Sports and numbers are indelibly intwined, but it is how you analyze and use those numbers that can make a difference between winning and losing, setting new records or accomplishing feats that previously had been unreachable.
It can also enhance the efforts of marketing campaigns.
John Brenkus is the creator and host of "Sport Science," which uses technology to study athletes and crunch the numbers to better understand how and why they do what they do now and how athletes might evolve. The show's popularity has led Brenkus to alliances with Coors Light, Hasbro's Nerf brand, Procter & Gamble's Gillette and ESPN.
More than 20 years ago, Brenkus and his business partner and brother-in-law, Mickey Stern, founded BASE Productions (Brenkus and Stern Entertainment), with the intent of producing movies and TV shows.
A big break came in 2003 when Brenkus hosted "XMA: Xtreme Martial Arts" on the Discovery Channel. "We used scientific knowledge and motion-capture to study at how martial arts athletes moved and performed," said Brenkus.
In 2006, advanced technology helped that morph into "Fight Science: Calculating the Ultimate Warrior" on the National Geographic channel. "We had the world's top martial artists kick the crap out of crash-test dummies or swipe a ballistic gel torso in half with the single swipe of a samurai sword. It really raised the bar for scientific tests on athletes."
Fox Entertainment Group, which owns National Geographic, asked BASE what else it had. "So we created 'Sport Science,' which ran 26 episodes on Fox Sports and did very well," said Brenkus. "Then ESPN came along and acquired the property. Now we have a relationship with ESPN that will continue for many years to come."
"Sport Science" has since won many Sports Emmy Awards and has segments in such programing as "Monday Night Football," "College Game Day" and "SportsCenter." Earlier this year, Brenkus and crew oversaw an extended ESPN feature, "The Greatest Athlete of All Time," which, ultimately saw Bo Jackson beat out Jim Brown.
BASE has numerous projects on-air or in production, including "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files" (SyFy Channel), "Car Warriors" (Fox Sports), "American Cowboy" (Animal Planet), "Supersonic: Pushing the Envelope" (Discovery International), "Human Wrecking Balls" (G4) and "Lost In China with the Hutchens Brothers" (National Geographic).
Brenkus has also taken his endeavors to other areas. He authored The Perfection Point: Sport Science Predicts the Fastest Man, the Highest Jump, and the Limits of Athletic Performance (Harper, 2010), which was a New York TImes best-seller.
On Madison Avenue, Brenkus and his analytics have appeared in a Coors Light spot with Ice Cube ("Is he colder than a Coors Light can?") and Nerf N-Strike ("The darts can shoot up to eight times faster than a cobra strike").
A current Gillette campaign, "Precision Play" with such NFL players as Clay Matthews and Victor Cruz, compares the Fusion Pro Glide razor to precision on the gridiron. A Facebook element has Brenkus breaking down an NFL play every week and then asking people to answer a trivia question, which comes with the opportunity to win a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Is there any athletic feat that ultimately can't be achieved? "There is a limit. Humans will never run the 100-meter dash in one second," said Brenkus. "But there is a time between 9.58 [Usain Bolt's current world record] and one second that we will reach when humans can't run any faster.”
For the record, the Coors Light can was colder than Ice Cube. But you'd have to ask Brenkus for the numbers.