Man, oh, man, these are dark times around here, and we’re not just talking the postseason disasters of the Bruins and Celtics. Nope.
Granted, those were tough exits. Terrible. In their own ways, right up there with “Xander Bogaerts to the Padres” bad or “Sully didn’t mail the letters to Fisk and Lynn on time” bad. Or “Bobby Orr bolts for the Black Hawks” bad. Not to mention, “Ruth to the Yankees” bad, or “Too many bleepin’ men on the ice” bad.
Here in Boston, we’ve endured a sports life the likes of “1,001 Corvairs” kind of bad. Hello, darkness, my old friends.
But hold on, things are about to get worse!
Next up we have . . . hold it . . . AI bad.
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to kill us all. That slightly pessimistic read comes from a bunch of very bright people from around the world, many of them certified AI brainiacs, who just issued an open-letter warning that we all could go belly up if we don’t get our heads and arms around this AI thingy pronto. Some of them compared AI’s emergence to that of the atomic bomb.
As your self-appointed resident sports futurist, who barely scraped through sophomore year geometry, I don’t have the natural intelligence to know if Artificial Intelligence is what ultimately sends us up in smoke. It took me years to understand the NHL’s two-line offside rule, and then, just like that, they got rid of it. Coincidence? I think not. Right there is when I began to wonder if someone or something out there was, you know, wiring my thoughts.
James Miller, a professor of economics at Smith College, cut right to it in his assessment of AI, per a story by Globe reporter Hiawatha Bray:
“I think it’s more likely that it’s going to kill everybody . . . sometime in the next 20 years.”
Yeesh. Buzzkill that. Open the pod bay doors, please, HAL. Uh, HAL . . . hello?!
So I’ve decided to go the other way on this one in the sports world. If AI’s coming, I say bring it on. If Professor Miller has it right, we’ve got somewhere between this morning and 20 years worth of more mornings to grab AI and party like it’s 1999. Get the duck boats ready.
For starters, just think of the infinite laundry list of hurt AI might have spared us here had it come along long ago.
Hard to know where to begin, really, but . . .
▪ AI would have had Bill Buckner ready, glove in the dirt, for the ground ball in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. “Routine roller to first,” Vin Scully would have said. “Buckner scoops it, steps on first, and we’re on to the 11th inning here at Shea.” Curse of the Bambino ends with Buckner’s inside-the-park home run in the 13th.
▪ No way Don Cherry scrambles his numbers at the Montreal Forum in 1979. AI doesn’t allow him to a send skater over the wall and the final 2:34 burns off the clock. No Guy Lafleur equalizer. No Yvon Lambert winner. Bruins advance to the Cup Final and beat the Rangers for their third championship of the decade. Cherry is back for five more years.
▪ The 2007 Patriots finish 19-0 as Super Bowl champions. AI has Rodney Harrison positioned just that half-step ahead of Eli Manning’s pass and he bats the ball right off David Tyree’s helmet. Clang! Final score: Patriots 14, Giants 10. “Swear I had that ball, right here,” said a despondent Tyree, tapping the side of his head.
▪ On a chilly January morning in 1920, AI slips a hand-written note under Harry Frazee’s pillow: “Don’t even think about it.” Babe Ruth reports to Red Sox spring training weeks later and skipper Ed Barrow converts him to a full-time outfielder. The Back Bay Bambino retires with 714 homers and a string of Oldsmobile dealerships throughout New England.
▪ The AI earpiece whispers, “Curve, low and away,” into Carlton Fisk’s earpiece as Mike Torrez looks in for the sign. Bucky Dent taps a roller to the right side that Jerry Remy flips to George Scott to end the inning. Sox roll to a 2-0 win over the Yankees in the one-game 1978 playoff. Fisk, postgame: “Great pitch by Taco to get us out of the seventh.”
Meanwhile, AI’s arrival today coincides perfectly with the explosion of sports betting. We’ll all be gigunda winners. Billions await us. At least for a day.
Because what will MGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and the rest of the grubbers do when AI spits out all the winning numbers and we tap in our bets on our mobile apps. No vig to skim. Only payouts, payouts, payouts!
It will be the end of the sports betting world as we know it, even before the rest of their world ends as we know it, sometime in the next 20 years. Tell me the downside here. Sure, AI’s got us all about to be reduced to billion-year-old carbon, but we’re all leaving rich. Reminder: Get your bets in early.
▪ AI will remove all guess work on draft day, all leagues, all sports. For instance, On draft day 2015, Bruins GM Don Sweeney would have said no to Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn, and instead returned to the Hub with Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Sebastian Aho. Life changing. The Celtics on draft day could count on the next Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish to walk through that door. Guaranteed.
▪ In the NFL, AI’s ultimate brain factor will tell us instantly if a play is offside, if pass interference has been committed, if the wideout had control of the ball before his toe went out of bounds or knee touched the ground. Perfect. “Geez, whatever you do,” AI would have informed the Bills’ Scott Norwood, “don’t kick it to the right.”
▪ Protracted CBA talks? Please, just forget about it. Contract negotiations, strikes, and lockouts will be gone for good with AI. Instead, the league commissioner or president can feed all the key factors into something like ChatGPT, request a four- or five-year option, and presto, the perfect collective agreement will pop up in less than 60 seconds. Sign on the dotted line.
The AI thing is happening fast here folks, faster than Bullet Bob Hayes, faster than Rocket Richard, faster than the Bruins lost that 3-1 lead over the Panthers, faster than Jayson Tatum’s 3-point touch disappeared.
Me, I’ve just seen too much go wrong around here to worry about it. So I’ll be at the concession stand, where AI, I’m told, has concocted the perfect pour.
Editor’s note: Kevin Paul Dupont’s first byline appeared in the Globe’s sports section 50 years ago last weekend. He swears AI did not contribute a word to this column.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.