Jeff Phillips: Gumby Jocks in Outer Space

Overindulgence in food and drink on occasion inspire me to give myself hell on the treadmill and dabble with dumbbells. The next morning there’s a hurt underneath my flab and it gives me hope, that should I commit to a routine, muscle could eventually be sculpted. And it’s this potential, this process of tissue finding tone, that intrigues me more than someday being able to show off a fabulous beach bod. Moreover, its the recovery of the core strength I once had as a high school athlete, the return to physical prowess after letting it all go, that fascinates me: a cycle of cultivation, destruction, revitalization.

In the movies we see the underdog train himself ragged, pull himself up, exhausted, to prepare to become a champion. From Doughboy to dynamism, these montages are what I find most engaging in a sports movie. But once an athlete is in top physical form, maintaining that condition is less interesting to me as a spectator. It’s hard for me to get excited about a dynasty, a perpetual winner of the pennant.

Stories of an athlete’s fall from grace, loss of form, and their crawl to get back into shape, aren’t commonplace in the news and in entertainment. Competition in professional sports is so fierce. Once you fall, you’re swept away and the young blood takes your place. Even so when you learn an athlete has cheated, through steroids or doping, their disgrace is an event that marks their finish. But it stirs in me a curiosity of their limited greatness; what would their best look like without the enhancements?

But what if sporting was engineered so we got to see an athlete peak, then unravel, go into decline, then struggle through rehabilitation and redemption?

Let’s look to the effects of space travel for a moment so I can tell you what I envision. Space men must spend considerable time exercising lest their muscles deteriorate due to zero gravitational conditions. Sinews become strands of jelly.

In a titanium made moon, a small capsule for a scrunched body, an athlete can orbit Earth for X amount of days, restricted from exercise, until their muscles have deteriorated. Then, when they return to the ground, their training will be re-set. If the athlete wishes to be a champion once again, they must reinvent their musculature.

There will be a subculture of these athletes knocked back a plethora of pegs, self made underdogs, training to get back to where they were, if possible, and beyond, if possible.

Producers of reality TV can launch a new league, following these disgraced competitors, turn their sporting sins into a feat worthy of a new multi-billion dollar docu-drama genre. From A-Rod bobble heads, to Gumbi jocks, back to He-Man action figures.

They may even be paid by a sponsor to plunge into the challenge regardless, even if they were most pure in their sporting career. This doesn’t have to be limited as a means to discipline an athlete. MVPs may even grow bored when winning comes too often. Here’s how you raise the stakes.

Spectators will be glued to the handicapping process because the story of the comeback kid has always been more compelling than the seeming alpha male who was born an ace at the game of his choice.

Someday, we’ll have the technology to do epic things with the downfall of an athlete.

gumby jocks in outer space


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