Ever get bored of watching the same old sports on TV over and over? Ever think “this football game could do with some fire?” or “this basketball match would be better in zero gravity?” Well, luckily the worlds of film, TV and literature have come up with some exciting alternatives to the sports we’re all tired of. There’s excitement, broomsticks and maybe some fire too. Find out more in our Top 10 Fictional Sports.
A new take on baseball, created by improvisational comedy troupe The Upright Citizen’s Brigade. Pro-thunderball was said to have been invented during the baseball strike of 1994 and it includes a whole new list of rules. The most significant addition was the extra two balls, which need to be in play at all times. But the “Honeys and Hounds” rule, which allowed cheerleaders and dogs to wander the field at will, would probably make quite a big difference to the game too. And there’s the team mascots driving Honda Accords all over the pitch and the 5-foot drop between infield and outfield. The game was the subject of an episode in UCB’s series three but sadly the game has never been popularized. And the controversial extra rules involving loaded guns and ceramic baseballs have ever been formalized either. Shame!
9. Electro-Magnetic Golf
Brave New World is a 1932 novel written by Aldous Huxley and it imagines a future London, where people are grown in laboratories and family is outlawed. One of the new types of recreation is electro-magnetic golf. It’s mentioned briefly a few times in Chapter 6, but there’s not much of an explanation as to what it actually is (other than that you can play it at St Andrews). You can only assume that the golf balls are somehow guided into the holes by use of magnets, which rather takes the fun out if it all.
Astonishingly though, someone has actually filed a real patent application for an electro-magnetic golf ball, where the ball contains a power source, an electromagnetic signal transmitter and a shock actuated switch. It seems that the main advantage of this golf ball would be that it’s easy to locate once it’s been hit off the course – it’s not just so that golfers can cheat their way to a hole in one. But I wonder whether the patent applicant is paying Huxley for the idea?
From great works of literature to a British kids’ TV show. Squizzle is the game played by the characters of Tree Fu Tom, a cartoon based in the tiny world of Treetopolis. When the insects and acorn sprites aren’t tending their ranches or learning spells, they like to relax by playing squizzle, a game that seems to mainly involve jumping around and throwing leaf-like discs to each other. But it keeps the sprites and insects busy and out of trouble, which is good because any time they’re not playing squizzle they seem to keep almost destroying the entire treetop civilization for no apparent reason. Keep chucking that disc thing around! It’s for the good of all TreeKind!
Unlike some of the sports on the list, Anbo-Jytsu has a meticulously documented history and rulebook. What else would you expect from Star Trek fans? It’s a martial art that was invented in 2168 by a blind gymnast on Alpha Centauri and it requires “kinesthetics, balance, and keen senses”. Signature moves include Anbo Chohr, where a fighter listens to an opponent’s breathing in order to know when to strike. Or you can try the Pranha Jytsu, a subconscious translation of a person’s movement into a reflex action. Just steer clear of the Hachidan Kiritsu (hitting an opponent in the middle of the back and trying to disable him) – don’t you know that’s illegal?
As with everything in the “Trekkie” universe, this is a sport for people who take their sci-fi way too seriously. Sadly, no-one yet seems to have set up real life Anbo Jystu contests, but surely it’s only a matter of time?
By contrast, the favorite game of Calvin and Hobbs has very little in the way of rules. Calvinball has only one real rule – that you make it up as you go along. Every game must be different, and can involve hitting shuttlecocks against a tree with croquet mallets, or playing with bowling balls “or any other reasonable ball.” There are songs that can and should be sung at any point during the game, including the official Calvinball song (sample lyrics “Calvinball is better by far!/It’s never the same! It’s always bizarre!”). Masks are obligatory, and no-one is allowed to question the masks. Just what you’d expect from the brain of a kid whose best friend is a tiger!
We’re back in the realm of sci-fi for another futuristic game, this time from Battlestar Galatica. It’s a variation on basketball, played on a pyramid-shaped court and the object is to get the cantaloupe-sized ball into a basket on the top of the pyramid. It’s played at close quarters and so physical contact is not just allowed, but encouraged. Given the skimpy outfits worn by players, the full contact aspect probably gets a little personal. There are several pyramid teams, including the Caprica Buccaneers, whose star players Samuel Anders and Sue-Shaun eventually suffer horrible but heroic deaths (never forget that this is a sci-fi show, not a sports show!)
Confusingly, the game known as pyramid in the original series is a card game, while the court game is known as triad (above). In the new series, the court game is known as pyramid, while the card game is known as triad. But let’s just assume it’s all the same really…
Meanwhile, here’s an enticing-sounding game from a sci-fi novel – The Face by Jack Vance. In Hadaul, the prize money is placed in a circle in the middle of three other circles. The contestants (“roblers”) try and throw each other away from the prize money, using any force necessary. They all start in a yellow circle, closest to the prize and try and throw each other into the outer circles, from which they can’t return. The rules are complex, but even once the game is finished it can be restarted…and that’s when things can get really vicious. The game is played with “knives, staves, or, on occasion, whips” and deaths aren’t uncommon. Still, the prize money makes it all worth it…right?
And here’s another sci-fi game, from the not-entirely-serious animated series Futurama. Blernsball is the most popular sport of the 31st century, after baseball was deemed too boring. It’s similar to baseball, but with some significant differences – like the elastic tether that ties the ball to the pitch and the giant tarantula who helps ferry balls about. Then there’s the multiball play, where suddenly the whole game turns into something resembling pinball, with balls flying everywhere and the batter floating over the bases on a motorcycle.
Teams include the Swedish Meatballs and the Atlanta Braves – of course, by the 31st century Atlanta is an underwater city, so the logo includes a trident, symbol of Poseidon. Futurama heroine Leela was the first female Blernsball player, but sadly her career was short-lived. Partly because she was only hired as a gimmick and partly because she proved to be the worst player in Blernsball history.
And here’s a sport that is popular, not in the future but a long time ago…in a galaxy far, far away. It’s podracing – a motor sport similar to Formula One, but in one-person airborne craft that could reach to 900km/h. Podracing mostly took place on planets in the Outer Rim of the galaxy, like Tatooinewhich was a desert planet and home to the Skywalker family. Of course, it was little Anakin Skywalker who made podracing history by being the first human to ever win a race. Most competitors were non-human, as they found the extra limbs came in useful when steering the pod. History doesn’t relate what became of Anakin Skywalker, though some say he changed his name. But sadly, it seemed that he never capitalized on his early podracing success.
And now for the most famous fictional game of all….Quidditch! The broomstick ball game of the Harry Potter books has become so famous that people have tried to recreate it in real life, using bicycles or on the ground. Recent comedy “The Internship” would have you believe that the technical masterminds at Google enjoy a game or two in their spare time.
For the uninitiated, the game involves seven players and three types of ball. There are chasers, who try and get the quaffle through the hoops, keepers who try and stop them, beaters who ward off the bludgers that try and knock everyone else off their broomsticks and then there’s the seeker. The seeker is Harry Potter’s position, and their job is to try and catch the Golden Snitch, which ends the game and gains the Snitch-catching team 150 points. Simple when you explain it, isn’t it? It may never literally “take off”, but with Harry Potter devotees around the world, Quidditch is a game that will be around for a long time.