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Shell Shocked: A brand new game

By Staff | Jan 10, 2018

(Editor’s note: This column ran in a previous issue of the Islander.)

The American public worships our national sports: football, baseball, golf and basketball. All four major sports have thrived during the past twenty years. Professional athletes often make more money than some third world countries. And taking a full family out to the old ball game can set dad back lots of moola.

Newer games have come along and try to compete for the public’s interest. Professional soccer has drawn crowds but none like those at an NBA championship game or the World Series. Into this mix of public interest in both participatory and spectator sports have come such newer sports as pickleball and such old ones as wife swapping.

The rules of engagement for wife swapping are very obvious and it isn’t the intention of this columnist to shed any new light on this particular sport. Suffice it to say it is played largely in darkness with audiences showing up on YouTube. Pickleball, on the other hand, is played on a custom tailored court with rackets and balls. You can tell that it’s catching the public fancy because even our Sanibel Recreation Center is starting a pickleball league.

Pickleball was created by three dads in the state of Washington in 1965. Their kids were getting bored with the then selection of available sports to play and the dads came up with pickleball. Whether the dads consumed any hallucinatory brownies during their creative brainstorm is still to be debated.

If three dads came up with an idea that has caught on as much as pickleball has then it would seem to me that other new sports can be created just that way. Instead of three dads, let’s imagine that two very experienced sports promoters are also sitting around trying to come up with a new sport that will ignite the public’s fancy. Isn’t this what Abner Doubleday presumably did when he invented the rules of baseball?

To the uninitiated, baseball can be a difficult game to understand. My wife never did understand it. She tried and tried but couldn’t figure out what balls and strikes, the infield fly rule, the sacrifice fly and foul balls were. She understood the concept of a batter trying to hit a ball thrown to him but didn’t understand why he needed to run after he hit the ball.

So let’s imagine two big time sports promoters sitting around trying to come up with the next pickleball. They see an opportunity to bring new sports fans into arenas which sit idle when the home teams aren’t playing.

Sports promoter One: Should our new sport use a racket of some sort, a wooden bat, a ball similar to a volleyball or soccer ball, or what? What will the public get excited about?

Sports promoter Two: I think the sport should combine the elements of both baseball and football. They’re our two most popular sports. If we can make a hybrid out of those two sports we may be on to something.

SP1: But you can’t hit a football with a baseball bat. Nor can you hand a quarterback a baseball and expect him to have the same fluency as with a football.

SP1: What if we invent a ball that is part football and part baseball which a batter would have to hit. And while he’s running to first base or the thirty-yard line, we have the defenders try to tackle him before he gets there?

SP2: Hit, run and be tackled. Hmmm. An interesting combination of both sports.

SP1: I guess we’re eliminating unnecessary violence to our new sport. “The Hunger Games” makes for an exciting movie theme but I don’t think we can sell it as an actual sport to the American public.

SP2: The premise of “The Hunger Games” is survival. That’s also the premise of “Celebrity Apprentice,” the difference being that you don’t lose your life in “Celebrity Apprentice”, just your pride.

SP1: Is there a way of combining basketball, baseball and football? Something like hitting a basketball with a baseball bat and running for a first down? Or kicking a baseball through the upright?

SP2: What if we throw in a little “Monopoly” and have areas of the field called “Boardwalk”, “Chance” or “Get out of Jail Free?”

SP1: And throw in a little “American Idol” where the quarterback or batter sings some hip hop.

SP2: I think we’re on to something. What can we call it?

SP1: How about “Birdie Bat?”

SP2: Call the trademark people immediately. By George, we’ve got it.

-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.