jerusalem post logo

Tuesday, July 11 2000 01:31

C’mon, be a sport!

By Ahron Shapiro
(July 9) – Like the sands in an hourglass, these are the sports of our lives. Forget the calendar, I can tell what time of the year it is by sporting events associated with the season.
In the fall and winter it’s soccer, American football, basketball, and hockey season.

Spring and summer bring baseball and cricket. Tennis tournaments take place year-round, but the best contests are held at around the same time each year and have a air of excitement with them. Right now Wimbledon is reaching the final round (, and although the names of the players change each year, there is always an intensity about the finals which makes it thrilling to watch.

For me, tennis hasn’t been quite so exciting since John McEnroe retired a number of years ago. His on-court tirades against calls by line judges may have blemished the sport’s image somewhat, but it shook things up and definitely made the games more colorful.

Some say his rants still echo through the rafters at Wimbledon, as vivid (or livid) as ever, just as they remain frozen in time on the Internet (

SPEAKING OF tennis, here would be a good opportunity to mention the Israel Tennis Centers (, which provide quality facilities for play in numerous cities and towns around the country. Each of the facilities has its own Web page on the host site listing its unique programs. The programs range from simple lessons to innovative classes, such as the Jewish-Arab coexistence workshop at the Jaffa branch which includes beginner instruction for 70 Jewish and Arab children. At the page for the Jerusalem center, there are clinics in wheelchair tennis. No matter the level of your game, the Israel Tennis Centers offer a perfect match, pardon the pun.

Continuing on the subject of wheelchair tennis, not many people realize that this country is one of the leaders worldwide in athletic programs for the disabled. That’s why I strongly recommend a visit to the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled ( Web site, in order to learn more about it. Besides wheelchair tennis, the center’s activities include swimming, dancing, table tennis, wheelchair races, and basketball.

As popular as basketball is in this country, most people are familiar with the NBA (, but did you know there’s a NWBA wheelchair basketball league also ( The names of the teams in the league often mimic that of their NBA brethren, sometimes with slight changes, like the Portland team, called the Wheelblazers instead of Trailblazers. Whatever their names are, I think this league is the greatest.

SPORTS CAN be therapeutic. Participation in athletics conditions the body and offers the mind a generally harmless source of diversion. But what are sports, really? Sports involve games made up of rules and ritual. You may not be praised for tossing a soda can into a receptacle from 10 meters away, but if you do it with a basketball on a court, you’re a star. If you’re playing the game, you’re a player. If you’re watching the game, you’re a fan.

Fans are an interesting breed – they usually make an emotional bond with one of the teams or players, taking interest as though they were in the game themselves.

Fan behavior is the subject of a psychological study. Sometimes, fans cheer. Other times, they criticize and heckle. For insight into this behavior, check out the Heckle Depot (, a database of thousands of jeers submitted by baseball fans.

ALMOST ANYTHING can be turned into a sport, and often is. Some games border on the ridiculous. Synchronized swimming ( comes to mind. I know I’m going to come under fire from synchronized swimming lovers, and I admit it looks neat, but get real! I also find it hard to believe there are international competitions of tug-of-war, as evidenced from a site with a Canadian perspective ( The game of pulling a rope back and forth seems hopelessly simple to me, although I imagine it might be used for diplomacy.

Never mind the endless peace negotiations, Israelis and Palestinians should just get a big rope, get on either side and pull like crazy – winner take all, no whining.

Then there’s the most frustrating sport on the planet: Racewalking (

Participants in this sport, which is included in Olympic competition, conduct long-distance races without ever breaking out of a walking stride. I have never watched this event on TV without dying to scream at the second-place walker heading towards the finish line, “The other guy is going to win! For the love of God, RUN!!!”

WITH ALL the publicity surrounding major sports, one might think there is no room for more games, but there are actually many minor games out there with more sprouting up all the time. All that’s missing are players and fans.

Korfball ( originated in Holland in 1902 and has the distinction of being played with mixed male and female players from its inception.

If its okay to race horses and dogs, why not camels?

Actually, camels are raced in some countries. The International Order of Camel Jockeys ( is the wackiest site related to this rare sport.

Tchoukball (, another ball game, was developed by a Swiss biologist. It gets its unusual name from the sound the ball makes when it is hit.

Pickleball ( is an American game which resembles tennis. I have to admit, I had to include it for the name, which happens to be the name of the dog owned by the game’s creator.

I include Danball ( for the name as well. Could it be named after our previous Internet columnist, Dan Williams? The game, which like all good games is played in the street, includes the rule that pizza must be ordered and consumed before the game begins. Why don’t more games have rules like these?

SPORTS are part of our lives and the Internet, where fan sites squirrel away statistics, game results, and recaps like sacred historical texts. As a player, a fan, or just a curious surfer, the ‘Net has got your game. Play ball!