Monday, 6 April 2009

A History of Invention

Back when I was young, stupid and creative I used to invent new things all the time. Sadly none of them were in any way earth shattering, or in fact any good at all, so I conveniently avoided become a multi-millionare before my 13th birthday.

During the years 1993 and 1994 I had a glory era for inventing sports which, frankly, I'm appalled have never been adopted by the IOC.

Concept A: "No Rules Soccer"
Now, the name is a bit misleading but we young and tended to oversimplify things. You couldn't handball or attack the goalkeeper but otherwise would do as you liked. There was some sort of unspoken gentleman's agreement that you wouldn't go too far but it was still a quality hybrid of football and Ice Hockey. Big hits and hip and shoulders were the order of the day on Malvern Oval for months.

Over time people even created pro-wrestling style gimmick characters. Witness, for instance, the kid obsessed with Dragonball who carried a tennis ball in his pocket and would deploy it as required. A carefully aimed throw at the back of the legs could disarm a potential attacking move, but a poor throw could mean having to scramble to recover it - or even worse have it fall into the hands of the enemy.

Other bonuses of the "jumpers for goalposts" playing field were the complete lack of boundaries (unless you somehow managed to spaz up and shank one over the fence onto High Street) and the fact that you could play a ball from behind the goals to a teammate waiting on the other side to gleefully smash it home. Cue all sorts of wild set pieces and the additional tension for the keeper of having to defend in two directions.

Eventually people find better things to do and the handful of loyalists left went back to the ludicrously slanted and deadly ashphalt field within the school. It was truly the end of the era.

Concept B - "Unnamed Contact Sport"
Grade 6. Cricket was the most boring sport ever invented, there was no space to play football , and we'd been banned from playing soccer against the Grade 5's because every lunchtime ended in a proto-soccer riot with somebody being hit with a stick. Little shits they were too.

So, 10 or 15 underage and bloodthirsty children were left with nothing to do. Enter late night television and a showing of The Running Man that I should never have been allowed to stay up and watch. Cue a new sport combining Rugby, Capture The Flag and pure homicide.

Two teams would line up at either end of the school and a ball would be left somewhere in between. The rules were extremely simple. Get the ball and rush it into the opposition base by any means necessary by the end of lunchtime. 45 minutes of chaos and an afternoon of post-match analysis in class were sure to follow.

Of course it didn't quite work out. Despite a number of innovative plays such as decoy runners, false intelligence and the clever use of innocent bystanders which organically sprang up over it's short life nobody ever actually managed to score. After a few games it became clear that once the ball was lost you just had to set up a defensive wall in front of your base and fight to the death to make sure nobody else got in. Given more time I'm convinced these tactics would have been exposed by rapid counter attacking and/or SAS style commando raids over walls, but it never happened. One lunchtime couldn't settle the score, and despite my best attempts at creating teams with logos and theme songs everyone wanted to start again the next day because so-and-so was off sick and he was supposed to be on their team.

So sadly the sport never evolved, or even got given a name. After a particuarly brutal match where somebody was bodyslammed outside the school library the authorities stepped in to put a halt to the carnage. Lacking the rebel streak to continue some sort of underground Fight Club style league the punters went their seperate ways and it was never spoken off again. To fill the void that the lack of meaningless early-teen violence had left I started stealing things.

Concept C: "Skiffing"
Now this was pure stupidity. After a summer of cricket where every lunchbreak would cut to the 18-foot Skiff yachting series on Sydney Harbour Bay there was a sad but legitimate buzz for the sport in our parts. Mainly because the crews would use the foulest language outside of SBS and the censors could barely control it. How we laughed when Rob Brown on Prudential got clocked by a Sydney Ferry and almost died.

To understand the concept of this new and exciting extreme sport you have to study the art of the skiff. Note how the crew (extreme hand gestures optional) hang off the side of the boat into mid-air?



So, the point was to find the highest railing you could and hang off it like that. Fair enough when we amateurs were sticking with mild 1m drops, but eventually the more - shall we say - disturbed members of the skiff faction topped everyone and started hanging backwards off the railing outside our classroom two stories up. Now it wasn't just hanging off that got you skiffing cred in our parts - no you had to bounce up and down a couple of times like you were actually on the high seas.

So there Nutcase McLunaton was up there, with nowt but death awaiting him if he even slightly let go, bouncing around like he was storming to a race victory at Circular Quay on-board the Club Marine boat. How he didn't neck himself I'm not sure, but it was certainly the end of the sport. Like Alexander the Great weeping because he could conquer no more lands we wept (not really, you would have been bashed) for there were no higher railings to skiff from. Ever since the world record skiff performance I've had a phobia about watching other people standing, setting, whatever near edges where they might plummet. Can I sue the school even if it was as the result of something I created?

The real 18ft series would, for all intents and purposes, die in the arse when Channel 9 came up with the Cricket Show and now appears to be nothing more than a front for some restaurant in Darling Harbour. Vale.

Then there was Downball. Not my creation by any stretch of the imagination, but an important part of childhood nonetheless. Now I'm sure this game is played somewhere under another name with similar rules but I can't find mention of it anywhere. Wikipedia refers to Downball as a variety of something called "Australian Handball which is played on a court and bears to resemblance whatsoever to our version which took place against any sort of wall with a flat, hard surface beneath it. The official website for their version of the sport - oh yes, it has one - shows people in gigantic walled uber-squash courts (think of a Jai A'lai fronton) hitting a tiny rubber ball from a mile away. My school did have a couple of these giganti-courts but none of them were being used for downball.

Singles and doubles play was available and the concept was to hit the tennis ball into the wall after making it hit the ground first. First person to not be able to get it back on one bounce loses the point. Fairly simple concept, but the best had their trademark tricks. Instead of standard palm strikes the grandmasters would wait for the ball to drop as low as possible before hitting it with an open hand, causing the ball to skim low and force an opponent to risk grazed knuckles trying to chase it down. Many times we saw a plucky competitor playing on with blood pissing everywhere only to run to the school nurse at the bell and complain that they were mortally wounded to get out of afternoon maths.

It was first to six with a two advantage and the winner stayed on. I was quite good in my day, nowhere near the best but a respectable contender - top ten for sure. The only problem was that there was no top ten. No rankings at all. A sad scenario that I attempted to rectify by the introduction of tournament play and an ATP style ranking system. Unfortunately nobody else could be bothered waiting around to play, or could actually grasp the idea of a ratings system so the concept died in the arse.

Then, basically, we all discovered softcore porn and the era of innovation ended rapidly. God forbid they'd had the internet then it would have been all over. Somewhere along the line I turned into a horrible little bastard, but at least retained an interest in invented sporting events.

2 comments:

Desci said...

We could never get too violent with our lunchtime sports - a school of only 120 kids, and 18 grade sixes, meant there were teachers everywhere we turned. Though we played blackjack for buttons, which is kind of hard core in a different, non-violent way for 12 year olds.

word verification: gronis. Fnar fnarrr.

Adam 1.0 said...

This school was a conglomerate with perverted priests who would probably try and touch you on the gronis given the chance so it was vital to keep on the move.