?It’s a pretty well-known generalization that nerds and sports do not mix. In my entire youth hockey career of three years, I scored one single goal, and I think it was against my own team. But despite sports and nerdery usually going together like peanut butter and motor oil, occasionally a team makes a memorable mark in science fiction and fantasy.
All of the teams on this list are here for different reasons. Some of them are by far the best at what they do. Some of them are absolutely horrible, but remember why they are playing the game, and that is in it of itself a victory. Some of these teams were asked to do something far beyond what any member had ever dreamed of, and some of these teams are just really frakking good at beating the shit out of others. But all of them deserve a spot on this list.
10) The Toon Squad, Space Jam
When the alien Nerdlucks decide to invade Earth, Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang decide to challenge their foes to what is apparently the animation world’s version of conflict management: Basketball. Of course, the Nerdlucks have no intention of being defeated, and steal the powers of Earth’s greatest basketball players including Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, to become the Monstars. In retaliation, Bugs’ team recruits Michael Jordan and hanger-on Bill Murray to the squad, which consists of Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, the Tasmanian Devil, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, and a rabbit with breasts called Lola, who apparently wants to frak with Bugs like a… you know.
While the Toon Squad spends a good part of the film getting trounced, they eventually get things together, and are only down by one near the end of the game. Jordan uses the physics of the ‘toon world to extend his arm Reed Richards-style, making the longest dunk in history and winning the game for the Toons.
In the future of Futurama, baseball as we know it is a thing of the past. Instead, a juiced-up version (literally; steroids are mandatory) called Blernsball is the great universal pastime.
Similar in many ways to baseball, there are still batters, fielders, pitchers and the like, but the first major change is that the ball is now on an elastic tether, with grand slams being achieved by hitting the ball through a hole in a billboard. Another difference is the automatic win, triggered by a ball breaking the tether and entering a special hole. A pinball-style lock in the middle of the field can trigger a three-ball multiball, and bribery is not only accepted, it’s rewarded.
While different from what we know as baseball, many major league teams made the transition to blernsball, including the 2927 New New York Yankees, whose exploits were legendary enough to have the entire team memorialized in the Blernsball Hall of Fame. And by memorialized, I mean having their still living heads encased in a jar. One jar, specifically — these guys are team players to the end.
8) Beacontown Beavers, Teen Wolf
Most high school sports teams usually suck, and that certainly includes the Beacontown Beavers. They’re your typical, average high school basketball team… at least until a fucking werewolf joins up.
Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox), below average member of the basketball squad discovers that he got a little more hair than he bargained for with puberty, and inherited the family werewolf trait. Though he tries to hide his awkward difference from others, getting pinned during a game sends him into Beast Mode, and to the shock and awe of the crowd, Scott wins the game for the beavers with an impressive quadruple double. Thos makes the Beavers hungry like the wolf (pun intended), who go on to the state championships. Of course, in typical ’80s movie fashion, Scott decides to play the final game sans fur, much to the chagrin of his coach, but he’s still able to win the game at the last second.
7) Franklin State University Warriors, Unbreakable
So this one is a little bit obscure. Once upon a time there was this guy named David Dunn, who never got sick. One day he started playing football and ended up playing for the Franklin State University Warriors’ varsity team. While not much is written about the team, they had one distinguishing feature: David Dunn was essentially Superman — super-strong and virtually indestructable (except for water, which is why he wasn’t on the swim team, I guess). These abilities fast-track Dunn’s football career, and he’s scouted to play in the pros when he meets the love of his life, Audrey. Audrey, not willing to play second fiddle to his budding football career, subtly forces David to pick between football and her, so David fakes a knee injury, gives up football, and years later regrets the hell out of his decision. But seeing as it’s fucking Kal-El playing for them, the amount of potential that the FSU Warriors must have had was astronomical.
6) The Stalkers, The Running Man
In the near future, reality television will reach its logical conclusion — The Running Man, a game show where criminals are hunted down like dogs while competing for the opportunity to earn pardons as well as fabulous cash and prizes. Of course, good prey needs good hunters — enter the Stalkers.
The Stalkers are a combination pro wrestling team and mercenary squad, with each member having his own theme and specialty: Dynamo is able to shoot electricity from his glowing suit, Buzzsaw prefers chainsaws, and Professor Sub-Zero is a hockey goalie from hell that puts Jason Vorhees to shame. The Stalkers are so effective at killing their prey that they have gone undefeated since the beginning of the program, at least until meeting Ben “The Butcher of Bakersfield” Richards, an innocent police officer forced to play the game. In fact, the makers of the game once faked a set of winners just to keep things interesting. If it weren’t for the intervention of Ben Richards, there is no telling how long the Stalkers reign of terror would continue.
5) Gryffindor, Harry Potter
The official sport of Hogwarts, Quiddich is highly competitive at the magical prep school. Of course, once Harry Potter arrives, things start going particularly well for the Gryffindor team.
Quiddich is similar to basketball— well, if you flew around on brooms rather than ran around a court — in that players score points by throwing balls through elevated hoops. The real difference is the small flying ball called the Golden Snitch, which flies haphazardly and quickly around the entire field. If the special member of your team called a Seeker catches the Snitch, their team gets 150 points; since regular goals are only 10 points, whichever team catches the Snitch usually wins. Naturally, Harry Potter becomes Gryffindor’s Seeker, and he works out pretty well. In fact, in his seven years of attending Hogwarts, Gryffindor wins the Quiddich cup three out of the four times (the other three seasons were cancelled for various reasons, like assassination attempts.)
4) Deep Space Niners, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Any fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine worth his or her salt knows of Captain Sisko’s love for the old Earth sport of baseball. Indeed, Sisko’s lucky baseball was even left on his desk as he evacuated DS9 during the war as a reminder to Gul Dukat that he would be returning. So naturally, when challenged to a game by the crew of a visiting Vulcan-crewed starship in the episode “Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” Sisko is happy to oblige.
Sisko’s team, the Deep Space Niners, are comprised of his senior staff and various guest players, none of which are particularly that familiar with baseball — in fact, most of the players haven’t the slightest clue as to how to play the game, and certainly don’t stand a chance against the physically and mentally superior Vulcan team.
The game begins with an immediate home run from the Vulcan team, The Logicians. The Vulcans follow that with three more runs in first inning alone, while the Niners aren’t even able to put the wood on the ball. To make matters worse, just as soon as the Niners gain some momentum, a low outside ball gets called a strike by umpire Odo, infuriating Sisko, who gets thrown out of the game. It’s while stewing in the dugout that Sisko remembers the meaning of the game, and he decides to put the Ferengi Rom, benched earlier for being terrible, back in. Rom’s one and only at-bat results in an accidental bunt and the Niners’ only run, which essentially ends the game when the Niners carry their hero off the field. While unable to succeed in Worf’s intention to “destroy the opposition,” the Niners showed the ultimate in good sportsmanship and fair play.
3) Houston, Rollerball
In the future of Rollerball, there’s only one sport remaining, and it happens to be the movie’s title. Rollerball is a combination of roller derby, rugby,
and motocross: players circle a rink not unlike roller derby; they try to wrestle a ball from each other and get it in a goal by any means, like rugby; and also some players are riding dirt bikes.
Houston, Texas, is home to one of the most popular teams in the league, owned by the Energy Corporation and captained by star player Jonathan E (played by James Caan). Houston is well on its way to winning the season championship this year, thanks to Jonathan — however, not everybody is happy with his stellar performance.
Apparently the game was created to show people the futility of individuality, making it impossible for an individual player to excel without his team. In this almost totalitarian corporate vision of Rollerball, where giant corporations rule everything (and sponsor the teams), an immensely talented star like Jonathan endangers the core belief system they’ve been pressing on the people, so the companies decide that Jonathan needs to be benched. First they do what they can to keep him from playing by encouraging him to retire, but when that fails, they decide to remove him from the game permanently — they remove all of the game’s rules and essentially put a bounty on his ass. It comes to a climax in the championship game when, with every other single player of both teams on the ground and out of commission, Jonathan slowly gets up, skates unopposed around the rink, and throws in the game-winning goal. No matter how you feel about the movie, the ending is pretty bad ass.
2) Sallow’s Team, The Blood of Heroes
The post-apocalyptic sport of Jugger (or Jugging, in some camps) owns its origin to the bane of the middle school nerd, the schoolyard game of “smear the queer.” The concept is pretty simple; each team consists of several armed players and one Quik, or ball handler. Wait, did I say “ball”? What I meant to say was “dog skull” handler. The goal is for the Quik to get hold of the skull and shove it onto a spike at the end of the field defended by the other team. The rest of the team members try to defend the Quik, but generally spend most of the time beating the shit out of each other.
Sallow (played by Roy Batty himself, Rutger Hauer), former professional League player disgraced for banging some noble woman, leads his team through the Mad Max-like Dog Towns, playing the local teams in every place they meet. In the first match we see, they take on a local team and quickly incapacitate their Quik, forcing Kidda (Joan Chen) to fill in. Of course, when Sallow’s Quik, the aptly named Dog Boy, is injured during his game-winning performance, Sallow brings Kidda and her dreams of the city as Dog Boy’s replacement.
As time goes on, the competition gets easier and easier, until Kidda convinces the team to try to join the League, the only way to have a chance at playing professionally. Entrance to the League requires a challenge, and no team has ever survived longer than 26 stones (each of the three periods of the game are the length of time it takes to throw 100 stones at a gong). Of course, even with the odds against them, Sallow’s team not only survives the first 100 stones, but is able to score and win the game about midway through the second set of stones, a first in the history of the League. Kidda and some of the members opt to stay in the League as they have been recruited, but Sallow and the rest, being the badasses they are, opt to go back to the surface and start a new team, once again roaming the Dog Towns.
1) Caprica Buccaneers, Battlestar Galactica
Pyramid, the premier sport in the new Battlestar Galactica universe, seems to be pretty realistic. Best described as a combination of basketball and rugby, it is without a doubt the most popular sport in the 12 Colonies. While smaller planets seem to have a single team (for example, the Picon Panthers or the Gemenon Twins), some larger colonies may have multiple (for example, the Olympian Stallions and the Tauron Bulls, both hailing form Tauron). The most famous of these teams, though, is the Caprica Buccaneers. When we first see the C-Bucs, they are owned by Cylon daddy Daniel Graystone. Of course, with all of the turmoil of the first season of Caprica, they quickly change hands to rival Thomas Vergis before returning back to Graystone in a rather hostile takeover that ends with Vergis lying in a pool of blood on Graystone’s floor.
From what we know, the Bucs have a pretty good season during this troubling period of time. Apparently there was never a dull moment at Atlas Arena, and in the final regular season game against the Delphi Legion, a monotheistic terrorist attack was narrowly thwarted by Graystone and his Cylon forces. But this was not the end of the Caprica Buccaneers! We later see them on Caprica during and after the holocaust by the Cylons. In the 58 years since the incident at Atlas Arena, the Buccaneers have changed their colors, moving from the white, blue and green of the past to white, red and orange. They’ve not had much luck with winning championships, but according to team captain Samuel T. Anders, they play more for the perfection of the game rather than winning championships. Of course, once the Cylon occupation of Caprica begins, the C-Bucs went from dominating on the pyramid court, to kicking some toaster ass as freedom fighters. Little did they know that a good portion of their rag-tag group — such as their team Doctor, spiritual leader, and their team captain — were actually Cylons themselves.
A fan of video games and science fiction from the moment he discovered his father's Atari 2600 and Star Wars, Jason Helton has been contributing to The Robot's Voice since 2011. Prior, he wrote for the UK's Den of Geek and was the producer and host of Iron Otaku Radio on XM's UPOP 29 channel. A die-hard fan of Battlestar Galactica (both old and new), Doctor Who, and pinball, you can follow him on Twitter @Razgriz1138.