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What is the interest for new sports?

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To be serious for a minute, I see two options:

- start playing with friends and friends of friends and grow organically like that

- spend a lot of money marketing your sport so people know what the heck it is

 

Maybe some day you can be the next Kan Jam.

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I don't know if this counts as "new", but last year was the first time I saw matches of ultimate frisbee. What surprised me was that it is such a wonderful spectator sport, as good as soccer, and better than many other established sports.

 

Here's last year's AUDL championship game.

 

 

 

Also, I'd watch Boliviguayan baseball.

 

 

 

 

 

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There's a lot of games and sports that have some interest. But, they're not popular because they're not popular. It isn't for lack of promotion or advertising. There's handball, curling, polo, water polo, field hockey, lacrosse, softball, etc that have some valid following and even some Olympic recognition. But, overall, isn't a majorly popular sport for spectators outside of international competitions.

 

And then there's a myriad of sports that aren't major. Ever play Four-Square as a kid?

 

Someone upthread mentioned Ultimate Frisbee, yet that sport has technically been around for a very long time. And even some of the 'newer' sports when someone think of it are just modifications of current sports. Arena Football, Futsal/Indoor Soccer, Beach Soccer, Beach Volleyball, Indoor Lacrosse, etc.

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I disagree.  There are certain sports which, if properly promoted, could be commercially viable, at least to some level.

 

The problem isn't with the sports themselves.  The problem is with us.

 

We've become a culture where if something isn't an immediate success it's a failure; of instantaneous, thumbs-up or thumbs-down, love it or hate it attitudes. 

 

Major League Soccer has taken a full generation to only partially work its way into the American sports scene, and even that as a fifth, far distantly removed from fourth place league; presuming it survives that long, it will take it another generation, perhaps two, to reach equity with the NHL.  Meanwhile, if the NHL, or NFL or Major League Baseball for that matter, were launched as brand-new today, they would either be immediately branded as successes or failures - most likely the latter - without anyone among fans or media giving them opportunity to develop into a fully evolved on-ice/court/field product.

 

An overall key to public interest in a sport typically is longevity at its top level.  There's public interest in baseball because it's been around at the professional level for 147 years.  In football because the oldest current pro league is approaching its 100th birthday.  Basketball, which languished well into the 1980's, now has a professional league that's 70+ years old.  Hockey's centennial is now in its rear-view mirror.

 

If MLS makes it to its 50th anniversary?  It'll be seen as having "made it" as a sports property.  The NASL could've done it by now had they survived.  Indoor soccer could've done it had they simply tried to reach beyond their grasp during the late 1980's.  Arena/indoor football could've done it had they not a commissioner who was delusional about its overall place in the sports marketplace and drove the league into bankruptcy, taking the sport down with it.  Frisbee, dodgeball, or some other sport could do it - with the right people behind it and a realistic vision of what it could be.  It's a hard thing to accomplish; but it's not impossible.

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1 hour ago, Mac the Knife said:

I disagree.  There are certain sports which, if properly promoted, could be commercially viable, at least to some level.

 

The problem isn't with the sports themselves.  The problem is with us.

 

We've become a culture where if something isn't an immediate success it's a failure; of instantaneous, thumbs-up or thumbs-down, love it or hate it attitudes. 

 

Do you think that's a new phenomenon?  The World Football League, the USFL, the UFL. the World Basketball League, Women's United Soccer Association, American Lacrosse League, all the Jai Alai frontons, and many others would like to have a word with you. Not to mention the dozens and dozens of dead leagues littering the history books all the way back to the dawn of professional sports.

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23 hours ago, Mac the Knife said:

The problem isn't with the sports themselves.  The problem is with us.

 

We've become a culture where if something isn't an immediate success it's a failure; of instantaneous, thumbs-up or thumbs-down, love it or hate it attitudes. 

 

This is exactly right.  As you can see from my sig below, I used to follow New York's Arena Football teams, first the CityHawks then the Dragons.  And I cannot tell you how many people, when they heard mention of Arena Football, simply scoffed at the very idea.  It's an ugly attitude.

I certainly don't expect everyone to like every sport. But the act of dismissing something out of hand is indefensible.

 

 

21 hours ago, Gothamite said:

Do you think that's a new phenomenon?  The World Football League, the USFL, the UFL. the World Basketball League, Women's United Soccer Association, American Lacrosse League, all the Jai Alai frontons, and many others would like to have a word with you.

 

Yes, it is a new attitude.  You mention the WFL.  When that league started, people were willing to give it a shot. The WFL had evidently demonstrated its seriousness by the signing in 1974 of the three Dolphins stars Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield, and Jim Kiick, to future contracts for 1975, and its teams talked of signing NFL stars even up to the highest-paid player of the period, Joe Namath.  On the strength of this, sports fans and sports writers expected a high-level league, and were prepared to give it their attention. Eventually, however, what became apparant was that the league's owners were completely ill-prepared for the undertaking that they were engaged in.  The teams floundered; the New York team moved during the first season.  And the entire league collapsed mid-way through its second season.  But the important point for this discussion is that people tended to give that league the benefit of the doubt, until the league proved that it was being run by charlatans and goofballs.

 

Before that, the public had been much more receptive to new leagues.  The AFL had been a big hit.  It was taken very seriously by the fans and the press in the cities in which its teams played, so much so that the NFL agreed to accept the entire slate of AFL teams only six years after the AFL had begun. (The merger was agreed upon in 1966, even though the AFL played on through the 1969 season.)  The ABA was seen as a little weird, but definitely legit.  And the WHA, with the established veterans Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull and the hotshot youngsters Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, had the public's respect.  In both of these latter cases, the best teams from the newer leagues gained entry into the established league.  And before the AFL in football there had been the AAFC in the late 1940s and early 1950s, which had been a big threat to the NFL.  That league, too, won admission to the established league for its best teams (including the Cleveland Browns, which went on to win the NFL title in their first season in the league, eventually appearing in six straight NFL championship games, winning three of them).
 

I would suggest that the turning point in the phenomenon of public prejudice was the WFL.   It was that league's bungling that turned the public's attitude on new leagues from neutral to a default sense of dismissal.  The USFL was greeted in 1983 with a level of skepticism and outright derision that contrasted strongly with the public perception of the AFL.  This dismissal of new leagues hardened to the point where most of the public immediately considered the XFL to be a joke in 2001, and refused entirely even to engage with it, when in fact the level of talent was pretty high.  (The boorishness of Vince McMahon and the clownishness of Jesse Ventura in the XFL's first weeks rightfully turned off many serious fans; but that is no excuse in the long run, because the games were on all season, and were eventually good. Even now we can see examples of very exciting mid-season XFL clashes.)  

What we now have in our society is a kind of quasi-religious orthodoxy which holds that the NFL and the other established leagues are the only "real" leagues, as though they have a divine right.  The NFL was a much different animal in the days of the AAFC and the AFL; so the barrier to entry into that level of the sport wasn't nearly as high as it eventually became.  But it is the public prejudice, even more than the enormous costs, which prevents a new league in football or any other sport from attaining great success.  At the end of the 1950s and into the early 1960s, around the same time that the AFL formed, a new baseball league called the Continental League was also in formation.  The Major Leagues took this threat seriously enough to lure away several of the owners who would have been involved in that league.  Nowadays an established league wouldn't even bother defending itself, secure in the knowledge that the public would just sneer at a new league no matter how well-capitalised it was and no matter which players it managed to sign.

All the foregoing deals with new leagues in the sports that are already considered major.  For a league in any other sport, hoo-boy, the level of prejudice is just about insurmountable.  As mentioned by @Mac the Knife, MLS has finally entered the outer edges of the mainstream after more than twenty years.  For leagues in indoor soccer, Arena Football, lacrosse (outdoor or indoor), women's softball, women's soccer, or any other more exotic sport such as ultimate frisbee or team handball, they can forget ever being even at that level.  The backers of the new rugby league (which will be playing the sport of rugby union, not the sport of rugby league; all very confusing) will soon find out what it is like to bang their heads against this particular wall.  The sad reality is that the best that any of these sports can ever do is to be a niche sport; they will never have a sniff at entry into even the outskirts of the mainstream.
 

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I'm very skeptical that this is solely a modern-day problem.

 

There are plenty of short-lived leagues, even one-and-done leagues, throughout our nation's history, leagues that didn't have time to find their market, if they ever would.

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26 minutes ago, Gothamite said:

I'm very skeptical that this is solely a modern-day problem.

 

There are plenty of short-lived leagues, even one-and-done leagues, throughout our nation's history, leagues that didn't have time to find their market, if they ever would.

 

Sure, various leagues came and went from the middle of the 19th century through the first two-thirds of the 20th century.

But only since the 1970s have new leagues faced a public that reflexively scoffed at their very existence.  The WFL caused a change within American sporting culture. That's the phenomenon that Mac put his finger on when he said "the problem is with us".

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The Players League, Federal League, the National Association, the first AFL (not the 1960s version), the AAFC, the Continental Football League (not recent at all), the WHA, the NHA, CBA, etc.

 

But, again, these are all cases of one new league trying to play an already established sport.

 

I think if you want to look at 'new sports', the closest you'll find was the 2000s with NASCAR and recently with UFC. Both generally existed before (auto racing and fighting, essentially). The matter is longevity. Sometimes you get lightning in a bottle.

 

Remember, that the NBA wasn't the initial major basketball league. The BAA was first.

 

But, for a whole new sport to take over and become popular, it basically has to already exist on some level somewhere with established rules that simply become more popular as people are exposed to it. The MILL/NLL/MLL has been pimping Lacrosse for decades, but honestly, it's been the same regional support it's already had with Denver somehow added.

 

Soccer or MLS isn't new. It's been around for decades in this country. We already had two major leagues in the past. The NASL and before that a league run BY major league baseball stadium owners.

 

Remember Slamball? Basketball with trampolines? It was fun. But, it didn't last at all.

 

The biggest thing that really affects fans with team sports is your accessibility to or connection to those teams. A person is much more likely to be a fan of soccer in Atlanta now than they were in Topeka, for instance. Simply because there's a team now to support. Sure, that support can wane over time, but it certainly helps support. Someone mentioned arena football in NYC, and that's the truth. You follow the Knights (first go), CityHawks (second go), or the Dragons (last try), it's easier to be a fan of the sport while there's a team to go attend games and or watching on television if broadcast locally.

 

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20 hours ago, Gothamite said:

Do you think that's a new phenomenon?  The World Football League, the USFL, the UFL. the World Basketball League, Women's United Soccer Association, American Lacrosse League, all the Jai Alai frontons, and many others would like to have a word with you. Not to mention the dozens and dozens of dead leagues littering the history books all the way back to the dawn of professional sports.

 

No, I don't think that at all - I just think that those launching new leagues, in whatever sport, had best be prepared for at least a decade-long fight for whatever place they're going to have in the overall sports marketplace; and be prepared to lose money while fighting every round along the way.

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3 hours ago, Mac the Knife said:

No, I don't think that at all - I just think that those launching new leagues, in whatever sport, had best be prepared for at least a decade-long fight for whatever place they're going to have in the overall sports marketplace; and be prepared to lose money while fighting every round along the way.

 

Absolutely.  I just don’t want to pretend that’s a new phenomenon.

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Oh it's not.  Not at all.  But there is a new twist to it in one respect; a sort of trap that league organizers fall into:  the need to "go national" from the outset.

 

I've always envisioned a version of basketball I call "Triball" being marketable.  The concept is remarkably simple:  normal, 5-on-5 basketball, played on a normal court, but with two differences.  The first is the elimination of the 3-point shot, but that's due to the second - the addition of two additional baskets on each side of the court, just like they're positioned in most high school gymnasiums for half-court play.  If you make a basket on one of the side courts, it's worth 1 point.  Make one in the standard, full-length downcourt basket?  2 points.

 

But if I ever decided to pursue it as a league, there's no way I'd try marketing it the way AAF and/or XFL are about to market what they're doing.  I'd launch with six teams, all within a bus drive's distance from one another (500 miles, max, in say just for the **** of it, Louisville, Des Moines, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Grand Rapids and St. Louis).  All cities where there's no existing NBA team, all with reasonable market sizes where marketing costs wouldn't break you, and all places where if it didn't work and you had to close a team, the media wouldn't decry the concept as bad, just the market.  Keep operating costs save for marketing as close to nothing as you could, give it a shot and see if the concept works.  Then, if it does, you go from there.

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13 hours ago, Sykotyk said:

I think if you want to look at 'new sports', the closest you'll find was the 2000s with NASCAR and recently with UFC. Both generally existed before (auto racing and fighting, essentially). The matter is longevity. Sometimes you get lightning in a bottle.

 

I remember watching the first UFC matches when I was going through combatives classes. The original intent was to decide which type of melee sport was best. There really were no rules outside of a time limit and that shape of the ring. After a while they had to reinvent themselves into mixed martial arts because boxers couldn't really do anything other than punch and were at a  major disadvantage to kickboxers, judo and grapplers. The equipment even changed too. 

 

26 minutes ago, Mac the Knife said:

Oh it's not.  Not at all.  But there is a new twist to it in one respect; a sort of trap that league organizers fall into:  the need to "go national" from the outset.

 

I've always envisioned a version of basketball I call "Triball" being marketable.  The concept is remarkably simple:  normal, 5-on-5 basketball, played on a normal court, but with two differences.  The first is the elimination of the 3-point shot, but that's due to the second - the addition of two additional baskets on each side of the court, just like they're positioned in most high school gymnasiums for half-court play.  If you make a basket on one of the side courts, it's worth 1 point.  Make one in the standard, full-length downcourt basket?  2 points.

I'd launch with six teams, all within a bus drive's distance from one another (500 miles, max, in say just for the **** of it, Louisville, Des Moines, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Grand Rapids and St. Louis).  All cities where there's no existing NBA team, all with reasonable market sizes where marketing costs wouldn't break you, and all places where if it didn't work and you had to close a team, the media wouldn't decry the concept as bad, just the market.  Keep operating costs save for marketing as close to nothing as you could, give it a shot and see if the concept works.  Then, if it does, you go from there.

Or you could do the Big 3 model and have them tour while using the larger dome stadiums instead of arenas to give you some standoff space for the courts. Six to eight teams, 10 player rosters and go from there. 

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2 minutes ago, MJWalker45 said:

I remember watching the first UFC matches when I was going through combatives classes. The original intent was to decide which type of melee sport was best. There really were no rules outside of a time limit and that shape of the ring. After a while they had to reinvent themselves into mixed martial arts because boxers couldn't really do anything other than punch and were at a  major disadvantage to kickboxers, judo and grapplers. The equipment even changed too. 

 

Or you could do the Big 3 model and have them tour while using the larger dome stadiums instead of arenas to give you some standoff space for the courts. Six to eight teams, 10 player rosters and go from there. 

 

I remember the original UFC as well.  I remember thinking "What a circus.  An entertaining circus, but a circus all the same."

 

I think the same way about the Big 3, honestly.  The Big 3 isn't a league, it's an exhibition in the guise of a league.  There's nothing wrong with that, but I'd never use the Big 3's business model for a "TriBall" like concept; the only reason it's even half a hit is that they have ex-NBA talent they can promote.  People go to Big 3 games to see their favorite player; they have no vested interest in who wins vs. who loses any particular game.

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I'm very involved in what can be considered a "New Sport" I coach Flat Track Roller Derby, been doing it since 2010! The sport started in Austin, TX in 2002 and has been organically growing ever since, the only relation it has with the Pro Wrestling style banked track "Roller Derby" that pretty much died off in the 1970's is the name and concept of a jammer scoring a point for each opponent they lap. There's no big money backers of the sport, it's a total "Do it Yourself" operation and in 16 years grew from around 20 people to over 450ish Women's Flat Track Roller Derby Association(WFTDA) member leagues and 45 National Teams.

 

People all over the world are playing the sport(I coached in 2 World Cups) but there's barely any traditional tv exposure, mainly due to it being more of a participation sport, 90% female and very much associated with the LGBTQ community. ESPN showed a tape delayed broadcast of this past falls WFTDA Championships, they've been showing it on ESPN3 for a few years and BBC Sport showed live the final game of this years World Cup, all of those are a significant feather in the sports cap. Besides those instances everything broadcast wise is done in house by the WFTDA or event organizer, it's harder to attract new fans that way but the footage ends up on YouTube so we can direct people that way.

 

 

 

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I've been tinkering with an idea in my head for a new sport called Grid Sevens. Essentially, its a gridiron version of rugby sevens, but with the uniforms and rules for contact closer to rugby.

 

The goal is to create a sport with the excitement and appeal of football while minimizing the sort of play that leads to CTE.

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Funny roller derby was mentioned...I got a cousin who's a cheerleader for one such team.

In any event, I remember a few "State of Minor League Basketball" articles at OSC whose author had floated his idea for a 4 on 4 league in the Carolinas setup like Mac's idea-every team within driving distance of one another, and mainly weekend games.  Never went anywhere iirc, but it's still a more sound idea in my eyes than going national right off the bat.

All the indoor football leagues, I'd want to set up a Champions League of sorts, what with the Arena league basically a zombie.

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One time my friends and I created a new sport spontaneously.

We were staying at a camp ground near Wildwood, New Jersey.  The camp ground had a game room in the ground floor of a little stone house.  And for some reason no one but my group was on hand this particular week, so we had the room to ourselves.  It consisted of two ping pong tables in the centre of the room, sitting next to one another in the orientation opposite to the room.  (Meaning that the tables were placed such that their long direction ran east-to-west, while the room was a rectangle that was longer north-to-south.)  There was a door in the middle of one far wall, and a fireplace in the middle of the opposite wall.

We began by playing ping pong.  Then we got silly, progressing to playing a deluxe ping pong over the two tables.  Finally, I started dribbling the ball upwards on my paddle and running around the room, evading the obstacles that were the tables.  One guy instinctively chased me as if playing defence, and a third guy took up a position on the far side of the room.  I passed the ball to that guy, and he charged at either the door or the fireplace (I forget which), and took a shot.

And thus was born goalball!  We stopped playing ping pong and commenced playing a spirited round of goalball, finding that the need to dribble a ping pong ball upwards while running was quite a challenge, as was cutting around the tables.  We played 2 vs. 2 with no goalkeeper.  Passes could be bounced of off one of the tables.  It was part ping pong, part basketball, part lacrosse; and it was a total blast.  In a better world this could be big hit!

Alas, the situation never again presented itself, as we failed to find another location set up just right, a room with two ping pong tables in the middle of it, and with goals at the centre of the room's two short walls. But on one hot summer day in 1985, the glorious sport of goalball entered ... and exited ... the Universe.

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