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Original Issue


Remember the professor you met in these pages (SCORECARD, April 25, 1983) who explained the recent scientific findings about an outfielder's ability to determine where a fly ball will go after it leaves the bat? You may recall that he brought in the function of the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear—and concluded that a good fielder plays it partly by ear. The scientist is Peter J. Brancazio, and he's an associate professor of physics at Brooklyn College and a lifelong amateur athlete.

Though he enjoys all sports, Brancazio's favorite is basketball, which he plays two or three times a week all year. Sitting around after a game a few years ago, he was asked what he did for a living, and when he said he was a physics professor there was an awkward silence. Finally, one of the better players put to him what Brancazio considers to be a profound question: "If you're so smart, how come you stink at basketball?"

Using his instincts as a jock and his training as a scientist, he answers many such questions in his book Sport Science (Simon and Schuster, $18.95). It's a book of enormous appeal that should be of use to anyone involved in sports. The book discusses a number of scientific principles as they apply to a variety of sports, in lively, nontechnical language. The reader will learn that the principle of balancing the rotation of one part of the body with the countering rotation of another is the same for a successful hurdler as for a rider of a bucking bull in a rodeo. He'll learn why runners pump their arms, why it's easier to run with the arms flexed rather than extended and why a runner brings the heel of his trailing leg almost up to his buttocks with each stride. As for basketball, Brancazio is a better shooter today because he learned—and can teach you—the shot trajectory that offers the greatest margin for error and how to launch minimum-force shots that have the best chance of succeeding. His claim: Pure shooters can be made. You don't agree? Check it out.