Sunday, March 9, 2008

Slamball: The interview

I recently held an interview with Coach Brendan Kirsch about the return of Slamball. Here are his responses:

The BearDown: Thanks for taking the time Coach. For everyone unaware, give us your best breakdown of what Slamball is and what it offers the viewers.
Coach Kirsch: It's a hybrid of several sports, taking the most exciting elements and molding them to produce one of the most electrifying visual experiences in recent sports history. Slamball resembles full contact basketball played on trampolines. But it's much more than that. It's a blue collar professional sport played by athletes that have a LOT of heart and absolutely no fear. These guys hit and get hit twenty feet in the air.

TBD: What have the people involved with Slamball, both in the management as well as players and coaches, been up to for the last few years?
CK: Since its' hiatus in 2003, everyone has done a lot of different things. Coaches are coaching all over the world (mostly in basketball leagues.) Players are doing the same. Our players went back to the leagues they were playing in before Slamball's inception, but we have always kept a tight family when it comes to propelling Slamball back into the spotlight. It just wasn't the time in 2003. We believe it is the time now. Mason Gordon (Creator) and Rob Wilson (Director of Player Personnel) have not stopped developing the sport and working on the new league. They've worked nearly daily for five years to get us here. We've also played some Slamball exhibition tours in Europe, most recently in Italy.

TBD: Was it the European and exhibition success that prompted a return to the US markets. If so, what specifically made everyone involved decide this was the right time for a Return for Slamball?
CK: To tell you the truth, the success in Europe is exactly what we could have had here in 2002 and 2003. But as you know, our network was more concerned with trying to fit a professional sport like Slamball into the budget of a television show. Trust me when I say, none of us think Slamball is a "made for tv sport" but that's all we kept hearing. It was marketed wrong and our executives disagreed with network execs on a lot of fronts. We went underground. The sport is a beautiful thing. Anyone who has seen a game can see why it can (and will) be successful. In Europe we were just allowed to play. No network was trying to format the sport into a 30 minute time slot. We just played, and the following grew steadily.

TBD: What, if any, major (or minor) rule changes are we likely to see in the coming future?
CK: The principles of the game are the same. We discuss minor rule adjustments weekly, and you're just going to have that with a sports that has existed for 2 seasons. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, but the 3-point line was not invented until 70 years later in 1961... The only difference is that basketball was not under the microscope of internet and tv as it developed. It's a blessing and a curse. Our sport will be developed in front of millions.

TBD: Many of the complaints of the original Slamball in the US was that it was more of a TV show than a sports league. What, if any, adjustments is Slamball going to make to alleviate this?
CK: As I said before, no one involved with Slamball thinks of it as a "made for tv sport". And with IMG we finally have a professional partner that understands what sport is all about. Combining IMG, Mason Gordon, Pat Croce (Commissioner) and Mike Tollin is a winning team and they are going to put a professional sport on the floor.

TBD: Seeing as how many sports fans gravitate towards regional affiliation, will teams continue to be in the "x" and "y" divisions or will there be regional associations?
CK: For this season, they will still be "x" and "y", but after this year, the 8 franchises will be sold to 8 different cities and divisions will be re-named.

TBD: Is Spike TV (formerly TNN) still involved or are you looking for/do you have another outlet set-up for the Slamball return?
CK: No, Spike TV is absolutely not involved with Slamball this year. Mason, Mike (Tollin), Pat Croce and IMG execs are shopping the television rights to a few different networks right now. He met with CBS and ESPN last week. An official decision will be made in coming weeks.

TBD: Will any of our past Slamball Athletes be returning for the new season?
CK: I have a feeling they will. But the beauty of Slamball is that it's a league with truly open tryouts. We have tyouts this year in LA on April 6th, NYC on April 9th and Bradenton, Florida on April 10th. Even the Slamball veterans who played both seasons have to go through the tryout process. That being said, I think we'll find that having played the sport before is going to give those guys an advantage. It will probably end up being a solid mix of superstars from season 1 & 2 and new hybrid athletes.

TBD: Will there be a focus on recruiting High School athletes since the NBA and NFL have age restrictions?
CK: No, one thing we want to make sure of is that people don't think we want to compete with the NBA or the NFL. We don't. A lot of sports "purists" hate Slamball because they don't understand, we want to be a mainstream sport too. Boxing and the UFC exist beautifully together. So does the NFL and the Arena Football League. We want to compliment the NBA and our season will run after the NBA playoffs is over. We aren't going to pull an "ABA" though and try to undercut either league in talent recruitment.

TBD: What can we, the viewer expect in the upcoming league?
CK: They can expect blue collar hard nosed and extremely talented athletes competing at one of the highest levels of sport. There are no multi-million dollar contracts, so these guys are just like you and me. But they step onto the court with absolutely no fear. And that fearlessness coupled with the ingenious design of Slamball, will make for a phenomenal season. And viewers are going to want to go along for the ride.

TBD: If you had to, and not including anyone who is or has ever been involved with Slamball, if you had to pick a prototypical athlete for Slamball who would it be? Would it be a Kobe type player or an Urlacher?
CK: It's a mixture of both. Kobe's athleticism with Urlacher's passion to hit people... hard... There are a lot of different kinds of athletes that have had success in this game, thus far. It all comes down to intangibles like fearlessness, intelligence, the ability to improvise on the fly...

TBD: If this is successful this time around, what moves do you think Slamball would or should make to make Slamball more accessible to the average person. Basically, would there be plans to construct Slamball courts in more areas where people would be able to play?
CK: Yes. After this season, the franchises will be sold to 8 different cities around the nation. That will be the foundation of the league. From there, we'd love to see Slamball in high school and college.

TBD: What do you see as the Niche for the future of Slamball?
CK: You, your readers, our fans and the product that Slamball delivers. We have been underground for 5 years. No doubt. But people know what Slamball is now, and there is no arguing that it is a poetic sport to watch and play. And for anyone that wants more information on Slamball, please visit We are in the process of accepting player applications.

.::. Just Added, a link to the Official Slamball Blog on the side of the page.  Check it out .::.