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Muggle Sports, Super Athletes

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If you see the Man of Steel in the other dugout... just forfeit.

In this trope, characters with superhuman powers and abilities show them off by playing Real Life sports and achieving things that would be impossible in reality, like hitting a baseball into space or running a marathon in under a second.

This trope is often used in sports video games for novelty, often in the form of charged, superpowered shots (e.g. Mario Strikers or Head Sports). This is often a Defied Trope, as many settings with powers bar said powers from sporting events. Alternatively, and often in response to the previous scenario, there'll be a version/league of the sport played only by superhumans.

Sub-Trope of Mundane Utility, and closely related to Improbable Sports Skills. For using superpowers in games of chance, see Paranormal Gambling Advantage. Not to be confused with Boxing Lessons for Superman, which is where a superhuman trains in a mundane skill to get better at using their superpowers. See also Smug Super and Go-Karting with Bowser.


    open/close all folders 
  • A commercial for the Turkish laptop model Casper Nirvana features Turkish pro basketballer Ersan Ilyasova facing off against a competing team by himself. Then he splits into four guys, which makes the main guy on the opposing team smirk with a look that says, "Nice trick, but we can still take him." Then the Ilyasovas all grow to ten feet tall, with the opposing team just gaping up at them. Then they play basketball.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z: Yamcha starts using his Supernatural Martial Arts in becoming a major league baseball player.
  • Inazuma Eleven: The whole point of the franchise is that soccer can create Enlightenment Superpowers in teenagers, which they use to play the occasional Absurdly High-Stakes Game. The franchise eventually introduces a bunch of villains from the future that have come back Terminator-style to Make Wrong What Once Went Right (although they believe it's actually Set Right What Once Went Wrong) because the empowered teens and their descendants made an awful lot of ruckus with said powers as time went by.
  • Bleach anime episode 205. A number of Soul Reapers use their natural shinigami and zanpakuto abilities while playing a game of kemari.
  • Defied in ViVid Strike!, where it's revealed that Nove isn't allowed to compete in martial arts tournaments due to her being a combat cyborg.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid:
    • Saikawa challenges a bunch of playground bullies to a game of dodgeball, before realizing she doesn't have a team. Luckily she's best friends with Kanna, a dragon disguised as a human, who then gathers up all her dragon friends to accept the challenge. Needless to say, the dragons lay waste to the opposition. In fact they were so bored by the lack of any challenge they decided to continue the game between themselves without holding back, causing the ball to get thrown around at supersonic speed.
    • Subverted when Kanna partakes in her school's sports event. She has kept her dragon abilities in check so it's not apparent she's superhuman, though she still end up as the top athlete of her class.
  • In My Hero Academia, there was a whole arc devoted to this. Aspiring heroes compete at a school event to show off their powers. The first part was a race where students had to deal with obstacles and each other. The second part was a war-horse event where they split into teams and try to steal headbands worth different points. The final part was a standard one-versus-one elimination bout as students directly fought. And for all three events, students were given free reign to use their powers.
  • Played With in Outlaw Star: In the Strongest Woman In The Universe competition, Ctarl-Ctarl are forbidden to join due to being Nigh-Invulnerable and having Super-Strength. To compete, Aisha steals the costume of another competitor, "Firecat" and cleans up the opposition.
  • Battle Athletes: Athletes that have achieved the level of power necessary to participate in the "Cosmo Beauty" competition are all shown to have (or at least strongly implied to have) Charles Atlas Superpower capabilities such as outrunning bullet trains, withstanding high levels of Artificial Gravity (or physical punishment) or dragging multi-ton weights. One of the secondary characters is even showcased in her Day in the Limelight episode to have been engineered and raised from birth to become a Cosmo Beauty in a manner not unlike a Super-Soldier. The climax of the TV series even has the girls fending off an Alien Invasion by challenging the aliens to a Tournament Arc (and the aliens trying to get a leg up by grafting such things as futuristic Lamborghinis to themselves). All of the aforementioned excesses are utilized for track-and-field games such as Lacrosse, half-mile runs and triathlons that have not changed much (if any) from what we see in the modern-day Olympics.
  • Kinnikuman: The protagonist starts off as a Super Hero, then enters a superpowered (real) Professional Wrestling league.
  • Downplayed in the Baseball Episode of Jujutsu Kaisen: Most of the players weren't allowed to used cursed techniques, but one outfielder per team was to compensate for the lack of players (in Momo's case, using her Flying Broomstick to catch pop flies). Many of them also had inherent supernatural powers they couldn't "turn off" anyway—since Mechamaru is actually a mechanical Remote Body, which had been destroyed, the replacement was a pitching machine version.
  • Saki: people with a variety of superpowers use them to play Mahjong. to cheat at it, really.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe:
    • A faction that makes an occasional appearance is an underground wrestling scene called the "Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation", in which people with superpowers battle each other and the higher in the Strength Rating the fighters are, the more exciting the fights are (or so the In-Universe marketing goes). As a result, early on there were many people within the Federation that became super-villains to pay for the needed power augmentations to become part of higher-paying divisions. Among those who were part of the UCWF at one point, there's Ben "The Thing" Grimm, Melissa "Screaming Mimi (nowadays "Songbird")" Gold, Vance "Marvel Boy" Astrovik and Sharon "Ms. Marvel (nowadays "She-Thing")" Ventura.
    • Spider-Man: Peter Parker originally used his superpowers to moonlight as a wrestler for extra money. Also seen in other media like The Amazing Spider-Man in which Peter excels in basketball and skateboard too, but with fame as what he looks for instead of money.
    • Spider-Girl: Peter and MJ start to realize Mayday has inherited her dad's powers when she makes a superhuman leap during a basketball game. Mayday herself is actually dismayed to hear this, as she'd assumed she got good at basketball the old-fashioned way. She eventually has to quit the team altogether, lest she cheat or blow her cover.
    • X-Men:
      • On several writer's runs, it's established that it's actually tradition for the X-men to play baseball together. Theoretically they're not supposed to use their powers but every single time someone eventually ends up cheating and turns the match into a free-for-all that usually isn't finished (typically because the ball has been obliterated in some form).
      • One comic opened with the X-Men playing baseball. They weren't using powers to begin with, but Jean was forced to telekinetically catch a fly ball after Colossus (who was still in his human form) hit it so high it presented a threat to low flying aircraft.
      • In another comic, Wolverine and Rogue were playing basketball against Gambit and Jubilee. Gambit started playing suspiciously well and Rogue suspected he was using his secondary powers of enhanced reflexes and started flying, Jubilee blinded her while Gambit took a shot but Wolverine cut the hoop's post and made it lean. At that point all agreements to not use powers were declared null and void and Gambit energized the ball.
      • Yet another comic has this as the B-plot (the A-plot being Scott and Jean reminiscing about how they first met and then deciding they want to get married), with football as the game. The heroes avoid using their powers for the duration of it, except for one moment when Archangel (who wasn't there to hear the rules outlined) swoops in to grab the ball for a touchdown. The game briefly devolves into an argument between the two sides over whether the touchdown should count (with the side for whom Warren scored insisting he's on their team now) and whether they had in fact called "no powers" or if it was only implied, but ultimately play resumes.
    • Played with in the case of Alpha Flight's Northstar. Formerly an Olympic medalist in skiing, his medals were retracted upon the discovery that he was a mutant speedster since he couldn't prove that he never used them in competition. It is ambiguous whether or not he actually did.
  • David Cowles' The Escape Team (and the accompanying Concept Album by They Might Be Giants) has Dunkin, a mutant basketball player with superhuman abilities.
    'Dunkin, of course of course
    He'll make you a stoppable force
    Dunkin, his name is the game
    And he brings the pain to the public domain
  • Wonder Woman (1942): The Holliday Girls have Wonder Woman help them out in a semi-informal hockey game against a team from an all-male school since they only have just enough girls to form a team with no-one on the bench. Surprisingly the men don't raise any complaints about Etta's team having a superhero who isn't even a Holliday College student on it.
  • Before joining The Daily Planet, Clark used his powers for a football career in Superman: Earth One.

  • Girl Days plays with this during a high school baseball game, with Ranma, Shampoo and Akane on the teams, leading to hijinks such as Shampoo throwing dozens of baseballs, only for Ranma to hit all of them, forcing the outfield to scramble for them all while Ranma ducks and dives out of tag out attempts. It then goes to Shampoo not having luck with a bat, so changes to one of her maces, only for Akane to embed the ball in it. “Strike two and a half?” The game eventually ends when Kodachi tries to interfere and catches the ball in her mouth, leading to an argument on whether or not it was an out. Hilarity ensues as more interference occurs and the game gets sidelined.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Incredibles: Dash wants to participate in sports, but his parents won't let him because he might publicly reveal his super speed. He eventually gets to go into track racing by the end of the movie, but deliberately (and contentedly) places second to hide his powers.
  • The Twelve Tasks of Asterix:
    • The first task the Gauls must accomplish consists in beating the fastest man in the world, a Greek runner. With the Magic Potion, Asterix easily catches up to him (both run with Wheel o' Feet), even stopping to harvest mushrooms and gather flowers on the way and still catching up.
    • For the second task, they have to beat the best Javelin Thrower in the world, a Persian. Said guy throws his javelin from Europe all the way to a camp of Native Americans in North America. Enters Obelix (who fell in a Magic Potion pot when he was a baby), who makes the javelin travel several times around the world without much effort and seemingly without end, with the poor Persian running for his life as he finds himself on the javelin's way (he even ends up running through the very Native American village he threw the javelin in, somehow).
    • Subverted for the Germanic judoka the Gauls have to beat. Obelix's brute strength is negated in unexpected fashion by the guy's judo and Asterix has to use cunning to beat him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Flubber: Brainard uses his "flying rubber" to give his school's basketball team a much-needed boost (in order to prevent his rival from winning a bet), letting them bounce across the court. As he puts it, it's not cheating, it's equalizing:
    Brainard: You've seen the team, they should have their own Telethon.
  • Shaolin Soccer: The movie is about super-powerful but down-in-the-dumps kung fu practitioners trying to find a good use for their abilities. They end up becoming a soccer team under a former soccer player, Fung, and they use their powerful kung fu techniques to dominate the local soccer tournament.
  • The end of Zoom: Academy for Superheroes shows that Tucker, whose power is expansion, took up goalkeeping in soccer, and is easily able to keep clean sheets by simply expanding the size of his hands to swat balls out.

  • The Saga of Darren Shan: In the first two books, when he is very young, Darren considers becoming a professional athlete with his new vampire super-strength, and fantasizes about getting acclaim for breaking all the world records. Then, he goes to play hockey with a group of random kids, and ends up breaking another boy's legs open, with bones showing. He runs away and doesn't have those fantasies again.
  • Outbreak Company: When Shinichi tries to set up a soccer league in the Kingdom of Eldant, he foolishly directs interested players to heavily-stylised sports anime like Inazuma Eleven in order to get a feel for the game. Lacking any frame of reference for "normal" soccer, this results in students using their magic to fly around the field creating forcefields and setting the ball on fire. Shinichi initially tries to just ban the use of magic, until the dwarf team protest that the beastfolks' physical abilities would give them an overwhelming advantage. In response, the JSDF team resort to shooting the ball with machine guns in an attempt to slow it down. Surprisingly the ultimate winners are the lizardmen, who are used to guarding their eggs by dribbling them along the ground.
  • The 1952 Science Fiction novel Limbo by Bernard Wolfe is about a post-WWIII world where people willingly amputate their limbs for nuclear-powered prosthetics. The Olympic Games is still held but with cybernetic athletes. The United States, which has been winning every year, gets a nasty shock when it turns out the Eastbloc has been secretly developing more advanced prosthetics.
  • After the public finds out that werewolves exist in The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, there's talk of investigating if athletes are of werewolf descent.
  • The Twilight Saga: The Cullens can only play baseball during a thunderstorm, because their superstrength means the crack of the bat sounds like thunder. They also gleefully use all their abilities to make the game exciting.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Get Smart. In "Run Robot Run", KAOS has arranged for all the Free World athletes to have accidents so as to leave the field clear for the Iron Curtain to win. CONTROL's Ridiculously Human Robot Hymie takes their place, and he effortlessly wins the Track and Field without even changing out of his suit, though there's a last-minute crisis when his battery runs down just before the finish line.
  • Smallville: Clark Kent wants to join football, but his parents fear his powers might cause problems. He does eventually join. Clark's parents are concerned about him playing football not only because he could easily injure or kill someone unintentionally, but also because even if he only uses his abilities enough to win, it's still a massively unfair advantage.
  • In My Hero (2000), Thermoman kept getting challenged to various sport events whole in his civilian identity. While playing golf, he hits the ball so hard: the first one punctures a car door, the second one crashes through a cafe roof where it gets mistaken for a UFO, and the final one strikes a guy's head and he gets hospitalized. He later gets challenged to swimming where he allegedly won by "half a second" but only because he had stopped half way to comb his hair.
  • In Season 2 of Luke Cage (2016), Luke finds himself in desperate need of money. A lot of his hot prospects have dried up since he was recently videoed getting one-hit KO'd by the season's villain. In the ensuing montage, he gets turned down by a sports team because his powers constitute an unfair advantage.
  • In The Flash, Barry plays softball on the police team. To make it fair, he refuses to use his powers to take unfair advantage. Unfortunately, he is otherwise a Lab Geek, lousy at sports, and relegated to playing right field.
  • JJ, the high-school-aged son in No Ordinary Family, has the power of being a genius who can process things like angles near-instantaneously. He wins the starting QB job on the football team by being able to perfectly calculate where to throw the ballnote note .
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Baseball Episode "Take Me Out to the Holosuite", Sisko is challenged by his Academy rival to a game against an all-Vulcan team. Given that Vulcans are on average three times stronger and have greater agility and reflexes than most humans, it's a bit of a mismatch even with Worf and his Klingon strength on Sisko's squad. In the end the Deep Space Niners celebrate that they managed to score one run, infuriating the Vulcan captain to no end.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "In the Zone", Tanner Brooks undergoes an experimental treatment offered to him by Dr. Michael Chen and gains Super-Speed in the process. He uses it to regain his former status as an Octal champion.
    • In "Lion's Den", the Lewisborough High School wrestling team become champions after taking Neuroflex 500 which is laced with the DNA of a big cat.
  • Taken:
    • While playing baseball in "High Hopes", Jacob Clarke uses his Psychic Powers to guide the ball to him. The effort causes him to collapse.
    • In "God's Equation", Jacob's granddaughter Allie Keys is the goalkeeper on a soccer team and uses her abilities in order to mislead the members of the other team so that they won't be able to score.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Fugitive", while playing softball with Jenny and other neighborhood children, Ben uses his alien abilities to hit the ball over the fence with little to no effort.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Aberrant: A background note is that the Olympics got reorganized to have a "nova" division... but when that wasn't enough to attract people, then the XWF (eXtreme Wrestling Federation, with all the Kayfabe of the WWF and a lot of extra collateral damage and bloodshed (courtesy of the Novas being able to survive that kind of stuff)) was born.
  • In BattleTech, it's canon that Elementals, the genetically engineered, eight foot tall super-strong infantry troops used by the Clans, love playing American Football. One planet that was invaded by Clan Ghost Bear completely lacked any military to defend itself, and in desperation tried challenging the Bears to a football match for control of the planet. The Bears all-Elemental football team won the match 84-3 (and praised the skill of the home team for making that field goal).
    • On a related note, there's the Noisiel Summer Games, a mildly famous in-universe sports tournament that was expanded to include various mundane sports (hockey, baseball, soccer and even chess) played while piloting battlemechs. It started off as a one-off event to settle a dispute between a father and son who couldn't come to an agreement over a financial matter but declined to go the Honour Before Reason route and fight a duel, but their 1v1 rugby match in Atlas assault mechs drew such a huge crowd that it became an annual tournament. The sourcebook where this is first mentions includes some rules for simulating the games on the tabletop.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Mystara setting has Tournament of Adventure, hosted by Kingdom of Ierendi (Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Hawaii) - an annual sports competition to elect king and queen of the nation (which is more a honorary title). While the tournament is pretty mundane, it's very popular among adventurers and national Adventurer's Club (which also doubles as Adventure Guild) picks up its recruits from among the participants. One of the plot hooks related to it involves an actual red dragon enlisting in the tournament, arguing it would be fair because high-level adventurers are comparable in power to a dragon anyway.

    Video Games 
  • Head Sports: This is a main feature of the game. Players have "Power Shots", which are superpowered shots that are much harder to block than regular Kicks.
  • Mario Strikers Charged: Team Captains have what is called a Megastrike, a new move that fires off 3-6 balls at the opponent's goalie which, depending on how many balls are saved, can score anything between zero and six goals.
  • TJ Combo from Killer Instinct got his arms turned into Artificial Limbs courtesy of Ultratech so he'd be unmatched in boxing. Eventually this was discovered and he was banned. His story in the first game is about entering the Ultratech tournament to get some money.
  • Touhou Soccer is a fangame about a soccer game where the Touhou characters use their powers to play soccer.
  • While never seen directly, a number of overheard conversations and emails in Deus Ex: Human Revolution mention the rise of augmented athletes, including leagues and Olympics-style events specifically for them. As with everything else regarding augmentation technology, this is presented as controversial in universe. An even subtler example may be seen with David Sarif, who is shown in some scenes playing with the baseball he keeps in his office with an augmented arm, as Word of God reveals he got augmented to improve his baseball game.
  • You've all heard of regular go-karting, right? Well Mario Kart is like that, except contestants can use mushrooms for speed boosts, fire homing red shells and near-unavoidable blue shells that automatically target whoever's leading the race and slam into them from above, turn invincible and call upon lightning to shrink their opponents.
  • Soul Hackers 2 has a brief mention of underground sports games where players are allowed to summon demons to attack their opponents. Death often ensues, to the point that spectators place bets on it.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Defied. Metahumans are banned from taking part in most physical competitions. But, by 2016, metahumans have invented their own sports.

    Web Videos 
  • Dragonball Z Abridged: As in canon, Yamcha takes his talents to the baseball diamond. The problem is, he's so good that it's just impossible to have a competitive league when he's involved. Attendance figures are completely down and the league is hemorrhaging money because every game is a foregone conclusion with him playing, so the league's owner offers him twenty billion Zeni to retire just to make the sport competitive again.
  • Superhero Soccer features a game of soccer being played by figures such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Jedi, Hermione Granger, Ken Masters, Mario, several X-Men characters, and more. All use their powers and abilities freely throughout the game.

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Rain of Terror", Gi and Kwame get into a race up the climbing wall, and they use their powers playfully to get in each other's way. Gi turns the dirt in front of the wall into a mud pit, forcing Kwame to pull up short. Kwame retaliates by causing a minor earthquake that shakes her off the wall.
  • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: "Baseball Bugs", a baseball parody takes this to absurd levels as Bugs single-handedly plays the Gas-House Gorillas, a team of bullies whom — after our protagonist heckled them — force him to "put up or shut up." Many examples abound, but the final gag defines it best: Down one run in the bottom of the ninth inning and a man on, one of the Gorillas takes the trunk of a giant redwood and clubs what is sure to be a game-winning home run. The ball itself is hit far outside the stadium... but Bugs hails a taxicab then a bus (after seeing a Gorilla is driving the former) and hurriedly climbs the "Umpire" State Building and the lightning pole, throws up his glove... and makes the catch for the third out (an umpire who had followed Bugs there making the call). The Gorillas protest but — as this was years before instant replay — get no sympathy... even from the Statue of Liberty!
  • Popeye: In a short where Popeye and Bluto are in Ancient Rome, they end up competing before a packed Coliseum for the favours of Olive Oyl. They battle it out in a range of sporting disciplines - wrestling, discus, javelin - and just as Popeye is resigning himself to defeat, the Goddess Spinachia turns up to favour him with her divine energy. Filled with the power of the Goddess, he then wins the contest.
  • X-Men: Evolution:
    • One episode has the young mutants play a normal game of baseball. Then one person uses their powers, followed by everyone else following suit, and the game descends into anarchy.
    • In a bit of defiance (although it's actually just one more example of Fantastic Racism courtesy of the tyrannic Principal Kelly) after Jean Grey is exposed as a telepath, she has all of her achievements revoked and is banned from the soccer team because Kelly insists that she used her mind reading to get an advantage (although in reality in the few episodes where her abilities have been explored, it's been shown that it would have been more like playing while having a very loud set of headphones on her head that she can't remove or shut down, but again, Kelly's a racist asshole).
    • Suspicion of this actually causes trouble for Spyke later on, as the anti-mutant hysteria leads to suspicion that he's been using his powers to excel in a skateboarding contest despite his protests that his powers have nothing to do with his skateboarding ability. It's one of the factors that leads to him leaving the X-Men.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, both Peter Parker and Harry Osborn try out for the Midtown High Football team. During the tryouts, Peter uses his spider powers to make plays while Harry uses the abilities granted to him by ingesting Oscorp's Globulin Green formula.
  • Inverted in an early episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. When showing Sokka and Katara around the temple where he grew up, Aang shows Sokka a sport vaguely similar to soccer that airbenders played that involved using their control of wind to push a heavy wooden ball around. In order to keep Aang from realizing that everyone at the temple really was killed by the Fire Nation, Sokka agrees to play a game against Aang, making Sokka a muggle athlete attempting to play a sport that requires powers. Since the game involves that heavy wooden ball being launched around at high speeds with airbending, it doesn't take long before Sokka's attempts to stop Aang from scoring goals (and thus repeatedly getting hit with the ball) leaves Sokka bruised and hurting.