Owners of late model HDTVs will be happy to know that one of the major themes at last week's E3 videogames and electronics expo was 3D entertainment. With HD finally penetrating the mainstream market and flat-panel TVs becoming plain-old TVs, 3D has become the buzzword of high-end component manufacturers everywhere looking for the next big score.
In 2013, when your 2D 1080p set is consigned, against your will and its own, to the basement, the reason will probably be sports. ESPN 3D, currently airing the World Cup, is already a going concern, and live sports are simply an easier sell than 3D Rock or (my personal favorite) Parks and Recreation and Depth.
It might be a while before the technology reaches Fox Sports Midwest, but when it does it's going to change the way we watch sports. And should Tom-Mee-the-author-of-Cutting-the-Game chance to look at this article, here are some suggestions and concerns about the inevitable transition.
Cardinals: No sport is more ready for 3D than baseball, which, televised, has of late turned into a series of slower and slower-motion replays of umpires blowing important calls. When Busch Stadium is wired for 3D it will no doubt get some kind of Denkinger Cam, aimed with the first baseman, the pitcher, and the third baseman right down its barrel. In perfectly dolly-zoomed replays we'll get the look on David Freese's face as he uncorks a perfect throw; the omnipresent Albert Pujols grimace as he stretches to make the catch ahead of the runner; and—for the first time ever—witness the dumbfounded look on the umpire's face as he realizes people are about to know his name.
Baseball's camera angles are all so distorted—zoomed in from center field, the pitcher often just off-center enough to make the umpire calling balls and strikes seem literally and not just figuratively blind to the home viewing audience—that 3D might be a worldview-shaking experience to people who mostly watch it on TV, akin to the moment when Cardinals games began to be broadcast at an angle that minimized the distortion of pitchers' breaking stuff and the strike zone.
But after our preconceptions about what Adam Wainwright's curveball looks like are shattered and rebuilt we'll be able to spend most of our 3D viewing experience complaining about the umpire, which should keep the adjustment period pretty brief for those among us who already do just that.
Rams: Having been to a few high school games (but only a few) in support of relatives, I am of the firm opinion that the closer people get to a football field the less likely they are to be able to watch it without a strong stomach and bad hearing. Football hurts to watch. In 3D, watching defensive linemen sneak up on an unsuspecting Marc Bulger would be like the first time you saw a gazelle get disemboweled by a leopard on Discovery HD Theater; it's a good thing the Rams avoided that problem, although the new market inefficiency, when this transition finally happens, is going to be mobile quarterbacks who don't terrify the viewing audience.
Provided the Rams improve their pass protection in time for Sam Bradford, things might be a little less grisly. But SportsCenter's predilection for big hits and helmet-noises will be a lot easier to feed when cameras can make it look like Trung Canidate's helmet is flying right at you.
Blues: Hockey fans might have it even worse for 3D overuse than football—I can imagine a world in which all of the cameras are placed directly behind the glass, in the hopes that at least once a period someone will be checked into one of them so hard that glass rains down upon Versus's 3D goggle-wearing audience.
But for a lay (read: American) audience 3D could benefit hockey like it would no other sport. As a method of allowing lay (read: American) viewers to keep track of the puck in space it's less intrusive than neon puck-trails, and since hockey is perhaps the furthest of the major sports from lay (read: people who can't skate) viewers' experience, the added depth would do a better job of illustrating just how fast and impressive nearly every movement in the sport manages to be. If 3D hockey could provide even half the experience of the whole-body-ache that comes with ice skating in a public rink filled with nine year-olds, hockey players would never have to buy their own drinks again.
Also: Showers of Glass. Which, in 2013, is also the title of ESPN's NHL game of the week.