|ESPN.com: MMA||[Print without images]|
There has to be some kind of perverse parallel universe to appreciate what must be going through the minds of the people attempting to bring you football with punching -- especially at the same time the NFL is taking aggressive measures to curb the number of concussions suffered by its players.
The Fight Football League (FFL) is headquartered in Italy and purports to draw its inspiration from an ancient Roman game called Harpastum. (I'm not sure I'd like to take my societal cues from the Roman Empire, but whatever.) Robbed of helmets and padding, these men play a game that seems to combine basketball, football and ice hockey. It operates on the notion that everything can be made better with fighting: Players attempt to knock a ball through a goal but must withstand gloved strikes from opposing members in the process. Although this sounds like a recipe for disaster, the FFL helpfully outlines the game's restrictions on its website:
"FFL Rules are manifold, it is aloud [sic] to fight only one against one, it is not aloud to strike when running or towards whom is running, no hit from the back or on the ground, injuries or KO's can consequence into the elimination of the player." Hope that clears it up for you.
In fast-forwarding to a random segment of one of the full-duration (one-hour) games broadcast on the site, I happened to stop at a point when a player was being hauled off on a stretcher. Although not nearly as smart as the pioneers of this sport, I can't help but think that any activity that mauls its own talent isn't going to get too far into a season. The Gatorade endorsement could be a long time coming.