With the Winter Olympics now over, here’s a quick look at some awesome sports from the halls of pop culture to distract us.
Introduced in Salute of the Jugger by writer/director David Webb Peoples (screenwriter of Blade Runner and Unforgiven) this 1989 action pic starring Rutger Hauer is known as The Blood of Heroes in the U.S. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, people eat dogs and barter with whatever trinkets they discover just to survive. In this harsh realm Sallow (Hauer) is accompanied by his assorted team-mates (including characters played by Joan Chen, Delroy Lindo and Vincent D’Onofrio) who play the nation’s favourite past-time, simply known as The Game (no, not the Michael Douglas movie). The players, known as juggers, manage to meke out an existence by travelling to different settlements and challenging the locals. The premise of The Game is a simple, yet brutal one. Two teams of four armoured players attempt to place a fancy dog skull on the enemy’s goalpost. Every player is armed with an assortment of wild and whacky weapons, except the person playing the role of the Quick. It’s their job to live up to their name, and run as fast as possible, being protected by their 3 team-mates and attempting to dodge a fatal bludgeoning or impalement along the way, while holding the aformentioned canine brain case. In fact, this sport is so well loved it has now become a reality, originating in Germany. The first international tournament took place in 2007 in Hamburg. A latex dog skull was used.
As seen in the second direct to DVD Futurama film, The Beast With A Billion Backs, this game involves bare legs, spandex suits and fleeing from a giant ball, in the best Indiana Jones tradition. Old-timer scientific rivals Professor Farnsworth and the pony-tailed Dr Wernstrom form teams and compete in Deathball for the right to launch an expedition to discover the cause of a recent space anomaly. Players of Super Monkey Ball or the Wii’s Kororinpa will be somewhat familiar with the mechanics of the game, which is a life-sized version of the classic Labyrinth. Players run around a huge maze-like course, avoiding falling into holes, and the rolling steel marble, while the opposing team controls both the horizontal and vertical axis from an elevated viewing area. Hilarity ensues. So do crushed vertebrae of the slow runners.
Now I’m not a fan of cars, but I am a fan of Top Gear and sure, this sport isn’t fictional exactly, but it’s not appearing on the Sports Channel anytime soon either. The crazy British trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have so much fun every week with motor vehicle shenanigans that the BBC series never fails to induce giggles. Some of their amusing stunts such as using a Volvo to jump over a line of caravans, or turning average cars into boats, or even a space shuttle can’t be considered sports, but they’ve covered those too. Hammond and May once captained opposing sides, ably assisted by stunt car drivers in red and blue teams driving Toyota Aygos and the biggest football you’ll ever see. In their Winter Olympics Special, the duo revisited the concept, using Suzuki Swifts in an ice hockey match.
This is more than director John McTiernan’s worst film. It’s also a fast paced full contact sport, as seen in the 1975 original of the same name, starring James Caan, and based on a short story by William Harrison. Cann plays Jonathan E, the legendary Rollerball player for the Energy Corporation. The ruling conglomerates of this 2018 future want Jonathan to retire at the height of his fame, while simultaneously altering the rules of the sport to make it appeal to the public’s bloodlust while hiding their own agendas. The film has certainly influenced many other fictional sports, and movies based around them, while itself being influenced by the popular Roller Derby game which rose to prominence in the 1970s and has seen a recent revival thanks to athletic female players with a goth/punk fashion sense, as seen in the new film, Whip It. Similar to Derby, Rollerball also uses two teams on roller skates on a circular track, but Ball incorporates only one ball, a cannon, three motorcyclists (which can tow team-mates), two catchers per side, and a magnetic goal on the track’s outer rim. It also incorporates orange jump suits, but those aren’t mandatory.
George Lucas has given the world many great treasures, but he well knows, that no future world is complete without a made up sport. Sure, holochess is more of a hobby than a sport but any excuse to mention Star Wars is a good one. As seen on the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope, this game is a hi-tech version of chess, complete with interactive holographic aliens as pieces and a round table, rather than a square one. Also known as dejarik, the pieces resemble real and imaginary species in the Star Wars universe and act accordingly during play, becoming aggressive when used, or acting bored during times of inactivity. There are variations including multi-tiered boards and armies of characters, and a gruesome version created by Yuzzhan Vong warmaster Tsavong Lah involving living creatures as pieces.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson we can learn comes from Han Solo. As he reminds C-3PO while playing against sore loser Chewbacca, Wookie’s can rip their opponents arms off so it’s always a good strategy to, “let the Wookie win.”
Time for a less violent game, and one which the whole family can enjoy, as long as they’re not afraid of heights. The high-flying game, was developed by author J.K. Rowling and has been featured in every Harry Potter novel except the final one. Like Rollerball, but with flying broomsticks replacing skates, the aim of Quidditch is to um…throw a ball into one of three hoops. Or something. With names like bludgers, keepers, chasers, beaters, keepers, quaffles and goldens snitches, it’s probably easier to just read Quidditch Through The Ages. Published in 2001 and written by Rowling (under the pseudonym of fictional Quidditch expert Kennilworthy Whisp) it tells you all you need to know about the game, which is probably the most realized fictional sport ever produced. But if you really want to get the authentic experience, or as close to it, you could play any of the video games, or find a local Muggle Quidditch league. Sadly, it’s played on the ground.
Think of it as the steel cage match of the future – the post-apocalyptic future, naturally. In the last outing of Mad Max, 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome, we follow Max (Mel Gibson) across the desert landscape, where he eventually lands in Bartertown, becoming a pawn in a power play between Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and the vicious double act known as Master Blaster. The pair derives their name from the midget Master who rules from atop the hulking shoulders of the masked mute Blaster. Max faces the lone Blaster in the spherical cage, as a swarm of grubby onlookers cling to it’s frame and begin to chant the only rule – “Two men enter, one man leaves.” Hoping to be that one man, Max combats Blaster in a swinging harness, and then finally on the ground, using weapons placed inside the dome, as well as those handed to him by the bloodthirsty patrons. After a hard earned victory, Max uncovers Blaster’s true face and is shocked (as are we) to discover that it’s a mentally disabled man staring back at him. Max swims against the harsh tide of Bartertown and lets his opponent live.
The Running Man
Similar to Rollerball and Death Race, The Running Man is a televised sport in which the competitors fight for their lives. Based on a 1982 novel by Stephen King, under his sometimes-pen name, Richard Bachman, it became a film 5 years later. In it, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, a military pilot who refuses to fire on unarmed civilians, and is then imprisoned for it. Managing to escape with two friends, he is recruited by the show’s sleazy producer. Richards is told that if he doesn’t participate his fellow escapees will compete in his place. Richards reluctantly agrees, but soon learns that he’s been lied to. Running for his life through an earthquake ravaged L.A, he attempts survival against gimmick-laden stalkers, such as the ice-skating Subzero, lightning wielding Dynamo, chainsaw revving Buzzsaw and Fireball, who uses a jetpack and flamethrower. With each grisly death caught live on TV, Richards becomes more popular than the men created by the network. The obligatory resistance fighters soon recruit Richards and a happy ending ensues, one that couldn’t be further from King’s original novel.