Monday, August 14, 2006

"In America we ask Yakov to save tennis. In Soviet Russia, we have no Yakov. HAHAHA!"

An open letter to Yakov Smirnoff

Dear Mr. Smirnoff,

I hope that this letter finds you well. I know that the summer months are a little slower for you, as you only do 8 pm shows. With any luck, that means you’re well rested and looking forward to the fall as you add more shows, building up to your huge Christmas season. I haven’t been able to make it down to Branson, but I hope to soon.

I am writing with regard to the Springfield Lasers. I’ve written before about this important topic, asking you to be a celebrity fan for World Team Tennis. I asked you to be a fan to save the game and to show support for the local team. Now I’m asking you to be a Lasers fan to help save America.

The message your show gives to audience members is desperately needed in this country. Patriotic wonder, emotional motivation, inner happiness, a celebration of the spirit of life, and Russian kick dancers are in short supply but great demand throughout the country. Not enough people have access to your show and insight. What a country to be without necessary Yakov access.

By becoming a celebrity fan, you would invite more people to listen to you, to hear your message and lessons. It would start small, with ESPN attention. That would launch a fit of nostalgia, reminiscent of what ALF received when he started doing commercials again. That nostalgia and ESPN’s relationship with ABC and Disney could launch you into a more varied media presentation of your show. More people could hear you, laugh with you and learn from you.

I think that this is potentially the next great step in your already great career. I know you’ve had a wonderful life in Branson. But I think the time has come to re-emerge on the national stage. Help out America, support the Springfield Lasers and re-enter the American consciousness. Please contact me, as I am available to help with this important project.

Fondest wishes,
John Weaver
Fringe Sports Central

FSC Announces Letter Writing Campaign to Save World Team Tennis

World Team Tennis is in trouble. Not from financial ruin – it’s been in continual existence for 20 years and clearly its business model works. No, WTT is in trouble because of obscurity. As in the league is firmly nestled in it. Every major tennis player in the last decades has passed through WTT, and yet no one seems to know or care about it, even tennis fans. What’s frustrating is that WTT is much more approachable for the common sports fan. The sport is based on franchises. Unlike straight-up tennis, there are hometown teams to root for.

FSC is big into celebrity fans. We have previously written to Yakov Smirnoff asking him to buy season tickets to the Springfield Lasers, his local WTT franchise, a mere 40 miles from his home in Branson, Missouri. Yakov supporting the Lasers could be mutually beneficial to both the celebrity and the team. You can’t tell me that ESPN wouldn’t love to show footage of Yakov courtside for a WTT match, particularly with him supporting the local team. This pairing makes so much sense.

Now Fringe Sports Central is getting more ambitious. We’re calling on everyone to write to Yakov or other celebrities, asking them to support World Team Tennis. Be creative. Be convincing. Be persistent. I recommend B-level or below. See if ALF is doing anything. Maybe Eugene Levy. As an enticement, any email that is sent to a celebrity and is also cced to FSC will be published in this space, possibly with some editorial comments.

As part of this campaign, FSC is pledging to write at least one letter to Yakov every other week, imploring him to become the most visible Springfield Lasers fan. Those letters will be published right here, as will any news regarding his status as a WTT fan. Happy letter writing.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

So Good It Threatens to Put Us Out of Business

I like what FSC does. I think we add something to the larger conversation, whether it’s overanalysis of random, obscure and unknown sports or humor or a closer look at communities of fringe sports fans. However, if you’re looking for raw information on minor or smaller pro leagues then you need look no further than Our Sports Central. No site or person anywhere pays greater attention and respect to those leagues than OSC.

It’s almost embarrassing how much detailed coverage OSC gives to minor and smaller pro leagues. Seriously, I’m almost scared to write about the site because people might stop coming here. It’s that good. FSC has been using it as a resource for quite some time.

I can’t emphasize enough how much raw information they keep track of and make available to visitors. Look at the main page. In successive order, there are articles from local newspapers on teams, team press releases, the newest teams in minor and smaller pro leagues, the most popular team websites, and a scarily complete list of every minor and smaller pro league in North America: baseball, basketball, football, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and other. That last one is basically National Pro Fastpitch (pro softball) and World Team Tennis.

If you have any interest in minor leagues or smaller pro leagues, check out OSC. It’s the best. But please come back here after, if only because they don’t write about cornhole and unicycling.

Friday, August 11, 2006

arenafootball2 Playoffs Continue, Media Turns to Meaningless NFL Exhibition Games

As every sports fan in America ignores rising pennant races in baseball to watch NFL exhibition games played largely by guys from second tier Division I-A schools, Fringe Sports Central wants to call your attention to arenafootball2 playoff games played largely by guys from second tier Division II and III schools. The schedule has been out for a while, and FSC now brings you its overanalysis of those match-ups. Basically, this is a misguided effort at predicting the games.

Memphis (e)Xplorers at Green Bay Blizzard – Memphis is ranked higher on scoring offense than Green Bay (4th v. 11th) and defense (1st v. 4th). The defense is almost a laughable comparison. That axiom “Defense wins championships” is as applicable to games in the af2 as Leviticus is to the common law in Tehran. Offense wins everything in the af2. Memphis takes this, 44-38.

Manchester Wolves at Florida Firecats – I’ve used a very detailed statistical overanalysis to determine the outcome of this game: one team is from New Hampshire, another is from Florida (you have no idea how many man hours of research got outsourced to India finding that information). Wolves win, 52-40.

Arkansas Twisters at Tulsa Talons – In the af2, when in doubt, bet on the team that rushes less. Tulsa rushed for 25.2 yards a game, which sounds bad until you find out that Arkansas rushed for (and I’m not making this up) 7.4 yards a game. They literally rushed the ball less than 5 times a game on average. I bet their RBs cry themselves to sleep at night. Arkansas, 38-30.

Bakersfield Blitz at Spokane Shock – I like Spokane a lot in this game. Their turnover margin was almost 3 times greater than Bakersfield’s in the regular season. Spokane, 49-35.

A couple things to look for:
  • Let’s all hope that Arkansas doesn’t attempt a single rush. Not one. And I want plenty of pictures from local media of their running backs looking despondent.
  • Second or third tier celebrity sightings. This is my new thing in all sports. I want every sport – now matter how fringe – to get celebrity fans. And there should be rules. The more fringe the sport, the more obscure the celebrity. I think af2 and Doug E. Doug are a great match.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Play Airhockey Against Kazakhstan’s Best

Engadget recently featured the coolest thing to happen to fringe sports in a while: Airhockey Over a Distance. Admittedly, the name sucks, no way around that. But it’s fixable. It’s the technology that’s cool. This device let’s you play airhockey against someone on the other side of the planet.

With the technology, you play on half an airhockey table, facing a large television screen showing your opponent in Kazakhstan (or wherever), who is playing on an identical table with a screen showing you. As Mental_Floss describes it, the table is “hooked up with sensors and a fancy puck ejecting system that can track how fast you and your opponent are slapping the puck, and at what angles, to simulate face-to-face play.” This turns every internet cafe or T1 line into Silicon Valley’s version of ESPNZone’s game area.

Normally I find souped up pucks highly suspicious (anyone remember FoxTrax?), but this sounds too cool not to be a good thing. Think of the game potential. Airhockey leagues could sprout up all over the world without any regard for geographic lines, like a league based on people who like to play while drinking beer (ok, that’s a pretty big league). Its members could populate every pub on earth. The game would no longer be confined to buddies who get together at the local bar or arcade. Anyone can play against anyone else. We might be able to answer that timeless question: who really is the best airhockey player in the world? Admit it – you’ve always wanted to know.

I also like the odds of a pro league sprouting up because of this. Why? First, everyone knows and likes airhockey already. This isn’t a hard sport to sell on first impression. Second, and more importantly, no travel costs. Everyone just plays down the street. It’s basically got the ABA’s business model: low travel costs mean that you don’t actually have to make that much money in each home game/event.

Not particularly relevant but entirely worth mentioning: Engadget’s coverage of video games that pit you against your hamster shows that the future of fringe sports could involve one-on-one man v. pet events. Word to the wise – if a rodent can beat you at Halo 2, you need to find a new hobby because you suck at your current one.

FSC Toots Its Own Horn and Then Brags About Web Mentions

FSC has started to gather quite a following in the last few weeks, largely because of references from other sites and publications, all of which, I promise you, are of high quality. In an effort to share the love, here are the sites that have been kind enough to help us along (as well as smart enough to know quality overanalysis of under-reported sports when they see them):

The Sports Frog
Free Darko
Dave’s Football Blog
World Finger Jousting Association
Pate LIVE!
Sports Column Blog

To all the above mentioned organizations of intelligence and breeding, we thank you. If there are any that FSC missed, please let us know.

Fringe Sports Central Wins Mental_Floss Magazine’s “Most Ridiculous Sports Contest”

Describing it as being explained “to an almost frightening degree,” Mental_Floss Magazine named FSC’s Team Bobbing the winner of its “Most Ridiculous Sports Contest.” All we ask is that amateur team bobbing leagues pop up all over the country. And if Mark Cuban or Donald Trump want to fund our professional team bobbing league… well, you know where to find us.

Gentlemen, Please Let Go of Your Eels: Conger Cuddling Banned

A little piece of my soul just died. For more than 30 years spectators have come to Lyme Regis, a small English fishing village, this time of year, every year, to watch two teams of fishermen stand on wooden platforms in the harbor and engage in a true test of sportsmanship. Standing tall and strong, like Finnian heroes of yore (except English), these pillars of humanity have flung a dead giant eel at one another, attempting to knock the other team off. It's a sport they call conger cuddling. But this year, no eel shall be tossed.

Why, you might ask? An animal rights activist has threatened to bring negative publicity to the event, which has been a boon to local tourism and usually raises about $5,600 for Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat crews (I’m not making that up). I’m all for animal rights. Inhumane treatment of animals is cruel. I always demand my money back if I see a movie that doesn’t inform me that no animals were harmed in the making of that movie (ok, that I made up).

But the eel is DEAD! It’s like that old Robin Williams routine: “Why are you acting like an asshole trying to decide whether to get the red wine or white wine with the fish? The fish is dead, it doesn’t care!” The eel is dead. Let the fishermen toss it. As local resident, and spokesman for Lyme Regis lifeboat crews, Andrew Kaye put it: “It’s a dead conger [eel], for Pete’s sake. I shouldn’t think the conger could care one way or another.”

It’s a shame, really. This has all the telltale signs of a great fringe sport. Its fans are very devoted and have formed a tightly knit community. And the name can't be beat - conger cuddling is fantastic, and its the double entendre possibilities leave me speechless. The rules are fairly simple – two teams try to knock one another off wooden platforms by swinging a 25-pound eel. But that’s where the sport sucks you in – simple to learn, hard to master. Check out Mental_Floss for a great picture.

The irony, of course, is that the banning of this sport has been great publicity for the town and the event. If they rescheduled it for next week they’d draw twice the spectators they've had in the past. The town should do just that, animal rights activists be damned. That’s what I hope for anyway. Until then, my soul mourns.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Grab Your Crotch and Point Your Lance – Unicycling News and Results

In the wake of Floyd Landis ruining two-wheeled biking for everyone else comes the final results of Unicon XIII, the thirteenth World Unicycling Championship. FSC has reported on a few of the events in the past, but until the other day the results from some of the most important events had been missing. Among those were the results from unicycle hockey, which was won by the Swiss Power Team (good name for a gold medal team), and unicycle basketball, which was won – again – by the Swiss Power Team (which apparently is quite the power team indeed).

But the unicycling event that everyone cares the most about, FSC included, is the mountain unicycling downhill event (Muni). Honestly, I was a little disappointed that John Foss – the greatest American unicyclist and arguably the best in the world too – didn’t win. He didn’t do badly, by any means. He finished third, about 5 and a half seconds out of first. The winner? Roger Davies, from the UK, who had a ridiculously good Unicon, not only winning the Muni but also the marathon as well. And yes, by marathon I mean 26+ miles (the unicycle one is technically a little longer than the standard marathon). Davies managed to finish it in 1 hour, 44 minutes.

Really, though, the marathon results are somewhat diminished by the fact that very few Kenyans own unicycles. Come back in ten years and the top rider is from Nairobi, winning the race in less time than it takes to listen to an old Toto album.

Even though Unicon XIII is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t take the lessons of Unicon with you the whole year through. It’s like Christmas – you just need to remember the Unicon spirit and live it each and everyday. A few recommendations:

  • A video featuring some cool Muni moves and some cooler Muni falls. Check out the way a lot of riders appear to grab their crotches. It’s unclear to me if they’re actually grabbing the unicycle seat in an effort to improve their balance or if they are legitimately attempting to shield their cojones from a Muni-induced accident.
  • A gallery of unicycle jousting pictures. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” Fair enough. But look at these pictures and tell me you’re not a little interested in trying it out. You can’t tell me that. And if nothing else, check out the last picture in the gallery – nothing like a unicycle lance to the groin for some cheap, guaranteed laughs.
  • Seriously, you’ve got to check out the Unicyclist Forum. It’s filled with the friendliest people in the world, all of whom are incredibly dedicated to their sport and are more than happy to answer questions, help out and attract new fans. Ideally, every fringe sport community would be like the unicycling community there.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Hooker’s Extra Tooth

It should be pointed out that fringe sports are not for the feint of heart. They might be random and obscure, but they can also beat the hell out of participants. If you don’t believe me, take a look at some of these stories and studies.

Although its credibility as a sport is highly suspect, juggling has a surprisingly high rate of injury. Over 70% of jugglers are injured doing it. This, to me, is amazing. Do you think that old jugglers walk with a limp or noticeable lack of mobility, like old NFL players? Maybe the guys who juggle really big things – like bowling balls or moose skulls – end up with a lot of concussions. Can you imagine trying to hold a conversation with an overly concussed, octogenarian retired juggler? That’s gotta be somewhere around the 5th or 6th level of hell.

Not as surprising, however, is the fear of injuries in competitive eating. Some doctors hypothesize that too much eating could lead to a torn esophagus. Food could leak out of the tear and cause infection. This, however, is predicated on the assumption that over eating competitively could lead to vomiting eventually. Competitive eaters, however, insist vomiting is rare. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, though, admitted to having to make numerous trips to the bathroom after devouring 11 pounds of cheesecake in 10 minutes. But come on, seriously – after consuming 11 pounds of cheesecake in any time frame shorter than a year and a half, bathroom breaks are the least of your worries.

Rugby, though, easily wins the award (fictitious, though it may be) for most dangerous, injury prone fringe sport. Rugby produces some messed up players, and it produces a lot of them. However, my favorite is the hooker with the extra tooth. Shane Millard, a hooker (it’s a rugby position, pervert) for the Widnes Vikings, had an opponent’s broken tooth stuck in his head after a game. Doctors had to douse it with saline solution in order to remove it.

Millard’s injury, believe it or not, is not unique, nor even the most severe example of players depositing teeth into the bank of another player’s skin. Jaime Ainscough found St. Helens center Martin Gleeson’s tooth embedded in his arm several weeks after a game. By that point it was so badly infected he was in danger of losing the arm. However, because rugby players are tougher than any other human beings on the planet, he returned to play by the end of the season. In Spanish that’s called “cajones muy grandes.”

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Some Players Actually Choose Playing in the af2 Playoffs Over the NFL. Seriously.

I love a sport where throwing 7 touchdowns needs to be prefaced with “the QB had a slow start,” but in which there aren’t enough rushing yards to warrant a mention in any newspaper. Ladies and gentlemen – the first round of the af2 playoffs. There were a couple upsets, but fortunately none of them involved the home team in New Hampshire.

FSC predicted wins for the Manchester Wolves, Central Valley Coyotes, Memphis (e)Xplorers, and Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz. How’d I do? 2 and 2.

The Wolves did indeed defeat the Wilke-Barre/Sranton Pioneers (possibly the most geographically confused team in sports since the Montreal Expos played 20 of their home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico), 55-47. The owner of the aforementioned slow start was Manchester’s QB, Steve Bellisari, who still managed to pass for 7 touchdowns. He is, though, 5-0 as the starter. Are we about to see a Brady-esque waltz for a New England football team through the playoffs? I hope so. By the way, let’s hear it for Tony Stallings, a recently cut CFL guy who signed on with the Wolves two games ago. His agent told him that there would be NFL teams interested, but he ignored that advice to play in Manchester… wow. That’s like graduating from Georgetown University and choosing to work as a subway artist at Subway instead of taking that job offer at the White House. Way to become the poster child for bad career decisions, Tony.

The Coyotes, however, fell to the sixth seeded Bakersfield Blitz, 45-37. The culprit? According to one release, it was Central Valley quarterback Scott Rislov, who only passed for 4 touchdowns after setting an AFL and af2 single season record of 106 touchdown passes. However, I’d like to believe it was the unique strategy of the Bakersfield fans who traveled to the game. They decided to confuse the Coyotes by chanting “Beat Fresno!” Either that or no one told them that the Coyotes are actually from Central Valley.

I was dead on with my prediction of the (e)Xplorers-Louisville Fire game being the bore of the weekend. The final score was 83-61, setting new af2 postseason records for most points by a team and combined points. The sparkplug for the victory was eight (EIGHT?!) touchdowns by a 5’8’’, 155-pound receiver Kevin Prentiss. Another reason to love af2 – it’s a full contact sport in which a guy whose bulked up, media guide numbers (I got money that says Prentiss is only 155-pound soaking wet with a pocket full of quarters) make him no bigger than the average 10-grader.

In the best game of the first round, the Arkansas Twisters bounced the Dawgz (ugh, stupid name) 47-43. It came down to one play.

This sets up the second round of the playoffs next weekend. FSC will have more predictions and overanalysis later in the week. By the way, kudos to all the local media in all the markets playing this weekend. It was very thorough. Further, GREAT job to Our Sports Central, a fantastic resource for all things minor league. I’ll have more about them later in the week too.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Talk About Rugby and Leagues… and Sometimes Sex and Politics

Returning to my roots of fringe sports media, here’s a listing of three prominent rugby sites and blogs that provide a wide variety of coverage and conversation on the sport. You’ll notice that the number of contributors for a couple of these is fairly large. That’s what happens when a fringe sport in this country is a center sport in other countries. Just imagine what NFL fans feel like in Bulgaria.

World Rugby Forum: A relatively new site (I think it was started just a year ago or so), it’s got some lively rugby debates, particularly concerning the south Pacific. Small compared to others.

Planet Rugby Forum: The forum for the Planet Rugby news and information site. Rich, detailed discussions about all manner of rugby. And more, actually. There are frequently political posts (check out this discussion about the US invading Cuba) and while I’ve never seen it, I suspect that a discussion of sex would probably be well received (neither quote me nor test that theory). In a lot of ways, this is what an online fan community should be, ideally: possessed of a shared mission and vision, openly communicative about almost all topics, and close knit. FSC highly recommends this one.

The Rugby Forum: Very well organized discussion of rugby, with a lot of focus on Tri-Nations. It’s easy to find what you want, as the division of conversations is smartly done along topical and geographical lines. Smaller than Planet Rugby, but much larger than World Rugby. Particularly good if you want to compare hemisphere action. The fans are just as passionate here as in Planet Rugby but the conversation isn’t quite as broad reaching.

These are the three that FSC has found most helpful, but I’d love to hear about some that I’ve missed. Any sites where fans bond together over a common purpose, that’s what I’m looking for.

Friday, August 04, 2006

How to Impress Women: Finger Jousting

It’s always exciting when FSC gets to expose its audience to a brand new sport, one that is either so young or so confined to its home geography that the population at large hasn’t discovered it yet. Today, FSC presents a sport all but guaranteed to make friends and impress women. I’m talking about the sport of finger jousting.

Finger jousting, according to the Pseudo History on the homepage of the World Finger Jousting Federation (WFJF), was started by the ancient Israelites. The WFJF actually claims that Moses himself played (I’m not making this up) and that finger jousting is the chosen sport of the chosen people. The WFJF also claims the existence of a text called the Book of Phalanges (I’m still not making this up) that the First Council of Nicaea almost used while writing the Nicene Creed. Can you imagine Christianity today if a pillar of its philosophy had been based on poking each other with your index finger?

The sport actually has a fairly detailed code of conduct, philosophy and set of rules. I won’t get into the details here (although I’d like to revisit them in a future column), but check them out on the Basics page. The general premise is that two jousters attempt to earn points by poking each other with their index fingers. Depending on the version you play, there might be different points for different parts of the body.

Currently the sport is spreading slowly. Its “hotbed” is the metropolis of LaGrange, Georgia. Besides the Cinco de Mayo Leisure Jousting Social Event, there do not seem to have been many official events this year, nor do any appear to be planned. The lack of organized events is probably attributable to the youth of the WFJF, which just celebrated its first anniversary, according to Julian Glick, the “Lord of the Joust” (i.e., president of the WFJF). You can fix this, though. Start your own finger jousting clubs and plan your own events.

The sport is starting to attract some media attention. Its inherent goofy athleticism (as embodied by the fact that most competitors are part of the “gaming sub-culture”) has sparked the curiosity of radio, blogs and Yahoo’s The 9 video show. WFJF’s media page has links to all of it. I recommend you check them out.

And you’re probably asking yourself “How does this attract women?” Here’s how – start poking a girl, finger jousting with her. It doesn’t matter if she plays or even knows what it is, in fact this works better if she neither plays nor knows about finger jousting. Start poking her. Finger joust the hell out of her. I promise you’ll get a strong reaction.

FSC’s Entry In Mental Floss Magazine’s Ridiculous Sport Contest

Welcome to the exciting world of Team Bobbing. Combining the athleticism of bobbing for apples with the aesthetic appeal of Double Dare, this sport can be played by professionals as well as amateurs, and I’m going to detail both levels of play. Pay particular attention to the amateur level, it’s easy to set up at home for you and your friends.

Amateur Level of Play

Here’s what you need: a kiddie pool, enough of some liquid to fill it (I recommend something dark and goopy), a dozen or more small objects of your choosing (I recommend something random like harmonicas), possibly goggles.

The players: two or more teams of two or more people.

The set up: Fill the kiddie pool with the liquid. Then drop in the small objects, stirring the liquid so that the objects are evenly disbursed throughout the pool. Each player chooses a spot to kneel by the pool.

The play: There is a count down from 3 to 1, at which point the referee yells “Bob!” When the ref yells that, all players dunk their heads and hands into the pool looking for the dozen or more small objects. This continues for 5 minutes or until all the small objects are collected from the pool. Repeat this set up and play 5 times. The team with the most objects at the end wins.

Comments: This game allows players to get dirty, compete against each other, and recreate the fun of bobbing for apples. Because the players get to choose the liquid and objects, the combinations are endless: beer coasters in beer, McDonald’s toys in McDonald’s orange drink, etc. And if you don’t think that this will burn calories, try holding your breath five times in a row for intervals of five minutes each while dunking your head and scrambling around with your arms. You’ll work up a sweat, but you probably won’t notice it because you’re covered in Kool Aid, etc.

Pro Level of Play: Pro Team Bobbing League (PTBL)

What will be used: 10 large tanks, 10 different kinds of liquid, ten sets of two dozen different small objects. Possibly goggles.

The players: Two teams of ten people each.

The set up: Each tank is filled with a different liquid and seeded with a different object. One player from each team is sent into each tank.

The play: Each tank is used once during the game, and each pairing of opponents in a tank is called a match. At the beginning of each match, the ref yells “1, 2, 3 BOB!” When the ref yells this, each player begins dunking himself or herself in the liquid and attempts to gather as many of the objects as possible in ten minutes, or until all the objects are gone. The player that finds the most objects wins the match; in the case of a tie, the match is replayed. The team that wins the most matches wins the game. If there is a tie, the team with the most objects overall wins. In the case of a tied number of objects, there will be another match between one player from each team chosen by the opposing team. Twenty-three of the last objects used will be put into the last tank used with the last liquid used. The winner of this match is the winner of the game.

Logistics: The home team constructs the tanks, but the visiting team selects which matches are played in which tanks. The home team gets to determine the liquid in each tank, but the visiting team gets to chose objects that will be found.

Franchises: I picture a league that is spread out over the original major league baseball territory, i.e., the north east. No teams south of the Potomac or west of the Mississippi. So we’re looking at two divisions with five teams in each. In the Sticky Division will have teams in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Pittsburgh. The Slippery Division will have teams in Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Detroit.

Schedule: All of the teams play each other twice during the regular season – games will be played on Tuesday and Thursday nights during the summer – and two teams from each division make the playoffs. The two teams from each division play each other, and then the winners play against one another for the PTBL Cup.

Arenas: I envision smallish arenas, 1000-2000 people each.

Commentary: This is sport is going to storm the nation. It will be messy, exciting and capitalizes on existing geographic rivalries. Plus there’s a low start up cost, relative to other pro sports, and is ready made for TV. If you’re interested in getting in on the ground floor of this exciting professional sporting opportunity, contact me at Be the owner of a pro sports franchise in an up and coming league.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Home of Tomorrow’s Mediocre NFL Players

The players who will compose future NFL practice squads and one day serve as the league’s injury necessitated peons take the field this weekend in the minor league to the NFL’s minor league. Starting Friday, the Arena Football Two playoffs begin in unpopular towns across the country. Central Valley, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Manchester, New Hampshire (not unpopular, simply undiscovered) all boast home teams in the wildcard round of the AF2 playoffs. Waiting in the wings are teams from Green Bay, Wisconsin; Estero, Florida (seriously); Spokane, Washington; and Tulsa, Oklahoma, who all won their divisions and received first round byes.

Here are the official FSC predictions for the first round of the AF2 playoffs before I list some things to look for.

Friday Games:

  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers @ Manchester Wolves (7:30 pm EST) – Obviously, this New Hampshire boy is picking the Wolves. The question is by how much. How about this, I’m just going to give the Wolves’ average points for and points against. Final score: 54-48, Wolves. Ooo… but look at that Ms. Pioneer Contest. It’s even held at the Oyster Bar. That’s got to count for something. Ok – final score, 52-50. It’s going to be a good game in Manchester.
  • Bakersfield Blitz @ Central Valley Coyotes (11:00 pm EST) – This, to me, is the hardest pick of the weekend. Both teams are 9-7, but more important, both the Blitz Dancers and the Coyote Girls have spectacular stripper names. In the end though, the Coyote Girls have far superior stripper poses in their team photos. Well, there’s that and the Coyote offense scored 8 points more per game this season than the Blitz. Final score: 48-38, Coyotes.

Saturday Games:

  • Louisville Fire @ Memphis Xplorers (8:00 pm EST) – Ugh. The stinker of the weekend. Memphis is much better, despite the idiotic X in their name. I hate teams that put X in their name for no good reason; that’s mainstream idiotic not fringe sports. Memphis wins in a walk, 49-23.
  • Arkansas Twisters @ Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (8:00 pm EST) – This one is another dog of a game, although not quite as bad as the Memphis game. The Dawgz outscored the Twisters by more than 10 points per game during the regular season. Dawgz win 54-38. (And by the way, I hate extraneous use of Z in place of S at the end of words, too. It’s just dumb.)

Come back next week for predictions for the games involving the Green Bay Blizzard, Florida Firecats, Tulsa Talons, and Spokane Shock. First, though, things to look for this weekend:

  • Will any running back rush for as many as… 40 yards? You think I’m kidding. Oh no. Look at the season stats. The Blizzard led the league in rushing and averaged less than 40 yards a game. Needless to say, the next great NFL back-up RB will not be coming out of AF2.
  • Speaking of rushing, keep an eye on Oklahoma City’s defense. They allowed an impressive 12.6 yards rushing per game. There’s an off chance that the complete extent of the Twister’s rushing offense will be when they run onto the field at the beginning of the game.
  • Louisville allowed the most points of any team in the league, 854. The fewest? 655, by the Memphis Explorers (suck it, Memphis). In contrast, the most points allowed by any team in the NFL was 431 by the Houston Texans. Now, there are mitigating circumstances; Arena Football rules are pretty different than NFL rules. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that NFL scouts look at those stats and think “I’d rather watch the defensive line at Temple,” which no football prospect wants to hear. Come NFL guys – give Arena Football some love.

Create the Next Extreme Ironing: Ridiculous Sports Contest

Building on YesButNoButYes’s fantastic Top Ten Obscure sports list, Mental Floss magazine has come up with the logical next step: Now that we’ve identified the most obscure existing sports, it’s time to expand the list. In order to do that, Mental Floss has announced a contest to create the most ridiculous sport. The winner gets a copy of Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets. Personally, I would have preferred that the magazine actually create a tournament for the winner’s sport, but I can understand how the Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets are easier. So be it.

The rules are pretty straight forward:

  1. The sport must be so new it’s never been played on earth (but apparently if you picked it up during your study abroad semester on Mars, that’s cool)
  2. The sport must be consistent with the laws of physics (which is disappointing and limits the imagination, but fair enough)
  3. The sport must be relatively cheap to play, with equipment that can easily be obtained by anyone (no fair demanding tennis rackets strung with unicorn hair, or some crap like that)
  4. The sport must be an actual physical sport involving at least two players (board games need not apply)

I thoroughly recommend that everyone participate. This is a great idea – so great, I’m sorry I didn’t think of it first. No matter, I can at least revel in it. I say go nuts. Come up with something truly bizarre, like flaming olive tossing or some kind of long distance race involving a trashcan. But try to use normal objects everyone has. We don’t remember this now, but many of the most popular sports in this country and the world started that way. Basketball started when James Naismith used a common peach basket. Lacrosse was played with rocks at first because that’s what was lying around. A century from now, your sport using ordinary items could be the next basketball

I’m formulating my own sport as I type. I’m going to work out a few kinks and then write about it here after I submit it. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Embryos Can’t Ride Unicycles: Why Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis Are Lesser Men

Following up on FSC’s initial coverage of Unicon XIII (the Unicycle World Championship), there sadly are still no reported results from the downhill event (although check out this video for a rough idea of the inherent coolness that is Mountain biking on one wheel). However, that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened in other events.

In the obstacle course (this is a bad picture of someone about to race an obstacle course), John Foss won the gold. Foss, for those who aren’t in the one-wheeled know, is one of the world’s most renowned unicyclists. Although Europe seems to have embraced unicycling more than Americans, Foss is perhaps not only the best unicyclist in America but also the world. Doubt it? Check out his some of his greatest hits.

A tradition of unicycling – whether for competition or hobby – is the slow backward. This is so traditional that anyone of a woman born is eligible, age zero on up. Embryos, sadly, need not apply. Depending on what side of the abortion debate you land on, you might believe that life begins at conception, but unicycling doesn’t begin till birth. The results are indicative of the competition’s extreme popularity. In fact, there are so many results, I can’t tell who won any age or gender group. So congrats to everyone, I guess. Check the results for yourself. Get back to me if you can make heads or tails of them. Some of it is actually in German.

Check out Foss’s website as well as the results from the slow backward event. They show what kind of community unicycling has fostered as a sport… quite frankly it’s a little bizarre and has got more than its fair share of freaks. But it’s passionate. Every sport should be so lucky. Find some videos on the web; Youtube has plenty (including my favorite, Unicycle Jousting). You might be impressed (or at least highly amused) and inspired to keep watching or even riding.

Remember: real men only need one wheel. What does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong are pussies. Long live Unicon.

Tennis Needs Yakov Smirnoff to Save the Sport

An Open Letter to Yakov Smirnoff:

Dear Mr. Smirnoff,

You probably didn’t notice my plea in a previous article, begging you to attend the Springfield Lasers’ wildcard match against the Newport Beach Breakers. And you probably didn’t notice the disappointment expressed in a subsequent piece when you didn’t go to the match. That’s ok. You can make up for it now and next season. I need you to save tennis. Tennis needs you to save tennis. We all need you to save tennis.

The popularity of the sport is waning. There are fewer big names and it receives less and less attention from center media. It is in danger of becoming an elitist fringe sport, the worst kind of fringe sport. Fringe sports should be populist so that the fan base can be inclusive as well as passionate. It’s important to the wellbeing of the fan community.

Tennis, though, if it sinks beneath the SportsCenter/Sports Illustrated radar, will have none of that. It will have a high entrance fee and few opportunities to grow. We could some day look at tennis the way we look at crocket – pretty ridiculous and rich people like it. Tennis deserves better than that. The last thing we need is a generation of sports fans pointing at tennis players and exclaiming (possibly in a thick Russian accent) “What a country club sport! HAHAHAHA!”

This is where you come in. World Team Tennis has the potential to be hugely popular in this country and the world. It combines team sports elements with the individual matchups that make tennis narratives so compelling. But World Team Tennis has a hard time marketing itself. I don’t know why, but after 26 years of continual existence it has yet to make an impact in the US. And there’s a team down the road from your adopted hometown of Branson, Missouri.

Become a season ticket holder for the Springfield Lasers. Be vocal about your support of the team. Go to all their games, be front and center court. I guarantee TV cameras will find you and the WTT. Local news stations across the country will pick up on the fact that Yakov Smirnoff has adopted a team in this quirky league and will start to explore why he likes it so much. Sure there will be the inevitable lines like “In America, TV cameras film stars watching tennis matches. In Soviet Russia, TV cameras film everyone getting interrogated by KGB. HAHAHAHA!” But they’ll ask you about the league, and you can spread the good word about tennis. You can be its ambassador.

As your paintings demonstrate, you have thoroughly embraced America and Americana. Your Branson show and theater are testaments to that. But take the next step – become a ridiculously dedicated American sports fan… even better – a ridiculously dedicated celebrity American sports fan. Like Jack Nicholson to the Lakers and Ashley Judd to the University of Kentucky, be the celebrity fan to the Lasers. Save the world, Mr. Smirnoff. Save tennis. I am available to consult on this important project.

Fondest wishes,
John Weaver
Fringe Sports Central