If you haven’t caught an Olympic handball game on NBC, it’s about time you do. To clarify, we'e not talking about the street game where two guys whack a small rubber ball back and forth against a wall. No, we're talking about team handball, where six guys dribble and pass a miniature soccer ball, dodging six opponents, until they can fire off a shot past a hapless goalie.
Team handball has been an Olympic sport since 1936, but remains more or less out of the Games spotlight. Sure, as a hybrid of several sports it can seem odd, but it's also fast, physical, and addicting once you get into it. Depending on your personal athletic background, you could describe Team Handball as water polo on land, or hockey with a ball, or lacrosse without sticks, or soccer using your hands (except unlike soccer, scores often climb into the 30s). At first glance, it looks like a throw-together game your gym teacher made up on a rainy day when you should've been outside. But as you watch set plays unfold into near constant scoring, it becomes instantly legitimate.
Yeah, the players are probably cast-offs from other more popular sports, with what appears to be several ex-soccer, ex-football, or ex-basketball players running the floor, but so what? Each featured sport has a specific skill-set that enables certain gifted athletes to excel, but there’s always one constant: speed. If you’re looking for the incredible point guard who can’t shoot, or the pitcher who can’t throw a strike, or the receiver who can’t catch, chances are you’ll find them on the handball court flinging goals and having a great time. Tune in August 12 for Olympic Men’s Team Handball finals.