Video game

Breaking at Sloss felt like being in a video game

The most popular tickets for the Birmingham World Games were sumo wrestling and then the dance sport of breaking. Both were sold out.

Math tells me that combining these sports into a new international discipline – Sumo break dancing – would be the most diabolical athletic test in human history, but that’s a column idea for another day.

Competition at the World Games is halfway through Tuesday and Wednesday in Birmingham. My advice: don’t let this historic period for Birmingham pass without enjoying the experience. As a sports journalist, it’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever covered in my career, and – true story – I’ve reported on bikini-clad polo exhibitionists by the pool of the Versace Mansion in South Beach.

Every day of the World Games brings something different. All of the athletes are amazing, and the sports have been a combination of fascinating, dangerous, impossible to understand, and absurdly fun.

Birmingham, Alabama is your big success as a city. Enjoy the ride.

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Halfway through our city-wide celebration for international niche sports, I realized that the World Games are actually better than the Olympics in many ways. The Olympics can be a huge problem for a city and terribly expensive. World Games are more relaxed, far less corporate, and far less expensive for fans and hosts. Sunday I cycled to Sloss Furnaces for some parkour and breaking. It was one of the greatest experiences of my career.

Monday looked like a rest day in the middle of the games, but it was not without more controversy for the sumo sport. The Egypt team got in trouble — Again – when his wrestlers were not allowed to participate in the open competition on Sunday. The ban was linked to the incident at Boutwell on Saturday.

The sumo saga began when one of their wrestlers apparently won a gold medal, but then took it away from the judges who didn’t like his celebration. One of the Egyptian coaches, nicknamed Osunaarashi in the professional sumo ring, protested so strongly that the judges demanded a rematch.

The judges erred in taking the initial victory away from Egyptian Abdelrahman Elsefy. Even greater controversy was avoided when Elsefy won again.

At the center of the drama was the old-school culture of professional sumo and the new-school vibe of the international sport of the World Games. Victory celebrations inside the sumo ring are a cultural faux pas for professional sumo wrestlers in Japan, but there are no rules against it in the amateur game.

By the way, Osunaarashi translates into English as “Great Sandstorm”. It was an inglorious type storm for Egypt in Birmingham, that’s for sure. We can only hope that the canoe-water-polo team manages to avoid any sensational international situation.

On Tuesday’s schedule are things like flag football at Legion Field, archery at Avondale Park, softball at the Hoover Met, canoeing at Oak Mountain, fistball at Birmingham-Southern College, lacrosse at the UAB, John Carroll’s Ultimate Frisbee, and so on.

Check the online schedule for updates as weather has caused delays. Canopy piloting at Barbers Motorsports Park, for example, is even crazier when it’s windy or overcast. What is sail piloting? If you are unfamiliar with this sport, let me summarize. It’s a sport for crazy people. The boobies jump out of planes and parachute into a pond like the Navy SEALS. At this point, they create artistic patterns on the water with their feet while figuring out how to avoid an accident.

If flying the canopy doesn’t match your anxiety tolerance, patterns emerge elsewhere.

This elite journalist confirms that almost everything that happens at Sloss Furnaces feels like a party. I was there for parkour and break on Sunday, and there was standing room only and it was full. The parkour crowd was baking in the sun, but having fun doing it. Get tickets for Beach Handball (Monday-Friday) and Sport Climbing (Thursday-Saturday) if available.

The break dancing sport deserves special attention here for the atmosphere it has created inside the former Sloss hangar. Man, what a fun night. It was a pure, raw and unfiltered celebration of the human spirit.

Japan’s incomparable Ami dominated women’s sparring competitions, but Team USA silver medalist Sunny was a favorite for her style and magnetic personality. Victor from the United States won the men’s gold, and I don’t think I blinked in his semi-final dance battle against Shigekix, who is an international legend from Japan. Victor then faced Jeffro in a battle for the All-Team USA gold medal.

The whirling, sleek, swaggering athleticism of each breaker was mesmerizing, and I couldn’t fall asleep later that night from the surge of excitement watching it all. It was total sensory overload.

To call breaking a competition in the traditional sense of the term would be wrong. The dance floor inside the hangar, with Sloss’ iconic industrial motif surrounding everything, felt like being in a video game. People hung beside the rusty walls to watch. There was a huge video board above the dance floor and the DJ was located below. Everything was framed perfectly and the event MC kept the crowd engaged at every second.

Breaking is what old people like me who grew up in the 80s still call break dancing. It will be at the Paris Olympics in 2024. This means that this event at the World Games was the last of its kind before the sport was washed clean by global corporate filth. Birmingham, we were there to see the best of it, and from the start of the presentations I couldn’t believe my eyes. This guy, for example, was bouncing on his head and his name was Octopus.

Am I too old, I told myself, to become an international breaking beat reporter? It turns out that the answer to this question is yes. Octopus posed in front of the crowd after his dance introduction and took a seat among the row of chairs between the dance floor and the DJ’s elevated decks. Wait, who was that guy?

Turns out my man Octopus was just one of the judges.

Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the formation of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team'”. You can find him on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.