than the, even the crack
of the bat. Wow!
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The ping is made by those
same vibrations that make the ball pop off the
bat. What's more, the bat rings like a bell pretty
much wherever it's hit. The question is, are there
still subtle differences in the ping that reflect
the quality of the hit.
BOB COLLIER The analysis will show us whether
we're talking a 3-dB difference, which is very
difficult to detect, or a 10-dB, which you can
recognize very very easily. So just what those
shades of difference are -it's interesting. That's
what's interesting as far as the ball players
DAVE With the aluminum bat I think it's definitely
a lot harder to tell the difference because the
ball just jumps off the aluminum bats. With the
wood bat, if you get jammed, you can definitely
tell because it's not that crisp crack you get.
But with the aluminum bat it's all like the same
so it pretty much, it pretty much sounds the same.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) And indeed it does. Bob
and Ken's analysis showed the quality of the ping
to be almost identical for the different hits.
But there were slight differences in loudness
-- barely enough for the instruments to detect,
and probably at the limit of a human ear's ability
BOB COLLIER It's the human air brain system that's
something that gains our respect, you know, and
admiration. We can, there are people that can
do things and understand things way beyond what
our instruments can do. They can just give us
an indication of what is happening and maybe just
lead us into some channels of thought that can
be helpful. And that's why I think that human
engineering, which I like to think what I do,
is what makes life so interesting.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Surfacing into the sunshine
off the south of France is Loic Leferme, a superstar
in a rapidly growing international sport. In a
deep dive contest called No Limit, he's just set
a new world record -- 452 feet without drawing
a breath. Loic is a member of the French national
apnea team - in France, apnea means not breathing.
Today they'll be using the same underwater sled
Loic broke the record with. It's the team's regular
Saturday morning training session, 4 months after
the record dive. As they practice, the team members
will also be supporting Loic, who today is preparing
for a 300-foot training dive.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT If you want to be great at that
discipline, you have to be more quiet, to relax
and to have a psychological preparation, as he
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Relaxation is essential.
Exertion just consumes the precious single lungful
of air. Loic's companions practice an event which
requires swimming directly down. They move slowly
and deliberately. Loic starts breath-holding exercises.
Learning how to stay under like this is the basic
skill that deep divers have to develop. The best
in the team can do seven minutes, while most people
can manage a minute or less.
ALAN ALDA How long will they stay like that?
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT I've heard here now only one
minute and a half.
ALAN ALDA Only a minute and a half.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT Yeah.
LOIC LEFERME 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. OK Alan, try to relax
your face and your neck here.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) I tried several dives using
Loic's relaxation techniques, and my breath-holding
did begin to improve.
LOIC LEFERME You close your eyes.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) These techniques can be
very powerful. We can actually defeat our body's
own signals to breathe - and then black out and
drown. That's why teams like these always train
in a group, and always watch each other like hawks.
ALAN ALDA That was worse. Oh no, it was longer,
LOIC LEFERME One minute and five.
ALAN ALDA I stayed under about 10 seconds longer.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Surface breath-holding
is a competitive event, and I could see the fun
in it, but it has to be done with others, who
know the very real risks.
ALAN ALDA It's possible to black out and not
realize that you're blacking out.
CLAUDE CHAPUIS Of course, you never realize…
ALAN ALDA You never notice it. You never realize.
So you need somebody else there with you to read
CLAUDE CHAPUIS Of course.
ALAN ALDA You need an experienced person.
LOIC LEFERME It's like climbing. If you climb
alone without any rope, you take your risk. If
you have a rope and you know how to use it, if
you are both… two, it's easy.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) This little finger clip
detects Loic's heart rate and oxygen level in
the blood. His low 70s heart rate, with 99% blood
oxygen saturation, are about normal. Loic is going
to perform a long breath-hold, while we monitor
his heart and blood. He's going to be down for
4 minutes. The secret to these amazing performances
is in something called the dive response. It's
a primitive reflex, triggered when our faces are
plunged into water, and found in all mammals.
One consequence is a dramatic drop in heart rate.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT You see, he has lost from 10
to 15 beats per minute, after one minute of breath-holding.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Loic's heart rate continues
to drop. He's taking a natural reflex and amplifying
it through his well-practiced and profound relaxation.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT Two minutes and 15 seconds.
The O2 saturation is perfect.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The dive response also
contracts blood vessels in Loic's limbs, concentrating
blood in the vital heart, lungs and brain.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT 3 minutes, 30 seconds.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) By three and a half minutes
his blood oxygen is way down. Again, Loic's mental
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT The concentration of oxygen
in his body is really decreasing, even in his
tissue in the heart, in the brain. But you see
that he can bear it. Me, I can't bear it, but
he can. OK. Put it on your nose.
ALAN ALDA What you're doing now is just to get
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT Yes, just to get a base.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Loic is not only mentally
disciplined, but he trains to keep his body physically
very flexible. That's so he can use a technique
for increasing lung capacity, which we're just
about to measure.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT Third time. Then after it will
be up to you. Take your air in max… take it, take
it, and then blow very fast, blow, blow, blow,
keep on, keep on, go on, go on, go on, OK, OK,
OK. OK it's good. Fine.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Loic scores 5.9 liters
- normal for his body size. For the second test,
Loic uses a special pumping technique.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT Alan, look what his technique
does is to increase that capacity.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The pumping blows up Loic's
lungs, literally like a balloon.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT OK. Blow, blow, blow, blow…
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The result is dramatic.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT Blow, keep on, keep on. OK.
ALAN ALDA So he went up a whole liter. He went
up from 5.9 to 6.9.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT 5.99 to 6.9 Cinq, quatre, trois,
deux, un. Top. Whenever you want.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Back at the team's training
session, Loic is still warming up for his 300
foot -- or hundred meter -- dive. Actually, we
should say, he's slowing down. He's relaxing to
heighten the dive response, while minimizing exertion.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT For that first attempt he is
going very slowly. Usually it doesn't take a lot
of time. You can go to 20 meters very fast.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) This is just a 20 meter
- 60 foot - warm-up, but the hundred meter dive
Loic's going to do today would have broken the
record in the 1970s, and now techniques like Loic's
are allowing divers to aim for 150 meters. That's
nearly 500 feet. Loic drifts back to the group
at the surface, satisfied his dive response is
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT OK.
LOIC LEFERME That was good. The training is always
like this. It's not like zen and yoga. But it's
another way to relax yourself because then your
head is with the group, and you have time to relax,
you have time to play.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Now the group checks out
the weighted sled that will carry Loic down.
LOIC LEFERME It's the team which is the most
important, because the team make someone go down
very deep. And without the team you don't do anything.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The sled is raised with
an airbag, inflated from a scuba tank that's attached
to it. Loic will bring himself up from his deep
dive this way, too. Everything is in order. While
safety divers stand by, Loic prepares himself.
He gets his face wet, to stimulate the dive response.
His heart rate now starts to drop. The safety
divers head down to wait at a hundred feet. Although
Loic is going below normal scuba limits, they
may be needed when he comes up. Loic breathes
deeply, then pumps to expand his lungs. The safety
divers flash past.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT 40 seconds. He's 50 meters.
It takes more than one minute, one minute 15 seconds
to go up to a hundred meters. Almost at the bottom.
We will see perhaps the rope - it will pull down…
in ten seconds.
TEAM MEMBER One minute.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) At this depth Loic feels
great - the pressure has collapsed his lungs to
one tenth their size at the surface, forcing most
of the available oxygen into his blood.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT He has taken one minute and
4 seconds, and now he's going up.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) Now comes the dangerous
part. Loic's lungs rapidly re-expand, pulling
oxygen back out of his blood. He could black out.
30 feet down he releases his air bag.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT We see the balloon, and there
is a safety free-diver with him, and they are
coming up very slowly. He's here. We can see him
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) The last 15 feet, when
the lungs expand the most, are the riskiest. Everyone's
relieved to see Loic in good shape. Well, I'm
not diving to a hundred meters, but I am going
to try extending my breath-holding performance.
LOIC LEFERME You try to relax. Your arms. Your
neck. 3, 2, 1.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) I'm about as relaxed as
I can manage with an underwater camera pushed
into my face. But it's totally relaxing to know
Loic is watching me every second.
LOIC LEFERME He's OK. Relax your neck. OK you
feel good. You feel good. Close your eyes. Good.
ALAN ALDA Wasn't much longer. Probably the same.
What was it?
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT What do you feel? What do you
ALAN ALDA A minute and thirty two.
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT A minute and thirty two? A minute
and forty five.
ALAN ALDA Really?
PHILLIPE AFFRAIT Yeah.
ALAN ALDA Oh. So, OK that's better.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATION) After just a few hours
training, I had almost doubled my breath-holding,
and that was no surprise to Loic.
LOIC LEFERME In training one month, perhaps you
will do four or five minutes, and sometimes people,
they say, Oh - it's impossible. Yes, it's possible.
You just have to train, and you have to put your
mind in the way of apnea. That's all. And that's