Created By: tryourbreastJune 3, 2012 Last Edited By: DAN004November 12, 2014
Troped

Improbable Sports Skills

Doing sports in awesome yet impossible ways.

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Page Type:
Trope
DAN 004 wuz ere takin over ur druft


In Real Life, sports are not so entertaining as it seems. Top-class players may have different styles among them, but that's all. The sport mainly works in terms of either My Kung Fu Is Stronger Than Yours or strategic play, or team play, or all three.

In fiction, however, especially if the whole plot is about a certain sport that exists in Real Life, expect it to become Mundane Made Awesome. The characters will have some special moves somehow reflecting to their characteristics, being improbably awesome while defying physics and common sense. If the sport involves a ball that doesn't break while using these moves, you'll wonder what that ball is made of in order to survive all kinds of overkilling shoots done to the ball. These skills has power proportional to one's will, so expect the protagonists to beat much stronger opponents by David Versus Goliath very frequently.

Or just be simple - using sport skills that's improbable or impossible in Real Life.

Appears a lot in Shonen anime or comic. Fighting Series involve this a lot, since fighting is a sport if rules are enforced. Usually paired with Tournament Arc. Involves a lot of Calling Your Attacks, and There Is No Kill Like Overkill (at least in relation to what they actually needed to do). Can be easily justified if the player are using their superpowers to play sports.

Compare Fictional Sport, where in this trope it's about players who plays a Real Life, mundane sport using improbable skills, and compare Blood Sport, where in this trope the sport itself isn't deadly; it's the players who hold deadly sport skills. Also compare Martial Arts And Crafts. See also I Know Madden Kombat, the inverse of this trope (using non-combat sport skills in combat situations).


Examples

Advertising
  • An anti-steroids PSA features a soccer player breaking the laws of physics.
  • In this commercial for All Sport energy drink, by 2044 basketball hoops are 20 feet tall, courts are 100 yards long and the basket moves around randomly to make the game harder. After everyone started drinking All Sport the game just got too easy.

Anime and Manga
  • Played for laughs in Azumanga Daioh, during an impromptu soccer game between Yukari and her class. Sakaki is shown moving to intercept Yukari, as the latter charges upfield with the ball. Then casually steals the ball as she literally walks past her!
  • Captain Tsubasa, where we have soccer player protagonists who shoots football that follows any arbitrary curve, shots that blows the goalkeeper away and hurts who blocks it, and such. And here enters the Super Great Goal Keeper, or S.G.G.K. - who holds the legend that no shoots outside the penalty area can score a goal from him.
  • In Eyeshield21, American football becomes one - a Magnificent Bastard who always outsmart other teams, runners who are rumored to have lightspeed (or to be accurate, 50 yards in 4.2 seconds) with improbable counter-attacks to stop players from blocking them, pass receivers who run backwards even faster than most people, and catch long-range passes without looking at the ball.
  • The Prince Of Tennis is full of this - we have players who can perform instant serves, lightning-fast reaction speed, shots that always hit your wrists, or even take away your five senses during a play. The protagonist? A Game Breaker which can use his sixth sense to play tennis while copying everyone's special moves, and is unbeatable even when he suffers from memory loss.
  • Bleach anime episode 205. A number of Soul Reapers use their natural shinigami and zanpakuto abilities while playing a game of kemari.
  • In the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As A's manga, Nanoha, Fate and co are playing dodgeball. Predictably, Fate uses her supersonic flight and Super Reflexes to her advantage. But Nanoha's friend, the Passionate Sports Girl Suzuka Tsukimura, surpasses her by showing superior reflex; she manages to Catch And Return the ball that Fate throws at her, and making Fate unconscious in the process.

Film
  • Shaolin Soccer did this by putting Kung Fu in soccer. In short, a bunch of superhumans playing soccer, and using Tai Chi as the stronger goalkeeper shot, blowing away all 11 players plus the goal post.
  • The Ultimate Game of basketball is this in Space Jam, wherein Elmer Fudd can dunk, lardbucket Stan Podolak can sink a shot while buried under five Monstars, and Michael Jordan can reach the rim from the half-court line. Of course, since the game is being played in the cartoon universe, the Laws of Physics and the Rules of Basketball are reduced to suggestions.
  • Baseball film The Scout has an utterly ridiculous scene in which Steve Nebraska 1) pitches a perfect game (possible) 2) by striking out every batter, 27 in total (ridiculous, as no pitcher has ever struck out more than 20 batters in a game and more than 15 strikeouts is pretty uncommon) 3) on the minimum 81 pitches (about a billion times more unlikely than the 27 strikeouts).

Literature
  • The Death of Discworld is The Ace at pretty much every sport or game he tries his hand at. Because he's Death. However, when he takes a stab at being human in Reaper Man, he has to learn how to be bad at things, and so becomes impossibly bad at them, which takes a great deal more skill than being merely good.

Live Action TV
  • In The Greatest American Hero, Ralph goes undercover as a pitcher in a baseball team. He uses the supersuit to throw pitches at well over 100 mph.

Video Games
  • Touhou has a fan-game called Touhou Soccer, i.e soccer in Touhou style. Everyone uses overpowered skills, which usually don't involve kicking the ball, to play soccer - from dribble, tackle, passes, shoots, saving, while you can even use danmaku to stop opponents going further by invoking a foul. And by overpowered, see it yourself. Probably the most exaggerated example ever seen.
  • Inazuma Eleven has elementary school kids playing football and throwing bona fide Elemental Powers and other supernatural stuff around like no tomorrow.
  • In Final Fantasy X, The Jecht Shot is this in-universe for the sport Blitzball (some mixture of rugby and soccer and played underwater). It involves bouncing the ball off the goal post (or a defender's face) and swimming up to kick the rebound into the goal with a lot of spinning thrown in.

Western Animation
  • Played straight in Avatar The Last Airbender, which has Azula, Zuko, Mai, and Ty Lee dominate an opposing team in a volleyball match with gravity defying stunts and trick shots. Including one instance where Ty Lee lands on top of the net and strikes a pose, after acing a shot, and another where Azula roundhouse kicks the ball in midair, at about twenty feet above the court! The shot scorches the net and is the game winning point.
  • The Boondocks The Red Ball episode culminates in a showdown between Huey and Ming, that has him airbend the ball, then roundhouse kick it at her, in the exact same fashion as the above example. Ming returns fire by kicking the ball hard enough to set it ablaze, and breaks her shin! You can see it here.
  • Speedster Mercury of Filmation's Space Sentinels amuses himself by playing one-man baseball. He throws the pitch (a fastball, of course), then runs to the plate ahead of the ball to bat it toward the outfield. Mercury then circles the bases multiple times before once again arriving ahead of the ball to catch it. "You're out!" he declares, though not before the scoreboard has recorded 46 runs.
  • One episode of Hanna Barbera's The Harlem Globetrotters had the titular basketball team boast that they could beat their opponents blindfolded. The antagonists took them up on that boast, forcing the team to play sightless. Somehow, Team Mom Granny was able to use a fresh-baked apple pie swung around on a fishing line to guide the players around the court, and clue them in to the hoop's distance and direction. The Globetrotters' accuracy remained phenomenal.
Community Feedback Replies: 56
  • June 3, 2012
    cygnavamp
    • Quidditch from the Harry Potter series is soccer on flying broomsticks with extra balls.
    • Perhaps the oldest example: The Queen of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland makes croquet more interesting by replacing mallets and balls with flamingos and hedgehogs.
    • In Ranma1/2, typically "girly" sports like ice skating and rhythm gymnastics are turned into full contact sports.
  • June 3, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
  • June 3, 2012
    animeg3282
    ^^ Those are Fictional Sports or Martial Arts And Crafts this is someone playing tennis at a high school level and he has a 100 mile pr hour serve and can bank off the net at a crazy angle.
  • June 3, 2012
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

    Western animation

    • Played straight in, Avatar: The Last Airbender, which has Azula, Zuko, Mai, and Ty Lee dominate an opposing team in a volleyball match with gravity defying stunts and trick shots. Including one instance where Ty Lee lands on top of the net and strikes a pose, after acing a shot, and another where Azula roundhouse kicks the ball in midair, at about twenty feet above the court! The shot scorches the net and is the game winning point.
  • June 3, 2012
    Reiizm
    Anime

    • Played straight in Bleach, where Ichigo's younger sister Karin has such enhanced strength and keen aim that she can actually defeat weak hollows by kicking soccer balls at them.
  • June 3, 2012
    tryourbreast
    ^ Isn't that I Know Madden Kombat?
  • June 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The Greatest American Hero: Ralph goes undercover as a pitcher in a baseball team. He uses the supersuit to throw pitches at well over 100 mph.
  • June 4, 2012
    Arivne
    Anime and Manga
    • Bleach anime episode 205. A number of Soul Reapers use their natural shinigami and zanpakuto abilities while playing a game of kemari.
  • June 4, 2012
    MiinU

    Western animation

    • The Boondocks: The Red Ball episode culminates in a showdown between Huey and Ming, that has him airbend the ball, then roundhouse kick it at her, in the exact same fashion as Azula in the Avatar example. Ming returns fire by kicking the ball hard enough to set it ablaze, and breaks her shin! The rest has to be seen to be believed.
  • June 9, 2012
    MorganWick
    "In Real Life, sports are not so entertaining as it seems. Top-class players may have different styles among them, but that's all."

    I'm guessing you don't like sports. That might be said of racing, golf, tennis, basketball or hockey, maybe soccer, but baseball and American football are a lot like chess in that regard, even if My Kung Fu Is Stronger Than Yours doesn't go away entirely.
  • June 9, 2012
    tryourbreast
    Does it have anything to do with this article?
  • June 11, 2012
    MorganWick
    Sorry, that just touched a nerve.
  • June 12, 2012
    reub2000
    Advertising
  • June 12, 2012
    qe2eqe
    Let's not forget 'Doing Awesome in a Sports Way', e.g., the bleach arc that pandered to latin america with ultimate moves that looked like soccer moves (with spanish names for the move). Also, in FLCL, the boys brother is a baseball star... a bass guitar is used like a baseball bat for an epic 'ball' later...
  • June 12, 2012
    tryourbreast
    If it's 'Doing Awesome in a Sports Way' then it's I Know Madden Kombat. Nothing related to this trope.
  • June 13, 2012
    surgoshan
    • The Death of Discworld is The Ace at pretty much every sport or game he tries his hand at. Because he's Death. However, when he takes a stab at being human in Reaper Man, he has to learn how to be bad at things, and so becomes impossibly bad at them, which takes a great deal more skill than being merely good.
  • June 13, 2012
    randomsurfer
    There was a TV ad for some brand of shoe (I forget which) that showed basketball in the future. Because the shoes are so good they've had to change some rules, like the basket is 18 feet high and rotates around. People are still capable of doing hanging dunks on it though.
  • June 14, 2012
    Huo
    Many examples include too much exaggerated examples which are less improbable and more fantastic.

    IMO this should be limited to just real life actions that are improbable like the Captain Tsubasa example.

    Even things like Prince of Tennis and Eye Shield 21 should be removed due to their extreme fantastical elements.

    If you don't, things could go so bad that Tekken could fall under this trope.

    It may require renaming this from improbable to unlikely.

    The thing that should separate this trope from the other fantasy based tropes should be cut off at things videogame sports sims "trying to be realistic" does but doesn't.

    Example:

    Though the NBA 2k series tries to claim realism, the animation bumps of modern 2k rewards shooters over slashers. A sharp contrast to the modern game where some players like Gilbert Arenas has said that the slashing game is so abusable, a great slasher is someone who ignores the man in front of him and anticipates the defender behind. It got so bad in 2k12 that the more realistic sliders are, the more unrealistic it is for the player to do like the perfect slashing opportunity if you force the ai to strict to plays involves them getting off a lay-up with 1 on the shot clock.

    Again one for boxing:

    While boxing sims tend to have arcade elements just to make boxing more fun, one of the lineage from videogame fighting games is that frame anticipation is still key. This can result in even realistically intended aspects to be abused through simple knowledge of where a punch will land. In real life, footwork is extremely important in boxing. Not just sidesteps but spacing plus footwork is textbook key for proper countering. Even as a pseudo-sim, the lack of emphasis on footwork and controlling the footwork before initiating an attack is the difference between a sword slicing through someone's shoulders vs. a club slicing through someone's shoulders.

    A non-videogame example:

    To give the rookie Sakuraba a heroes' chance in Slam Dunk while still portraying the entire event realistically, the titular main character performs stealth equivalent of real life maneuvers where in the move is realistic but the location of the performer is so unlikely that it catches his opponents by surprise and he seemingly appears out of thin air. This habit was so unorthodox that it nearly caused the main character to lose the crucial final battle in the manga because the Ace did not realize he was there and bumped into him.
  • June 14, 2012
    tryourbreast
    Then why not change the title into Fantastic Sports Skills, and split those unlikely ones into another trope? The trope I was intended to do is the former (see the description), and it looks like this entry is going that side.
  • June 14, 2012
    Huo
    It's up to you and the others. I was just providing feedback and hinting at the problematic nature of the name. That was actually my first YKTTW reply and only because I was adding an entry myself. I don't usually check this place.

    Personally Fantastic Sports Skills is not really a notable trope to me when you can basically put any superpowered person in a sports setting.

    This trope has a certain danger of falling into that too.

    FYI, I read the description as more allowing for a leeway and not so much a strict definition. My bad for mistaking this.
  • June 14, 2012
    tryourbreast
    Thanks for the feedback, maybe I should put a tag for a better title. I'm not good at titles...
  • June 14, 2012
    MiinU
  • July 8, 2012
    randomsurfer
    @Myself: I found the commecial I mentioned before, it's a Shaquille O'Neal spot for All Sport sport drink (a Gatorade knockoff). I slightly misremembered it: the baskets are 20 feet high, the court is 100 yards long, and once they install the moving baskets people don't do so well.
  • April 18, 2013
    MiinU
    bump.
  • April 18, 2013
    AgProv
    ",,The Death of Discworld is The Ace at pretty much every sport or game he tries his hand at. Because he's Death. However, when he takes a stab at being human in Reaper Man, he has to learn how to be bad at things, and so becomes impossibly bad at them, which takes a great deal more skill than being merely good."'' (shogusan)

    Meanwhile his adopted grand-daughter Susan Sto Helit is lethal at hockey and any sports that call for a ball to be hit, hard and accurately, with a stick. The ball, puck or other object goes exactly where she wants it to go. Every time. It annoys her that however hard she points this out, the other girls at school still, unaccountably, pick her last of all.
  • April 18, 2013
    MarqFJA
    Inazuma Eleven has elementary school kids playing football and throwing bona fide Elemental Powers and other supernatural stuff around like no tomorrow.
  • September 7, 2014
    MarqFJA
    Is this YKTTW dead?
  • September 7, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Not if somebody bothers to grab this.

    I think I can get the idea, so I may grab this, but I wish somebody else can do it before me.
  • September 7, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Blue Linked media section title(s).
      • Deleted unnecessary blank line(s).
      • Namespaced and italicized work name(s).
      • Corrected spelling (recievers).
      • Added a space between asterisks and the first word following them.
      • Removed unnecessary Pot Holing in the Avatar The Last Airbender example.
  • September 15, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In The Absent Minded Professor the eponymous professor creates a superbouncy rubber which he uses on the college basketball team's shoes, making them able to do super jumps.
  • September 15, 2014
    bitemytail
    • In Final Fantasy X, Blitzball is a strange combination of Soccer, Football, and Rugby. It is also played entirely underwater. The game implies that Blitzball players are able to hold their breaths for the entire 5 minute half.
      • The Jecht Shot is this in-universe. It involves bouncing the ball off the goal post (or a defender's face) and swimming up to kick the rebound into the goal with a lot of spinning thrown in.
  • September 15, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ good thing you note it In Universe. Otherwise I was going to say that it is a Fictional Sport.
  • September 15, 2014
    bitemytail
    ^ Yeah. Blitzball itself isn't the example. The Jecht Shot is.
  • September 16, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • The Ultimate Game of basketball is this in Space Jam, wherein Elmer Fudd can dunk, lardbucket Stan Podolak can sink a shot while buried under five Monstars, and Michael Jordan can reach the rim from the half-court line. Of course, since the game is being played in the cartoon universe, the Laws of Physics and the Rules of Basketball are reduced to suggestions.
  • September 18, 2014
    HeroGal2347
    Bump.
  • September 24, 2014
    DAN004
    What would be the indices?
  • September 24, 2014
    Koveras
    Sports Story Tropes?

    Would this example count:

    • The Passionate Sports Girl Suzuka Tsukimura from the Lyrical Nanoha franchise demonstrates incredible sports skills for a Muggle in the A's manga, where she utterly destroys Fate in dodgeball—Fate being a seasoned combat mage capable of unassisted supersonic flight and possessing the Super Reflexes to match.
  • September 24, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ it may count, but can I know how exactly she beats Fate? By speed or skills?
  • October 2, 2014
    MarqFJA
    She beats Fate by exhibiting what by all rights should be clearly-superhuman strength, as Fate herself sends the ball towards the other side with superhuman force and speed, only for Suzuka to not only intercept said ball, but to launch at back with such greater force and speed that it hits Fate in the face without her able to do anything. Depicted in these three pages: [1] [2] [3]
  • October 2, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • Speedster Mercury of Filmation's Space Sentinels amuses himself by playing one-man baseball. He throws the pitch (a fastball, of course), then runs to the plate ahead of the ball to bat it toward the outfield. Mercury then circles the bases multiple times before once again arriving ahead of the ball to catch it. "You're out!" he declares, though not before the scoreboard has recorded 46 runs.
  • October 3, 2014
    AgProv
    in the Discworld, the Guild of Assassins' School has its Wall Game (shared, in name only, with similar-ish local sports at prestigious English public schools.) This can best be thought of as a combination of football styles (British and American) but played vertically on a time-honoured wall at the School. it also combines Parkour, free-climbing, and the sort of genteel mayhem and violence British public schools are world-famous for. A good definition is Quidditch without broomsticks or magic. (It long pre-dates JK Rowling, btw).
  • October 3, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ that's Fictional Sport
  • October 3, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • One episode of Hanna Barbera's The Harlem Globetrotters had the titular team boast that they could beat their opponents blindfolded. The antagonists took them up on that boast, forcing the team to play sightless. Somehow, Team Mom Granny was able to use a fresh-baked apple pie swung around on a fishing line to guide the players around the court, and clue them in to the hoop's distance and direction. The Globetrotters' accuracy remained phenomenal.
  • October 3, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ What are they playing, exactly?
  • October 3, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    ^ Basketball, minus the shenanigans. Like Space Jam, there is a side bet: if the Globetrotters win, The Woobie corners the bakery market. If the Globetrotters lose, the thuggish villains put The Woobie out of business.
  • October 3, 2014
    randomsurfer
    ^Basketball I'd assume. The Harlem Globetrotters (and their fictional counterparts) are a basketball team.

    Expanding on my comment much earlier:
    • In this commercial for All Sport energy drink, by 2044 basketball hoops are 20 feet tall, courts are 100 yards long and the basket moves around randomly to make the game harder. After everyone started drinking All Sport the game just got too easy.
  • October 3, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Music
    • The Who cut the album Tommy, which has the song "Pinball Wizard," describing a phenomenal young man who plays pinball extraordinarily well, despite being blind and deaf. According to the song, he plays by intuition / sense of smell.
  • October 9, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Is pinball a "sport"?
  • October 11, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    ^ Well, pinball does have formal competitions, and a ruling body: the IFPA.

    Query: does air hockey qualify as a sport? If so ...

    Western Animation
    • The Loonatics Unleashed have an air hockey table in their headquarters. Rev Runner is seen playing both sides, as he can dash to the other side of the table ahead of the puck. He even gives play-by-play commentary while doing so.
  • October 12, 2014
    Alucard
  • October 12, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ that doesn't strike me as "improbable", merely "incredible".
  • October 20, 2014
    DAN004
    Final bump.

    What would be the indices? Would we need pic as well?
  • October 27, 2014
    Chabal2
    Also from Avatar, Earthbending is used as a sport standing in for Pro Wrestling (the World Of Ham aspects, at least). The sport itself consists of the benders making Katas from a distance, which sends rocks and stalactites towards their opponent.
  • October 27, 2014
    DAN004
  • October 28, 2014
    KantonKage
    • In Magic Kaito, Kaito while playing pool, manages to make a cue ball not only jump but knock in two ball at two different corner pockets.
  • October 28, 2014
    gallium
    Film

    • Baseball film The Scout has an utterly ridiculous scene in which Steve Nebraska 1) pitches a perfect game (possible) 2) by striking out every batter, 27 in total (ridiculous, as no pitcher has ever struck out more than 20 batters in a game and more than 15 strikeouts is pretty uncommon) 3) on the minimum 81 pitches (about a billion times more unlikely than the 27 strikeouts).

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable