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Those Other Sports (part 1)

OK, well it’s summer again and that means I’m back in my element - writing columns because I’m bored. And when I’m bored, I tend to concoct the most ludicrous ideas for articles, such as describing in detail all sorts of BAD golf shots (“Golf Shots”) or writing an entire column about things that suck (“Things That Suck”). Unlike writing about Scott Strickland or Hoosiers, there’s absolutely no pressure when I write about stuff like this. You’re just not going to see things like “Sir Tops-a-lot” or “Thurman Thomas scores his 14th touchdown of the afternoon” in an important column. And that’s the beauty of columns like this.

That brings me to my next topic: this column. We’ve all been at home in the middle of the afternoon watching television, hoping in vain that something potentially interesting will turn up. Some of you may put your hopes in MTV, perhaps hoping that they air one of the legendary “lost Real World” shows, such as Real World: Kernersville or Real World: Uzbekistan. Others might check the Golf Channel, because there’s always a realistic chance that John Daly will drop a 15 on a par 3, withdraw, and then claim that the tournament is trying to embarrass him. If you couldn’t guess, I just stick to the classics: ESPN, ESPN2, and Fox Sports Net. And during the afternoon, basically the only programming choices are baseball and the so-called “fringe sports.” This category covers everything from bowling to sumo wrestling to the World Series of Poker.

My first choice would almost always be baseball, but if that isn’t an option, I usually have a choice between a couple of these other sports. Of course, not all fringe sports are created equal, and so I’ve devoted this column to rating each of them. Is this really an important subject? No, and that’s exactly why I’m writing about it. So let’s roll.

World’s Strongest Man – This is one of my personal favorites. One of the reasons sports are so intriguing is the fact that the athletes are doing something that the rest of us simply can’t, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the World’s Strongest Man. Some of the events may be hard to appreciate, like the one where they lift the big shopping cart thing with a rock in it and walk around in circles. But these guys actually pull airplanes. I can’t even write anything else to make that sound more impressive. And the World’s Strongest Man is also a winner in the comedy department. Watching 300-pound Eastern Europeans dance awkwardly in celebration as scrawny, confused Moroccan children look on is just something we don’t see often enough.

The only negative aspects of the World’s Strongest Man are the fact that they’re almost exclusively reruns and the fact that no one other than the competitors, their families, and Bill Kazmeier really care about who wins. And one more thing: what the heck is 150-pound Todd Harris doing announcing the World’s Strongest Man? The man looks like one of the guys in the back row on a Denise Austin aerobics video. Is he really one to comment on how well someone pulled an airplane? Overall Grade – B+

Billiards (9-Ball) – For me, this one lies on the opposite end of the spectrum. While I recognize their talent, the sport simply doesn’t blow me away. Many of the shots they hit are ones we’ve all made, the difference is they basically make it every time. On top of that, the players are pretty much emotionless and the whole “inside a casino with 25 people watching” atmosphere doesn’t exactly get my heart racing. I wish once, just once, we could see one of the players try to jump the ball and tear the felt on the table, and then hear the casino owner in the background yell “You’re gonna pay for that!” Couldn’t this just happen once? Overall Grade – D

Billiards (Trick Shots) – Now this is exciting. These guys basically play H-O-R-S-E with each other, each making up the most ridiculous and geometrically impossible shots imaginable. If you haven’t seen this, I simply can’t describe just how hard these shots look. As with 9-Ball, the atmosphere isn’t really electric, but seeing a guy hit six balls in on the same shot and call every single one of them is simply good television. Overall grade – B+

X-Games – The X-Games (which I’m lumping together as one sport, because I don’t really follow them individually) should be right up my alley on paper. The guys are doing stuff there’s no way I could ever do, there is genuine crowd excitement, and there’s a pretty significant “wow” factor when you consider the danger involved. But for the most part, I just don’t get it. I can never really figure out what’s going on, partly because I’ve never played any of these sports, and partly because the announcers flat out suck. This the only sporting event where you’ll hear an announcer other than Stu Scott use the word “sick” to describe someone who is perfectly healthy. That and the word “huge” make up roughly half of the adjectives. Can you imagine this in any other sport?

Marv Albert: Well, it appears with both Bradley and Najera out there the Mavs have decided to go HUGE tonight! And with Nowitski in as well, they become TOTALLY HUGE!

Bill Walton: Well the Mavs have been playing absolutely SICK basketball with this lineup out there. It’s really disgusting to watch them play.

Anyway… Overall Grade – B-

Bowling – This I just have a problem with. If people bowl 300’s all the time at local bowling alleys, how come the pros aren’t hitting 300 consistently? I see guys winning on tour with like 220; you could probably find 3 or 4 scores per day at your local bowling alley that would beat that. However, they have decent commercials on ESPN, some of the guys legitimately have personalities (I’m sure we all remember “I am P-T-W!”), and watching it always reminds me of The Big Lebowski. That has to count for something, but not much. Overall Grade – C-

We’re getting a little on the long side here, so we’ll finish up tomorrow with the likes of Sumo Wrestling, Curling, Pro Beach Hockey, World Series of Poker, Rugby, the Great Outdoor Games, and yes, the Spelling Bee.

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