If sports were people, arenaball would be Peter Holm. Which may explain how positively fired up I am about Arenaball. I know the season has ended, but I can hardly wait for it to start up again. I like clothes, so I was fairly heartbroken that Holm, my new hero and a great American even if he is a Swede, will no longer be collecting about $4 billion a month for threads from Joan Collins. I didn't know how I personally might recover from this...until I discovered Arenaball. The passing. The scoring. The air conditioning. Foam-rubber barriers. Nets! Tastes great, less filling. Football like it oughta be.
I'm an expert in the made-for-TV-games field, a veritable junk-sport junkie. I was present at the creation: Superstars! Joe Frazier nearly drowning; Pete Rose saying of his tennis match with skier Karl Schranz, "I'll whip him and his translator, too." Women Superstars! Motorcyclist Debbie Lawler, the Flying Angel, wearing her flaming-orange bra for luck; jockey Robyn Smith reviewing the competition: "Sonofabitch, this is a joke." Team Tennis! Not only did I cover the Boston Lobsters on a road trip, I was the Boston Lobster one night in Oakland, resplendent in mascot red. A Golden Gater fan screamed at Lobsterette Kerry Melville, "Break her serve!" Another fan screamed, "Break her leg!" You think I didn't love team tennis?
While team tennis now seems to be played exclusively in Domino's pizza parlors on courts shaped like a double-cheese pepperoni, Teletrash marches on. Indoor Soccer! Box Lacrosse! Kick Boxing! (Or is it Kick Indoor Lacrosse? I get confused.) And Arenaball, which replaces my all time favorite, GLOW, an acronym for the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling. Just the other night, live, from the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas—I think it was live, except that the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling's hair looked dead—Sally the Farmer's Daughter and the incredible Olympia fought a tag-team match against Hollywood and Vine. The latter be bad. Later Mountain Fiji and Matilda the Hun engaged in a Fijian Strap match. Don't...even...ask.
On the telecast, ring announcer David McLane seemed calm enough. "You're seeing it here on GLOW...the collision of titans...pandemonium reigning...the strap being laid across the back of Fiji...are they going to stop this match?" I suppose even Betty Friedan was wondering.
All of this obviously goes back to the very first of television's terrific made-for-sports-suckers events, The American Sportsman, when Robert Stack took a machine gun to Tweety Pie. Nevertheless, something is missing in junk sport these days, and I have come to save it. My new games combine the best elements of our popular sports with enough sleaze to make even the most jaded couch potato happy. Herewith, my entries:
TOUR DE HOOP
Whereas Arenaball condenses football, this game dilates basketball into a 26-mile marathon played on unicycles with a backboard and net at mystery intervals along the route. The old court's too small for our fabulous athletes. Let's see how much stamina Larry Bird really has and if Magic Man can truly go coast to coast. If only CBS can find a truck crane strong enough to lift and suspend Tom Heinsohn for ongoing commentary.
ROLLER PUCK RELAY
I'm sick and tired of the proliferation of Canadians in hockey just because they grew up on Labatt's and les blades. Lace our northern neighbors into real skates—roller skates—replace their sticks with cast-iron gloves and make them throw the puck goalward while taking cross-checks from the Bay City Bombers. The first team to incur six minor penalties—or major hospitalization—loses.
Where a father and son, or teams of mach-o, mach-o men, get into serious bonding by rolling Firestone tires at one another down and across their favorite lanes. Upon impact, synthetic pustules explode, signifying a hit by covering the victim with blueberry preserves. Chris Schenkel has already given his blessing, save for the last detail, claiming it "perpetuates the myth that bowling is a blue-collar exercise." So we'll get Roy Firestone (no relation) instead.
Ollie North thinks he's tough? Jim Bakker presumes he has been through Hades? Yo, guys, batter up. We've got our DTs (designated throwers), Eric Show and Dr. K himself, to choose sides and come out aiming. Show picks Gary Hart and Ivan Boesky to go with Ollie. The Doc selects Bakker, Sean Penn and a local guy, Bernie Goetz. Lot of hard feelings here, gang. Plate umpire is Judge Wapner. Happy (head) hunting.
I've got a million more tube sports so, Don Ohlmeyer, call collect. Excuse me for now. Sportscenter is coming on and I have to watch the Denver Dynamite-Pittsburgh Gladiators replay to see if they're still tied at 68. And if Fiji got out of the strap.