America, let’s invent some new sports

News & Politics

The entire staff of Deadspin was fired yesterday after G/O Media sold the site to European startup Lineup Publishing.

While G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller broke the news in typical bland corporate-speak, he did mention the new owners’ desire “to build a new team more in line with their editorial vision for the brand.”

In 2003, Chris Ruder encountered the game when friends brought an old spikeball set with them on a trip to Hawaii. Seeing the potential, he bought the expired trademark, made some design improvements, and launched Spikeball, Inc. in 2008.

In other words, a team more interested in covering sports than in targeting a 9-year-old Kansas City Chiefs supporter with unhinged accusations of “racism.”

Hats off to Carron Phillips, though. It takes a certain creativity to turn a fan’s innocuous face paint into “blackface.” Maybe he should apply that vivid imagination to inventing a new sport instead of writing about current ones.

It’s an underrated form of entrepreneurship, in my opinion.

Pickleball

Look at pickleball, as irritating as it is. The fastest-growing sport in America has only been around since 1965, and it’s already inspired two feuding professional tours, multiple altercations over public space, and at least one Ponzi scheme.

While I’d rather listen to a loop of Kamala Harris laughing than hear the nerve-shattering sound of overzealous seniors whacking an ugly plastic ball like it’s a piñata containing their children’s inheritance, I have to admit that pickleball’s creation was an inspiring moment of triumph for dads everywhere.

Picture the scene: a languid summer day on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Two hard-working family men named Joel Pritchard and William Bell had risen with the dawn for a round of golf. They returned to Pritchard’s home to find their teenage progeny incapacitated by “boredom.”

“Why don’t you make up your own game?” volunteered the ever-resourceful Pritchard. “That’s what we used to do.”

“If it’s so easy, why don’t you do it?” whined one of the feckless teens.

“OK,” said the dads.

Spikeball

A more recent example is spikeball. Originally marketed as a children’s toy, it enjoyed a brief surge of popularity in the early 90s. In 2003, Chris Ruder encountered the game when friends brought an old spikeball set with them on a trip to Hawaii.

Seeing the potential, he bought the expired trademark, made some design improvements, and launched Spikeball, Inc. in 2008. By 2013, the company reached $1 million in annual revenue.

Now called roundnet, the sport founded by Ruder boasts college and professional leagues, not to mention millions of recreational players.

Teqball

Then there’s teqball, a blend of soccer, volleyball, and table tennis invented in Hungary in 2013. The genuinely impressive feats of agility and athleticism the sport demands have led it to explode in popularity. It’s even seeking a spot in the 2028 Olympic games.

____ball?

How hard can it be to follow in their footsteps?

Australian exercise physiologist and sports fanatic Rob Wood maintains an ever-expanding database of hundreds of reader-submitted new sports if you’d like to check out the competition.

I know I’m considering resurrecting the octagon-style pillow-fighting league my friends and I developed in junior high school. FluffbludgeonTM, anyone?

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