I have a co-worker who always calls me â€œOcho.â€ As in ESPN the Ocho, the (unfortunately) fictional ESPN arm that shows odd sports. Yes, I love odd sports that donâ€™t get a lot of love from the mainstream media (I would love nothing more than an Amish Rake-Fighting League, and possibly Worldwide Bicycle Jousting). Recently, Iâ€™ve uncovered a few misfit sports you need to know about.
Letâ€™s start off with Jugger. I was at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co about a month ago, and saw a really random assemblage of characters file onto the patio. They were dressed in odd bits that looked kind of like sports jerseys, but clearly from a dimensional plane I had never visited â€¦ possibly a dystopian future in which all conventional sports clothing has disappeared along with high-quality graphic design and screen-printing techniques.
I struck up a conversation, and learned that their sport – Jugger – is derived from a movie called The Salute of the Jugger (which I still need to watch, by the way). Letâ€™s get this out of the way, though: This movie stars Joan Chen and Rutger Hauer – yes, the guy from Worst Movie Ever in Universal History candidate Hobo With a Shotgun. This is not art house stuff, friends.
From where I stand, Jugger has elements of a broomless Quidditch with a measure of free-form beating-the-hell-out-of-each-other-with-foam-implements. I get the impression from the participantsâ€™ habit – lots of drinking and more smoking than is typical among athletes – that strategy rather than fitness rules the day during a rousing game of Jugger. It also seems that DIY sort of people will love crafting their â€œweaponsâ€ and team uniforms.
Apparently, Australians and Germans really get into this. That speaks volumes, doesnâ€™t it? Oi and ja.
Most likely participants: B movie-loving misfits who love making people say â€œWTF?â€
And now onto one for anyone who grew up with Star Wars, even the largely miserable prequels. It doesnâ€™t have an official name, but I guess you can call it lightsaber combat. I discovered a group just steps away from my house practicing in my local park; theyâ€™re called Syndicate Saber, and their enthusiasm is contagious. They do not only combat, but choreographed performances. Itâ€™s free to participate and they even have loaner sabers, but they want all participants to get their own in a reasonable amount of time. Hereâ€™s an interesting tidbit: The popularity of The Force Awakens has made many of dueling-capable lightsabers kind of scarce.
Syndicate bases much of its technique on actual martial arts, too. Theyâ€™ll point out elements of kendo, and I detected hints of iaido. You can work up a good sweat sparring, and youâ€™ll can definitely work up some soreness even if you lift weights, do yoga and ride bikes regularly. The interesting thing is, though, that skill is a huge equalizer. A practiced swordsperson in less-than-Olympic fitness can hold off a far fitter specimen who lacks finesse.
Most likely participants: Anime fans with needlessly precise diction
Now, letâ€™s get into a new beach sport. This one found me by way of the Internet rather than in-person good fortune, and itâ€™s called Spikeball. I think of it as a small-scale volleyball that substitutes one of those little trampolines for a net. You serve into into the trampoline, it pops up, your opponents can, at most, bump, set and spike. Or bump and spike. Or something, just as long as you donâ€™t get three more touches.
Itâ€™s pretty straightforward, and should attract its share of volleyball fans. I think Jugger players (would that be Juggernauts?) would want a ball with actual spikes, and you donâ€™t get to whack anyone with a replica lightsaber, so the Star Wars fans are likely out.
Spikeball doesnâ€™t have the cache of being affiliated with a B movie or a cinema icon. It comes across as the by-necessity offspring of a bunch of dudes who went to party on the beach, decided they wanted to play volleyball, realized they didnâ€™t have the gear, and just rooted around in the back of the station wagon they borrowed from Mom until they found enough stuff to keep themselves occupied … and then took the idea to Shark Tank. Hey, necessity is the mother of invention. And Spikeball doesnâ€™t take up nearly as much room as a volleyball court.
Most likely participants: Bros and those who love them
Have I missed your favorite odd sport? Clue me in with a description and some links!
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