Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Emerging Sports of Portland and Oregon

Baseball is in the news again. The Portland Tribune published a special news report on "ReThinking Portland," on how sports is changing and evolving. Quite true. They seem to think that Portland is due for a major league baseball, soccer or hockey team. This may be the case, but our focus is elsewhere.

If cheerleading is a sport at the University of Oregon, and let's say it is, then they'll probably need some sports writers. Not traditional sports writers, but emerging sports writers - those that would be willing to spend hours watching and reporting on cheerleading. If there's enough beer involved, it could be more exciting than wrestlng, and certainly better than watching baseball. It would be interesting, at least, to see where this is headed.

If the Oregon wrestling team finds a way to save their program, that's great. But, the mere fact that the Athletic Department, backed by the entire University, already decided to cut loose the wrestling program a year ago, well that says a lot. Perhaps it is time to start keeping closer tabs on mixed martial arts. Specifically, my friends over at Team Quest and Sportfight, which is yet another emerging sport sensation. Ironically, many local mma fighters got their start as wrestlers in Oregon and Oregon State.

And, if we're going to cover cheerleading, you know we would also have to cover dodgeball. The truth is, there are three dodgeball leagues in Portland, which is the second-largest field in the country, and the fastest-growing. One leage alone reports to have over 4,000 members, which is slightly more than the highest membership of the Oregon Road Runners Club during the peak of the running boom.

Once we say yes to dodgeball, beach volleyball isn't far off. Volleyball is certainly not an emerging sport, but beach volleyball is - at least in Portland. The tricky thing about volleyball is that it was originally a male sport, founded by the YMCA, then accepted into the Olympics with both male and female competition, while as a high school and collegiate sport, it's usually women-only. On the one hand, you have USA Volleyball, the National Governing Body of the sport and the official liason to the Olympics, and then you have the AVP, professionals playing in the sand. Outdoor - sand and grass, is always better for playing than indoor, and better to watch. Also, I like the fact that the official AVP uniform for women are bikinis, while the men wear board shorts. Although we have few places to play close to the city and not a plethora of sunny days, there is a growing beach volleyball contingency in Portland, which is worth looking into.

And talk about the fastest-growing sport in the nation: lacrosse has seen a huge lift in the past few years. Still, there's a large difference between outdoor or field lacrosse which is played by high school and collegiate teams and the professional style of indoor box lacrosse, which is played on a rug atop an ice rink. Yes, the Portland LumberJax might be Portland's fastest-growing professional team. Can baseball, soccer, hockey or even basketbal keep up?

But wait - there's more. Emerging sports in Portland, specifically those that got their start two to four years ago, includes Roller Derby. The Rose City Rollers have a leage of their own here in Portland, including four sparring teams and one all-star team that competes with other cities in the national Women's Flat Track Derby Association.
And this leaves us with our seventh and last emerging sport, which is MUT, mountain / ultra / trail running. The ultramarathon has been around a while, and has a rich history here in Oregon and the Portland area. But, only recently has USATF started a MUT division, combining support for mountain, ultra and trail running. This segment of the sport will be one of the fastest-growing, and the race courses are usually the most interesting. First, the marathon was the thing everyone wanted to do, and then it was the triathlon. Now, weekend warriors are trying ultramarathons in increasing numbers, and both trail and mountain races are doing what they can to keep up. Watch or participate in the first ever NW Mountain Running Championships this September on Mt Hood, along with the 100K Championships at Where's Waldo in August.

Image courtesy of Montrail & Portland Running Company's Run Like a Girl 10K

No comments: