Wednesday, July 8, 2015

It's Illegal to Play Ping Pong!

Last week, we looked at a sports-themed SF story reprinted in DC Special #13 (July/Aug 1971). This week, we'll examine another reprint from that issue--"The Saga of the Secret Sportsmen," first published in The Brave and the Bold #47 (April/May 1963). Like last week's tale, its written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino.

What's cool about this story is that it comes close to predicting the future in one small detail. A scientist in future invents what is essentially the Playstation or XBox, allowing people to "play" sports without ever actually leaving their living room.

In what is admittedly a silly plot twist, this leads to playing real sports being made illegal. But because of this, when aliens invade, humanity consists of a bunch of fat, lazy bums and we are easily conquered.

Fortunately, there is a band of outlaw athletes who have stayed in shape playing illegal sports. They launch a guerrilla war campaign against the aliens.

Another fortunate thing about the aliens is that their equipment is based on "anti-gravity" power, so if the athletes can destroy their gravity base, they'll be helpless. Yet another fortunate thing is that the athletic skills the humans have been developing are exactly the skills needed to break into the base and destroy it, thus saving the world and making exercise legal again.

Yes, it's a contrived story, but this is one of those rare occasions in which contrivance and a less-than-logical premise doesn't bother me at all and is arguably a strength rather than a weakness. The premise is too much fun to worry about whether it makes sense and (as with last week's story) Infantino's art is magnificent. If a story exists largely so that Carmine Infantino can show us human freedom fighters pole-vaulting over a wall to attack an alien base, then that is justification enough.

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