I don’t normally cover sports, but I do cover weird. With over a dozen channels of assorted sweaty guys to choose from on regular cable, TNN has added another form to the genre, SlamBall. This latest made-for-TV sport has washed out college basketball and football players mixing it up with skate punks and BMX-ers on a basketball court covered with trampolines. The net result is a sort of gravity defying ballet of incipient mayhem – players bounce up over the hoop, allowing volleyball-like spikes and spectacular midair collisions. Points rack up quickly and games are fast – a half hour seems to be the standard, and there are few annoying TV time outs. The rules appear a little fluid – most of the time-consuming penalties that traditional sports honor are gone, although you can get dinged for “popcorn effect.” We are defiantly in the world of made for TV sports – think Rollerball, American Gladiators, or “extreme sports.”
Predicting success or failure of this sport is difficult. The league has six teams, none of which are associated with a city, as far as I can tell. Getting in the playoffs is about guaranteed, so there is a strong democratic flair to the show. What the players do looks exhausting and quite dangerous, and the opportunity for broken bones and very serious groin pulls adds a reckless air to the game. But the gymnastics are great, the players occasionally can give a non-embarrassing interview in English, and it’s worth flipping through before heading off to infomercial land and bedtime. This is one of the pillars of American freedom – the freedom to invent a new national pastime, whenever and wherever it’s needed, and license the heck out of it. It makes you proud.
Slamball on TNN: http://www.thenewwtnn.com/shows/slamball