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Sports needs more characters like ‘Lawn Ranger’

Rick Chandler, Tahoe Daily Tribune

We need some new professional sports. I think it’s clear that the four major ones — baseball, football, basketball, hockey — have totally outlived their usefulness, become an embarrassing mockery of themselves. They were fun for a while, like but like Ed Norton in Ralph Kramden’s apartment, eventually they need to be ejected forcefully.

In the NFL, players have reached critical mass, as have their salaries. No team can keep its star quarterback for more than a few weeks before he is flattened, cartoon-like, by a 400-pound defensive lineman; watching Warren Sapp sit on Kurt Warner’s head is not my idea of a fun afternoon. And isn’t it fun watching your team being directed by the second-string QB, who had been working at Arby’s the previous weekend?

In Major League Baseball, of course, everyone is on steroids — with about 15 players currently on pace to break Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record. We used to speculate on who was taking the juice — now the question is, who isn’t?

Pretty soon fans are going to have to start taking andro just to keep up with the physical strain of fighting for so many home run balls hit into the bleachers.

The NBA — or Travelgate, as I call it — has been a joke for several years, with networks considering just showing the last 4 minutes of games when the players are actually trying.

And has anyone noticed that hockey is impossible to enjoy unless you’re actually attending a game, or drunk? Oh yeah, about 200 million Americans have noticed. Sorry, I forgot.

So we need four new major sports, and I’d like to begin taking applications today. Sports such as boxing, tennis, golf and swimming need not apply — after all, if they had any true mass appeal, they would be major sports already. We need completely new sports, stuff that’s just getting started, without an X in the title or associated in any way with “The Rock.”

We need to get going in a totally new direction, getting back to our roots, embracing the values that made this country great. Our major sports should reflect what we aspire to as a nation, and Dennis Rodman is not it.

Here are my candidates:

Lawnmower Racing: The United States Lawn Mower Racing Association sanctions major events in 15 states, and TNN actually broadcasts them on some Sundays. Called Sunday Night Mower Madness, competition will occur in seven divisions, including road track and drag racing. Racers with nicknames such as Sodzilla and The Lawn Ranger will vie for glory and a trophy — but no big cash prizes, which is what ruined our other sports.

NASCAR has grown too large and dangerous, so we’ve scaled it down to a manageable size — and look, doesn’t the lawn look nice? How could a guy on a mower named “Weedy Gonzales” fail to capture the imagination of the American people?

Plus, anyone can participate, you don’t need a major sponsor. What could be more American than a riding mower on a Sunday afternoon? Take that, bin Laden!

Battlebots: We may think that we identify with baseball’s pastoral charm, or with football’s controlled violence, but that’s bunk. In operating tiny destructo robots by remote control, we get to the essence of who we really are. As we grow to adulthood, our psyches are constructed of layer upon layer of elaborate protection — defense mechanisms we have developed to get us through relationships, careers, etc.

The most successful of us are simply those who have built the most effective inner-Battlebots.

Watching these machines scurry across an arena, slamming into each other, attacking one another with remote claw hammers and tiny tire spikes, is not unlike a domestic argument. It is a microcosm of life itself. Plus there’s circular saws. With wider exposure, this sport could take over the world.

Curling: The world of sports is spinning faster and faster, getting more ludicrous by the minute, and in danger of plunging us into the final Apocalypse if Tom Arnold is allowed to keep talking. We need to turn on a nice curling match on TV, and just, well, chill.

Aren’t you tired of all the big countries hogging the medals? We need a sport in which Iceland is a major threat. We need a sport where a good, sturdy broom is essential. We need a sport that celebrates the quiet, satisfying clack of polished volcanic rocks.

Ahhhh, I feel better already.

Professional Bass Fishing: You add interesting characters with small, tipsy boats, large quantities of alcohol and a mean, slippery fish and I’ll tell you what you have — ratings gold.

Remember the scene in “Jaws” where the marina is clogged with bumbling fishermen trying to catch the killer shark? That could happen every Sunday, on TV, and we could even bring in Richard Dreyfus as commissioner (I hear his TV series isn’t doing so well). No drug scandals, no boxers biting each other — just the thrill of landing a monster largemouth, with the occasional long, boring story thrown in (those could be edited).

There you have them, my ideas for our new major sports. Send in yours, and we’ll brainstorm a bit. Anything involving a bowling ball or pins will not be considered. Thank you.

— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at

NBC.com.


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