Real-life BASEketball Is Loose & Imperfect... But A Seriously Good Time

1 February 2016 | 4:31 pm | Mitch Knox

Steeeeeeeeeve Perry!

The smells of fresh food and coffee — and sounds of late-'90s Mad Caddies — float on the air as we arrive at The Brightside this muggy Saturday afternoon, ready to investigate the first batch of match-ups in the venue's fledgling BASEketball Australia tournament.

Born of a lofty idea cooked up on a slow afternoon with some mates — and buoyed by the inevitable wave of interest that reared its head in the wake of its announcement — the eagerly awaited competition has finally come to life with its first round, so the only question remaining when we cross the threshold is: can they pull it off?

At the outset of the day, we're not so sure. As with most event invitations put out largely via Facebook, the sort of response the real-life BASEketball league generated online seemingly doesn't quite translate in the flesh, with early spectators largely consisting of people from other teams playing that day and a literal handful of curious onlookers. It doesn't take long for that situation to turn right around, though; in fact, by the day's third game, The Brightside is hosting a seriously healthy-sized crowd, all of us cheering and wincing and expressing ourselves as though we'd been quite fiercely and legitimately following the sport since childhood. Even the less sport-inclined among us can't resist the spectacle, becoming involuntarily and vocally invested in the players' attempts to make their shot, get around the bases and, finally, make it home.


A video posted by TheMusicComAu (@themusiccomau) on

 Slutty Priests vs Cleveland Steamers. Hot contender for play of the day, honestly.

Of course, there's more to BASEketball than that — and it's here, in the game's fundamentals, that the intrinsically DIY nature of the event really starts to show, though not really to its detriment. Sure, on the downside, it does seem that the majority of players didn't bother to actually read the rules before showing up, which makes the early games, especially, suffer from delays and interruptions as the referee is forced to explain what is happening to the people on the court (as well as, in one instance, adding a new rule mid-game regarding double plays and who can take them). But, still, the learn-by-doing approach isn't what you'd call inappropriate for the vibe (it honestly recalls the sort of games seen in the movie when the sport first reaches neighbourhood-craze notoriety) — and, besides, once the players get a handle on things and proceedings start to flow more organically, it's really not that confusing a set-up to get behind.

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I mean, it's a sport where even the players can drink beer on the court.

To get us all on relatively equal footing, here are the basics of BASEketball in action: each game lasts seven innings (extra innings are played in the event of a tie); there are three "outs" (misses) per team, per innings. Positioned around the NBA-brand basketball hoop are four bases in the (loose) shape of a diamond, representing bases first through third, as well as home. In the centre of the diamond are a number of white X's, in four rows: the first row is located directly under the hoop, from where players can shoot bunts (an instant out regardless of whether it goes in, but worth two bases a pop for those on-base if it does); the second is the "single" line, which moves players one base at a time; and the third and fourth are the "double" and "triple" line, which move players two or three bases at a time, respectively. There is, of course, the potential to shoot a home run from beyond all four rows.

Once a spot on a particular line (say, centre single) has been used as the basis for a shot, players on offence cannot shoot from that mark again in that innings. Or, in the words of the film, "You can't shoot from the same place twice." There are other odds and ends to the process (see the game's website for a full rundown), but that's the main gist.


Let's do it!

A photo posted by BASEketball Australia (@baseketballaustralia) on

It also bears mentioning that the balls are LEGIT.

Of course, one of the major elements of the film's games was the 'psych-out' and, prior to the competition, this was probably one of the biggest aspects of the sport over which people were getting most excited. It's not hard to see why — the psych-outs in the film are brazen, outrageous and colourful, and they yield some of its best-loved moments. In practice, though, psych-outs prove to be something of an elusive art form, and an imperfect one at that; early in the competition, a lot of taunts are performed in extreme proximity to the shooter (i.e. whispering uncomfortably into their ear), to the point that they have little to no effect for the audience.

Except this guy, who is brash and loud and an absolute natural at breeding discomfort in his opponents.

Eventually, a new rule is instigated by the ref to keep a minimum distance between psych-er and psych-ee, which instantly makes the whole scenario better as psych-outs are forced to become verbally and physically "bigger" in order to still carry to the shooter, thus taking on something closer to their presumed and proper role as a key tactic in the game. It would be nice to see the players broaden the scope beyond "fucked ya missus!"-type sledging (or flashing nipples/undies, both other big favourites of the day) and infuse a sense of inventiveness in their insults, but these are early days yet.

Plus I'm not sure what I expected from the Slutty Priests, to be frank.

Teething issues aside, however, The Brightside's first foray into the world of organised sports ends up a genuinely commendable affair, full of memorable moments and a lasting sense of positivity about the time spent watching it all go down. Sure, the game schedule doesn't quite keep to plan, and teams get mixed and matched depending on who's around (unfortunately, one of the team members for the Well Hung Jury arrives, armed with team T-shirts, just before their scheduled match time against the Goobacks... only to find the group had already played sans uniforms against the Average Bros, who weren't even on the team list for the day), but the beers are on tap, as are copious ska tunes, and the vibe is undeniable. The amount of Reel Big Fish mightn't have been 'bulk' (though Beer, of course, got a spin), but it's more than made up for with solid smatterings of Less Than Jake, Mad Caddies and other upbeat, horn-dappled good-time outfits of their ilk.

Importantly, a big takeaway from the day is that, if nothing else, this is a concept crammed with potential and very real promise, and, with the improvements we witness today in medias res (not to mention the inevitable, natural smoothing of events that will come with each progressive round of games), it's no stretch to expect that BASEketball Australia is simply going to get better and better every time it steps out.

Indeed, within a matter of hours this afternoon, I come to the realisation that my reasons for watching the spectacle unfold have completely changed. I am no longer here out of sheer curiosity; I am here because it's something new, different, ambitious, unpretentious — and, above all, something fun. Seriously, I haven't been this interested in a sport in years, and I'm genuinely excited to see how the rest of this madcap melee plays out over the next few months.


The second round of matches goes down this Saturday, 6 February, at The Brightside. The first game is at 1pm, and will see Professor Chaos take on the Flangipanis. Also on the card for Game Day Two are I Got Hoop Dreams Coach vs The Beers (Since 1991!); The Hot Steaming Pods vs Toon Squad; Vomit, Brisbane Bullets vs La-Z-Boys; Bird Up! vs Jamaican Hopscotch Mafia; and We're Allwhite vs The Flood.

Entry is free; see the Facebook event page or BASEketball Australia website for more information about the next and future game days headed to the Valley this season.