The first article I ever published came in July of 2011 about a quirky, fast, exciting sport that you’ve probably never heard of, called fistball. I described the sport this way:
Up in the land of cheeseheads, bratwurst and fish fry the locals have a keen taste for something that hits even harder and feels crisper than a locally-brewed Wisconsin IPA.
Fistball is made up of two five-a-side teams, pummeling a ball for two 12-minute halves on a 50- by 20-meter field, half the size of an FA regulation soccer pitch. Balls can bounce once between hits, up to three times per possession, as each team’s aim is to put it across the rope so the opponent fails to return.
The story was that a ragtag group of recreational fistball players from clubs in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania assembled what became the first US National team. They had made it into the 2011 Fistball World Cup later that fall in Austria, and they invited me up to take a look. During this time ESPN.com’s Page 2 specialized in stories about the quirky and off-beat, and the editor took 387 words and some video that I worked up from that weekend in Wisconsin.
After that came stories about country cycling and nature conservation, collegiate fencing, social media-based scavenger hunts, a couple different styles of skydiving, as well various sports on skates. The time spent talking with athletes found at skating rinks, ski slopes, in urban streets, and up in the sky, led me to other stories.
At the same time that I was gathering up quotes from the world’s best competitors in ice cross and roller derby I also got to interview and profile NFL players like Rob Gronkowski and Matt Forte, as well as members of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, and my hometown favorite Chicago Cubs.
Along the way, I learned that no story is really bigger or more important than another. Moreover, I found that sports of all stripes, whether they are played in a rec center or a 50,000 seat sports arena, are all a labor of love and a passion for the athletes involved. Better yet, if you are looking for an extreme thrill, extreme sports pack an extra punch.
Photo credits: courtesy photos from Team AlterEgo, Sandrine Rangeon. Front page skydive pic courtesy of USPA – United States Parachute Assn.