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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 11, 2008 3:44 PM

Team handball mania: Ground-level opportunities available

Posted by Ron Judd

team handball.JPGPreparing to kiss the floor: France's Didier Dinart battles Brazil in team handball qualifying Sunday in Beijing. Photo: Abaca Press/McClatchy Newspapers.)

OK, now we're totally hooked on team handball. If you saw the play at the end of the nail-biting Hungary vs. Brazil women's match, you would be, too.

It wound up in a tie when, with one second on the clock, a Hungarian player whose name we cannot pronounce, let alone spell, appeared to be standing their chatting about, I don't know, the humidity, with her teammates during a stoppage in play when suddenly ... BOOM! ... she turns around and fires the tying shot right through two hapless, flat-footed defenders, who are doing the team-handball-defense equivalent of picking their noses.



The Brazilians stood there, agape, with that indignant, you-never-called-time-back-in-again! look of protest. To no avail.

You almost felt sorry for them, but ... that's team handball!

Two other big developments on the team handball front:

1) We're starting to figure out how it works. First thing to know: the name is a misnomer. It's really closest to lacrosse, played indoors, with a shrunken soccer ball and no sticks. You use your hands, play six on a side, and shoot at a miniature soccer-style goal.

You move the ball by running (while dribbling) or passing. There's lots of faking, flopping, air time, bounce-shooting and, most important, face-smashing (usually with the ball; clearly by accident). The game also has penalties and power plays, which, we believe creates all sorts of potential sponsorship opportunities involving Molson and Tim Horton's.

And then there's an added, look-at-this-poor-sap element: Playing goal in team handball is undoubtedly the worst job in Olympic sports. In today's broadcast, the one or two times the goalie for Brazil actually stopped a shot, she reacted as if she'd just won Powerball.

2) The U.S., as we mentioned, has no team handball team in Beijing. We're currently off the world team handball map. But we sense that's about to change. Our praise for the sport in a column in Sunday's Times drew notice of team handball players and executives in the U.S. As it turns out, the sport's governing body was decertified (AKA, no more money for you!) a couple years ago by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and it's trying to reconstitute, form new clubs, and qualify for the 2012 Games in London.

As it happens, U.S. Team Handball is looking for a club leader in the Seattle area. And, as a measure of how desperate, er, eager they are, they asked if I'd be interested.

Well, no. I'm flattered, but I want to watch the sport, to nurture and foster it, to revel in it, OK, to make fun of it, at least a little -- not run it. But, I'll happily pass on names of interested parties to the people in charge. It's my small part for all team handball kind.

It's addictive. We dare you to watch. (Try Universal HD in the daytime, if you're one of the 17 people who get that. Or, go online at and find it at your leisure, if you can possibly call staring at a computer monitor "leisure.")

Next step: Someone needs to come up with a more fitting name for the sport, to shed the unfortunate, but common, mental link to handball, a completely different -- and we'll just come out and say it, wholly inferior -- game.

Ideas? We're thinking perhaps "Major League Faceball."

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