Rogue Element #54: Go Team, Go
By Avril Brown
I never used to be much of a hockey fan, but being a Chicagoan, as of late an aversion to hockey is unheard of and downright un-American. When your hometown team is kicking ass, taking names and a short skate away from capturing the Stanley Cup, you get a little jazzed. Actually, you get a lot of jazzed, whether or not you fully understand or appreciate the finer points of the game. I have been watching, learning, and cheering the past few weeks because there is something about sports, about the energy involved in and surrounding them, which makes them addictive. A good sports game is a drug and when done properly, it does the body some good, healthy fun.
Even if you’re not hard core into sports and know who played third baseman for the Cubs in 1978, for many it is at least easy to understand WHY people can become so invested in sports. There is a vivacity and mutual camaraderie present at sports games that is undeniably infectious. We’re all there for the same exact thing: to watch our team kick the living snot out of the other team. When you hear the crack of a high-speed ball impacting with solid wood, or watch outstretched hands grasp spiraling pig skin, or realize at the same moment as everyone around you the puck is indeed in the corner of the net, something inside of you sings. You jump to your feet, a primal yell erupting from your throat and echoed all around you. There are smiles, cheers and high-fives abounds. We won, and we are loving the rush.
In the Marvel Universe, the X-Men are ass-kicking peace-keepers. To keep the peace, they occasionally need to kick some ass. Traveling all over the globe and beyond, they are consistently experiencing rushes of all sorts in their line of ‘work,’ from the terrible tragedy of losing a teammate, to the otherworldly joy at saving lives. Therefore, when it comes to the mighty mutants and sports games, they appreciate the other side which can get lost in major sporting events, the one where the game is all about clean, competitive fun.
Some of my favorite light-hearted, character-centric scenes in X-Men related entertainment have been centered around a sports game. Not only are they always good for a warm fuzzy feeling, but there is an added kick of seeing something so familiar performed in a way you never thought possible.
Movie – X-Men
More than a quarter way into the first X-Men movie there is a mansion tour montage which includes a couple quick scenes showing the mutant students on the grounds. A basketball game is being played, and as one kid brings the ball down the court by passing it to himself via super-speed, another is heard shouting, “Hey, no powers!” Nearby, several children are in a sprinting contest, and one of them is running on water. Teensy, inconsequential scenes which nevertheless give the entire movie an extra entertaining thrill.
Comics – Uncanny X-Men #308
There are many baseball and basketball scenes in X-Men comics, but this particular issue took place during Thanksgiving, therefore football was the sport of choice. While Jean and Scott walk down memory lane recounting the early days of their courtship, the rest of the X-Men are enjoying their Thanksgiving by romping in the fall leaves and introducing Bishop to the holiday tradition of football on Turkey Day. From Forge’s genius speak in the huddle, to Archangel descending on the ball and raising the question of a powers vs. no powers game setting off an amusing bit of banter, to the grand finale of Professor Charles “I’m in a wheelchair” Xavier accidentally catching the football before being mowed into the ground by half his X-Men (and later showing up to dinner with a broken nose), this scene makes me smile every time.
Television – X-Men: Evolution, Season Three, Episode ‘Under Lock and Key’
Apart from being one of the all-around best episodes of the series, ‘Under Lock and Key’ contains a scene with the X-teens playing baseball in the beautiful summer sun. What began as a normal game transformed into baseball as only mutants can rock it. Once Iceman ices up his bat to be three times its size, Beast, the only adult, simply sighs, takes off his umpire’s mask and retires for a seventh inning stretch while the kids shout out, “Mutant ball!” and kiss goodbye to the rules. Nightcrawler teleports to catch a ball in mid-air, Shadowcat phases through a lineman to get to base, Magma puts enough heat on her ball to melt through both the bat and the cage, and Sunspot absorbs the sun’s heat, giving him enough power to literally knock the ball out of the park. America’s favorite pastime never looked so cool.
These snippets of scenes are not the most dramatic or thought-provoking, but they do inspire joy joy feelings and generally make you beam in happiness. When blended properly, sports and the supernatural go together like roasted peanuts and Wrigley. We have all thought about what it’d be like to have superpowers. To be able to fly, make things move using only your mind, or walk through walls would just be too awesome, and if we were in possession of those powers, all of us would also feel the urge to cut loose and have some fun. After all, we’re only human, and sports in the supernatural helps the human aspects of beloved characters stand out because at the core of the sporting culture that is what games are supposed to be about: fun. Well, fun and smashing the Philadelphia Flyers into a squishy orange and black paste. But I may be a bit biased.