For those of you that don’t keep up with such things, the NFL season has started. Giants of the gridiron will soon take to the field to engage in glorious battle while causing the occasional concussion. I have heard arguments made of the technical merits of American football vs Soccer/Football before, but as my wifeÂ is a rabid fan of the New Orleans Saints, and well… no offense to the Europeans out there but she knows not only where I sleep, but where we keep the sharp cutlery.
As a fanboy I would be far more content to debate the merits of the following fictional sports anyway… Does genre fiction offer anything in the way of a sport to rival real-world professional sports? You bet! here are a few of our favorites:
Rollerball (Rollerball, 1975)
The Game: Roller skaters circle a skating ring trying to get a ball through the opposing team and into a hoop, completely ignoring the guys on motorcycles that are in the rink with them. Getting points at all costs is common.
Street Cred: According to the story, Rollerball has replaced all forms of sporting events and warfare by 2018. Plus, Rollerball is a full-contact sport with occasional fatalities played with James Caan on roller skates. Does it get any more badassed than that?
Real life analogue: Roller Derby is played mostly by hot women who are decidedly not on motorcycles. If you’ve never attended a Roller Derby match, I highly recommend checking one out. They’re fun, campy, and just a little awesome.
Quidditch (Harry Potter)
The Game: Best described as a basketball game played on flying brooms with six hoops. You have to give props to J.K. Rowling for actually working out the mechanics and rules of this game. There are four basic positions on the team… Chasers, Beaters, a Keeper, and a seeker. The chasers try to score points by getting a ball called a quaffle through the opposing goals. Beaters protect their teammates with bats from being hit by enchanted iron balls called bludgers, while trying to make the bludgers go after members of the other team. Keepers are like goalies in soccer, and Seekers chase down a third type of enchanted ball called a golden snitch. The game ends when one team captures the snitch. No more confusing than Cricket.
Street Cred: In the wizarding world, this sport is more popular than football, basketball and baseball combined. Injuries are common, particularly among seekers who have to execute low altitude precision flying trying to find the snitch.
Real life analogue: It surprised me to learn that there is already an intercollegiate quidditch league that plays a ground based version of the game. Here I was thinking we would have to wait for the invention of personal Jetpacks.
Vampire Baseball (Twilight)
The Game: Oh, It’s Baseball… but played by vampires with super strength and speed. To keep their cover, they only play when there’s a storm brewing so the townsfolk will think the crack of the bat is thunder.
Street Cred: Look, I’m not a big fan of vampires that sparkle… but I have to admit that the whole concept of vampires playing baseball is a really fun idea, and I would totally get season tickets.
Real life analogue: the actors from the Twilight series have been playing exhibition games of vampire baseball for various local charities. Not nearly as much fun as watching a three mile high pop fly.
Pod Racing (The Phantom Menace)
The Game: As Qui-Gon Jinn describes it, Pod Racing is “Very fast, very dangerous”. First you attach two or more jet turbines to a lightweight chariot-like floater, then run a nearly impossible course through a canyon somehow conveniently looking the other way as your opponents cheat. Requires faster than human reaction time or force abilities to do due to the high speeds involved.
Street Cred: One of the better things to come out of the prequels, Pod Racing captured the imaginations of many a fanboy. Two arcade games were produced to the delight of Star Wars fans everywhere, but are increasingly hard to find.
Real life analogue: The closest thing that you will find to Pod Racing here on earth is Jet Boat Racing… the first time I saw a video of one of the boats cracking up, all I could think about is the pod that wipes out on the first turn in Beggars Canyon.
Mech Battle (Robot Jox)
The Game: After a nuclear war devastates humanity, it’s decided that the remaining superpowers will solve all conflicts through giant human controlled robots that beat the piss out of each other. Matches are insanely popular, but can result in hundreds of spectator deaths.
Street Cred: Not only do you have two giant robots duking it out, but they can also transform into spacecraft for aerial showdowns, and tanks when their legs are disabled.
Real life analogue: Demolition derby comes in closer to a mech battle than Battlebots competitions, because one of the defining characteristics of the Mechs in Robot Jox is that they are manned. The threat of death always makes for inspired strategy.
The Game: Deathball is played by teams that run trough a maze, attempting to force large steel balls into team goal holes. The coaches control either the horizontal or vertical axis in an attempt to crush the other team with one of the balls before they can accomplish this.
Street Cred: The only way to settle disputes of a scientific nature in the 31st century, Deathball is played to sold out crowds in a packed arena.
Real life analogue: If you were to put ants into your grandpa’s old wooden labyrinth game, you’d have something close… without the fear of accidentally killing your team of co-workers.
Pyramid (Triad) Battlestar Galactica
The Game: Pyramid combines elements of basketball, football and rugby. the object of the game is to get the ball into one of three goals on the field while preventing the opposing team from doing so. Best thing about the re-imagined BSG is that it got rid of the homo-erotic uniforms from the original series version of the game.
Street Cred: Pyramid is so important to the members of the resistance on Caprica, that they use their down time to build a regulation pyramid court. Take that, Cylons!
Real life analogue: NBA basketball comes pretty close… but I somehow doubt that the Lakers would survive a nuclear Holocaust, much less start a resistance movement against the new robot overlords.
Raking (Max Headroom)
The Game: Teens on motorized skateboards try to kill each other with bladed gloves at high speeds. The only rule is there are no… well, you get the idea. Bloodshed is presumably scored in ‘pints’.
Street Cred: It is eventually dismissed by the network execs in Max Headroom’s world as being too violent to be a televised sport. Now that’s badassed.
Real life analogue: I am really surprised that this hasn’t made it into one of those Tony Hawk video games by now…
Blitzball (Final Fantasy X)
The Game: Played in an oxygen-enriched aquatic sphere, it’s a high energy 3 dimensional version of soccer. Swimmers are free to move in three dimensions and pass with their hands, but goals can only be scored with a well placed kick.
Street Cred: The game is so cool that it’s a recurring plot element in FFX, and totally minigame worthy.
Real life analogue: Blitzball play is way more like water polo than soccer… but with far less drownings.
Anbo-jyutsu (Star Trek)
The Game: Two combatants fight each other blindfolded with a baton and a arm shield, using an audible proximity sensor to find each other.
Street Cred: Described as the “ultimate evolution of the martial arts”, Ambo-jyutsu helps Riker work out his Daddy issues while simultaneously proving that Jedis are pussies for needing that whole ‘force’ thing to see while blindfolded.
Real life analogue: I imagine that the next iteration of American Gladiators will have something like this on it’s lineup…
Blernsball (Futurama)- I seriously thought about adding Blernsball, but I have very low tolerance for games I can’t follow… I know, that’s the gag.
Tri-d and Holo Chess– I know there is a huge market for Chess matches like Gary Kasparov vs. Deep Blue, but are these novelties, or would a crowd really gather for an arena chess match?
Cyberball- When you take away the robot avatars and exploding ball, it’s really just football.
Lightcycles (TRON)- Had a lengthy debate about this one with a friend… ultimately came to the consensus that it’s just a video game, man.
The Running Man and Smash TV– While both are super violent and very sport-like, they are both essentially just game shows.
Jumpball (Starship Troopers)- Football with tacky uniforms and silly sound effects. Pass.
Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (Marvel Universe) In the MU, someone gets the brilliant idea that there should be a League of superpowered wrestlers. The result is box office gold! Ben Grimm joined the league for 8 issues, and was it’s star attraction. Even though pro wrestling is entertainment and not a sport, you just try to tell me that this wouldn’t replace ECW in the Syfy lineup.