This Week In Violence! Presents SlamBall

The Maestro
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The Maestro

The Maestro is a mystical Canadian internet user and New England Patriots fan; when the weather is cooperative and the TV signal at his igloo is strong enough, he enjoys watching the NFL, the Ottawa Senators & REDBLACKS, and yelling into the abyss on Twitter. He is somehow allowed to teach music to high school students when he isn’t in a blind rage about sports, and is also a known connoisseur of cheap beers across the Great White North.
The Maestro
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Well, folks, after 15 weeks, it’s getting almost impossible to keep finding material that meets our necessary violence and obscurity requirements to write about. So as such, I’ll be wrapping up This Week In Violence! with a bang as we finally return home stateside to check out a sport that never got a fair shake on TV, and most assuredly deserves a second chance. Let’s end things on a high note as we delve into the crazy, high-flying world of SlamBall!

SlamBall was invented in Los Angeles back in 2001 by TV pitchman Mason Gordon, who was looking to create a sport that could replicate a video-game experience for TV viewers; the first season aired in 2002 on The Nation Network (now Spike TV) with a 6-team league competing for the championship. A second season ran in 2003, but after disagreements with network executives, another season did not air until 2008. Since then, coverage has been more sporadic on TV, but the sport has been featured all over the world, with specials in Italy, China, Australia, and elsewhere. You can actually watch matches on-demand from officialslamball.com now, apparently!

Slamball is more than just basketball with trampolines; it has its own specific set of rules that actually differentiate it quite a bit from its hardcourt cousin. Here is a basic overview of the game:

  • Teams play 4 on 4, in 4 quarters of 6 minutes each. Halftime is 10 minutes long.
  • Teams receive one timeout, which can be used only in the last two minutes of regulation time.
  • The court has 4 trampolines, 7 feet by 14 feet each, surrounding and comprising what would be the traditional key area in basketball. All courts are enclosed within wood and plexiglass, akin to a hockey rink.
  • A 15-second shot clock is enforced, though the clock doesn’t begin until the team crosses half court.
  • Shots are worth 2 points if from wood, save for three-pointers from beyond the arc, while “slams” from the trampolines are worth 3 as well.
  • No more than one person may stand in a trampoline at one time (offensive or defensive), and defenders may not interfere with an attacker’s ability to make their initial jump.
  • Attacking players may only bounce once on a trampoline to take their shot from that area.
  • Players foul out after 3 fouls (as opposed to 6), or after 2 technicals. Fouls can be settled by either turnovers or by faceoffs, which are one-on-one matchups between an attacker and a defender, going for points, instead of a free throw.
  • There are 3 main positions, which can be arranged in any formation so long as the 4 player allotment is reached:
    • Handler: akin to a point guard or quarterback; typically responsible for the initial pass to set up the offensive possession.
    • Gunner: akin to forwards, who are the primary attackers on the team.
    • Stopper: primary defensive player; can block the rim with their body – goaltending is also legal if the shot is taken from the trampolines.
  • Substitutions can be done on the fly, as in hockey.
  • Players cannot check each other until the ball is on the downswing of its arc; premature checking is settled by faceoffs.
  • Tie games at the end of regulation time are settled by a series of faceoffs, similar to hockey’s shootout setup in overtime.

This is a sport that is perfect for TV. Americans have no idea what’s good entertainment anymore. I would eat this shit up. SlamBall still recruits players off the street to play for its teams; the initial design of the game 15 years ago used a lot of street basketball players from the LA area, but players who applied to the show and made teams during tryouts have a wide variety of sports backgrounds, including basketball, football, rugby, and more.

And the hitting, folks. The hitting is fantastic. Check out the top 10 hits from the (I think) 2003 season.

Full contact sports, with freaky athleticism, towering heights, and tons of speed. It even lends itself nicely to skills competitions! I’ve always liked the NBA Dunk Contest, but throw trampolines in the mix and you get magic happening. Here’s the inaugural Dunk Contest that was held before the championship game.

Finally, here’s a full match, condensed down into just 19 minutes. The Diablos took on the Rumble for the 2002 championship, and the memory of this game has stuck with me for years – I remember watching a VHS tape of this one day in gym class when we were rained out of playing softball. That was a long time ago, but I do remember that not a single boy in the room gave a shit about being cooped up in the library for 90 minutes after about the first 30 seconds of the match. So, so much fun. Takes me right back.

In sum, SlamBall is one of the most perfect representations of America I’ve ever seen, and it should be your patriotic duty as the so-called “greatest country on earth” to bring this sport back to glory. There’s billions to be made here, folks. Just look all over YouTube – there’s videos everywhere. Your future beckons…

Thanks again to everyone who’s read This Week In Violence! over the past four months – it’s been a real treat to write about the inane and the obscure all this time. Next weeks sees The Maestro’s CFL updates begin – because we need to get back to something, ANYTHING we can read about professional football. June, July and August may go by fast, but it’s just not fast enough…

The Maestro
The Maestro
The Maestro is a mystical Canadian internet user and New England Patriots fan; when the weather is cooperative and the TV signal at his igloo is strong enough, he enjoys watching the NFL, the Ottawa Senators & REDBLACKS, and yelling into the abyss on Twitter. He is somehow allowed to teach music to high school students when he isn't in a blind rage about sports, and is also a known connoisseur of cheap beers across the Great White North.
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WakezillaSenor WeaseloblaxabbathballsofsteelandfuryRikki-Tikki-Deadly Recent comment authors
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Wakezilla

Need any obscure sports suggestions? There’s always Shinty. Fun fact, shinty historians claim hockey originated from shinty.

Senor Weaselo

YES. The best sport I’ve always wanted to play. Well done, Maestro.

blaxabbath

Things I enjoyed about the last video

1. The throat slash is not a penalty
2. Scully cheering at 3:07 (could also be ugly Jodie Foster)
3. Players being listed as having positions (unless this has something to do with the rules)
4. Coaches in suits
5. There are trampolines in place with the explicit purpose of launching players into acrobatic dunks; white guys are still jacking up threes.
6. Even though basically every score is a dunk, players want to stop and celebrate after each one as if they really just did something magnificent (“I just jumped 12 feet in the air all by myself!”)

ballsofsteelandfury

I’m sad to see this end as I really enjoyed these posts. Great job!

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

“Well, it’s been a fun fifteen weeks…”

Mickey Rourke, before finally realizing that he’s alone in his apartment