Monday, April 21, 2008
This is a true story. In late 2003 I sat next to Mason Gordon on a flight from Los Angeles to somewhere in the Midwest where I had a connecting flight and he was meeting up with LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers for a promotional shoot of some sort for Slamball.
Mason founded the sport of SlamBall which is basically basketball with trampolines and lots of full-body contact between players.
Since he was in the middle seat and I was on the aisle, we talked for most of the flight.
I remember that he had either just bought a house or was about to and my wife and I were getting ready to sell ours, so we talked about that for quite a while. Also, I must have told him about ten times to buy gold - not bad for free advice since you could have bought it at $350 an ounce back then.
We were both very curious about what the other was doing in their life - the sort of mutual inquisitiveness that you don't find much these days between two strangers. I explained fiat money and Fed policy to him and he talked about HBO and SlamBall. It was the fastest four hour flight I've ever had.
Anyway, SlamBall showed up in this WSJ article the other day.
Ex-HBO Executive Stakes His Comeback on SlamBallThat's pretty much the way it was described to me - on a napkin. I remember catching it on Spike TV once or twice before it went off the air and thinking it was pretty crazy.
A year ago, Chris Albrecht was on the receiving end of a very public dismissal from a very lofty perch in the entertainment world.
After a night of heavy drinking in Las Vegas, the longtime creative chief of Time Warner Inc.'s HBO and driving force behind the likes of "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" was arrested for attacking his girlfriend in a parking lot. He pleaded no contest to the charge and resigned under pressure days later.
Now, Mr. Albrecht is trying for a comeback. And he's staking much of it on a bizarre, futuristic sport called SlamBall, which failed to break out in an earlier debut. With the feel of a live-action videogame, SlamBall is essentially basketball combined with rugby and trampoline gymnastics, and if Mr. Albrecht is right, it will become a phenomenon as successful and profitable as the latest sports craze, ultimate fighting.
SlamBall appeared briefly in 2002 and 2003 on Spike TV. Viewers who caught a glimpse saw a full-contact version of basketball where players fly off a spring-loaded floor and soar as high as 15 feet on the way to dunks that earn a team three points. Outside shots earn two points unless they are beyond a three-point arc. Mid-air collisions are encouraged.
But SlamBall largely disappeared after it attracted little attention and its creators feared network executives wanted to turn it into a spectacle along the lines of "American Gladiator."
"We wanted this to be seen as a sport and taken seriously," said Mason Gordon, who invented the game in 2000.
At that time, Mr. Gordon was answering phones at Tollin-Robbins, the Los Angeles production company that created the HBO hit "Arli$," about a sports agent, and many other films and TV shows.
Michael Tollin, a founder of the company whose producer credits include the TV series "One Tree Hill" and miniseries "The Bronx is Burning," said he hired Mr. Gordon, a well-known street basketball player, mainly to improve the quality of his Sunday morning full-court games at his backyard court in Fryman Canyon.
A few months into the job, Mr. Gordon approached Mr. Tollin with the outline of a SlamBall court on a napkin, complete with the strategically placed spring-pads. A short-lived run on then-fledgling Spike followed, with little impact.
It looks like it's going to get another chance. For more info, see the SlamBall website.