What the f*ck is this?
It’s called netball. The name sounds silly to my American ears, but I suppose it’s no sillier than “basketball,” when you think about it. With that in mind, I would be theoretically willing to assume netball is no more or less ridiculous than basketball or any other sport. Well, except curling. Curling is f*cking ridiculous.
Anyway, netball. I found this clip when I was reading The Guardian’s website, something I do almost daily, both because I generally agree with their politics, and because I follow English soccer, and their soccer coverage is really clever. Once a week, The Guardian does a roundup of great YouTube sports clips. The Guardian being a British newspaper, it’s usually a mix of soccer, rugby and cricket clips, along with some auto racing, occasional American sports, and random other sh*t. Not surprisingly, the random other sh*t is often the most interesting, precisely because it’s so random.
Which brings me back to netball.
I think I’d heard of this sport, but I never really knew what it was. I think I thought it was sort of like team handball, and I guess it sort of is. What it’s obviously closest to, though, is basketball — what with the basket, and the ball — but there are some fundamental differences. After watching this clip, here’s how I would sum up those differences:
1. Start with basketball.
2. Take away all the things — speed, remarkable athleticism and leaping ability, offensive creativity, defensive intensity, exceptional dribbling skills — that make basketball great.
3. Congratulations. You have netball.
Maybe I’m oversimplifying, but I don’t think so. I trust you’ll watch this for yourself — it is simultaneously a complete waste of, and totally worth, nine minutes and 12 seconds of your life — and once you have, I trust you’ll agree with me.
It’s worth noting that whoever posted this video — apparently an Australian or New Zealander (New Zealandian? New Zealandesque? Anyone?) — seems easily impressed. How else to explain that they don’t normally post netball higlights, but they did, just this once, because this match is so amazing?
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Apparently what happens is, New Zealand (in black) should have won the game in regulation, but the home Aussies (unis borrowed from University of Oregon cheerleaders, apparently) are allowed to tie the game because… wait for it… the referees are not aware that the lack of any time remainining on the game clock means that the game is, in fact, “over.” Hence, we are left with the announcers’ semi-urgent cries of “Absolute chaos! Chaos!”
This is the first sign that something’s amiss. I don’t mean with the officiating (although David Stern wishes he had refs like this, especially that one hot lady), I mean the fact that the players seem to be showing no emotion whatsoever. There’s no manic haranguing of the refs, no near-fisticuffs, just a bunch of girls wandering around the court, sort of looking like they’re ready to go home, either way.
So then the refs — the black guy and the really hot lady — awkwardly shake hands and head toward the sideline, which sort of implies that they’re ready to go home, too. And then they realize the game is tied, and that it shouldn’t actually end that way.
This is also the first time I notice that they appear to be playing with a soccer ball. Have you ever shot baskets with a soccer ball? It doesn’t feel right. That seems to make it the perfect choice for netball.
Now, we are blessed with seven minutes (in YouTube time, anyway) of OT. Maybe now it’ll get good.
It does not. It just… keeps going. Here are things I wrote down while it did:
-Watching netball is sort of like watching a Pete Carrill-coached Princeton team, or really, really old NBA footage, what with all those jump stops and no dribbling, only with brighter colors and nothing interesting happening, ever.
-I mean no offense to people in wheelchairs, and I don’t even know what this actually means, but netball kind of looks like wheelchair basketball for people without wheelchairs.
-Isn’t actual basketball pretty popular in Australia? Don’t they even have a thriving women’s league down there? And if they do, why is this allowed to happen?
-This also sort of looks like that 6-on-6 girls basketball, which I think high school girls in one rural county in Iowa might still play.
-They only take set shots. Seriously.
-There is, apparently, no allowable defensive contact. You can’t so much as brush a ball-handler — or “ball-holder,” I guess, which is a great term for a women’s game — and would-be shot-blockers are left to strike this absurd ballerina, pirouette pose. To say these girls look silly would be insulting to silliness.
-Ok, here’s the analogy I was looking for: Netball is the bastard child of ultimate frisbee and Special Ed kids playing H-O-R-S-E. Good job, me.
So that’s all I got. Now I call on you, dear Australian or New Zealandesque reader, to explain this lunacy to me. Who else plays it? Why does anyone play it? How can it be stopped? I’m listening. Thank you.