An example posted to Whoop’s Instagram last summer shows its potential: When Justin Thomas faced a 50-foot putt on the first playoff hole of July’s Workday Charity Open, his heart was pumping 112 times per minute as he readied his putter, 119 at ball strike and up to 146 when it sank.
“This is the beginning of making the fan experience much more data-rich,” says Will Ahmed, CEO of Whoop, which recently won SportTechie’s 2020 award for Outstanding Technology. “What starts with heart rate, over time, could be a lot of different physiological metrics, including things like sleep and recovery, which I think would be pretty innovative. It really is a true partnership in the sense that both Whoop and the PGA Tour are going to be working to figure this out and figure out ways to enhance the fan experience together.”
That’s from SportTechie dot com (I dunno, man), in an article hailing a “landmark deal” between a, ah, “personalized fitness tracking” company called Whoop and the PGA Tour “that will allow for golfers’ heart rates to be synced with celebratory video highlights such as tournament-winning putts or holed-out iron shots from the fairway.” Yes. Ha ha ha… yes! Now, now, for the first time ever, some human drama in sports, some reason to watch.
If you are anything like me, a totally normal person, a one-man representative sample of humanity, you are incapable of appreciating athletic spectacle unaccompanied by full, unfettered access to all the biological functions of the participants (and also at present have a wire coat-hanger seven inches into your left ear). That is why you, like me, are constantly begging for sports to make the fan experience much more data-rich. And if you are not, you can go to hell.
What good is a hole-in-one if I don’t know Dustin Johnson’s O2 sats at the exact moment the ball drops into the cup? Of what entertainment value is a deft topspin passing shot executed at a dead sprint to fend off a match point if I cannot view a real-time electroencephalogram of Naomi Osaka’s brainwaves as she executes it? How in the hell am I supposed to just enjoy some baloney 500-foot home run if I’m hearing (real or fake) crowd noise instead of a live audio feed of the pulped turkey sandwich gurgling and fizzling its ruined way toward the slugger’s smelly asshole even as the clobbered baseball arcs away into the sky?
It’s astounding and outrageous—shameful—that sports ever became popular in this country before this deal. When “the fan experience” offered no deeper insight into the biological workings and human experiences of athletes than what could be learned via pathetic data-impoverished bullshit like “watching them play sports” and “reading and thinking about the things they say about their lives” and “relating to them as human beings” instead of matching a readout of their biometric data to a recording of their performance to determine, conclusively, whether their sphincters tighten during moments of heightened leverage and/or physical exertion. What a waste of time!
What can you tell me about LeBron James’s serotonin levels during the supposedly “historic” 2016 NBA Finals? Nothing, because he did not have a Whoop-branded biometric probe lodged behind his eyeball during any part of it. Did his heart rate even go up at all while he soared out of nowhere to block Andre Iguodala’s layup attempt with 1:50 remaining in Game 7 of the series, preserving his chance to complete an unprecedented come-from-behind championship triumph against the most dominant team in NBA history up to that point and win his hometown its first major-sports championship in more than half a century? We don’t even have enough data to make a guess; even if he was wearing an official Whoop biometric tracking bracelet on the wrist of the hand that smashed Iguodala’s shot attempt off the backboard, in one of the most breathtaking displays of athletic greatness ever recorded on video, its findings were not subject to any kind of promotional deal between the personal performance tracking company and the league. Disgraceful. Sickening. It might as well never have happened at all.
Whoop’s deal with the PGA Tour is just the beginning. Golfers, as SportsTechie dot com notes, are “essentially independent contractors”; therefore they’ll have to opt into having their essential life functions tracked by wearable technology and disseminated to the public for the purposes of entertainment and marketing. The rest of us can only hope that the concept “highlight videos paired with readouts of the golfers’ concurrent vital signs” does good enough business to be picked up and adapted by the other sports, the ones with more power to compel athletes to allow the tens of millions of perfect strangers in the viewing audience to have full access to what’s going on inside their literal bodies as they do their jobs. Then, only then, may you and I awake at last from the sweet dream of knowing, in real time, just how farty Jarrett Allen’s fettuccine Alfredo pregame dinner has made him, to find that it has come true.