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Want to change your perception about people in wheelchairs and have a good time in the process?
I had the delightful, revelatory opportunity to watch some murderball in Athens during the 2004 Paralympics, and I had real trouble getting my head around what they were doing. And I am certainly more used to the disabled than the average joe!
It was so, like, against stereotype, that I kept thinking something was wrong. To delight in the mayhem as they were, and I was, seemed well... wrong. Was I watching football? It was worse, since they don't wear pads. Was it Aussie Style football? Could have been, in some ways, but they play it on a basketball court and the floor is well, unforgiving compared to turf.
Murderball is the name of the sport that the participants have given it. It is also now the name of a motion picture documentary that focuses on Austinite Mark Zupan and his teammates during their odyssey to fight for gold in Athens during the paralympics, in the sport of wheelchair rugby. This ain't yore grandaddy's wheelchair sport!
Quick note: In my opinion as the father of a paralympian, the paralympics are just as competitive as many of the olympic sports and actually come closer to achieving the philosophy of "citius, altius, fortius" for the pure glory of athletic competition than do the Olympic athletes, as these paralympic (parallel olympics) athletes are competing for the gold with no real hope of financial glory, as the olympians do. A gold in the Olympians can pay an athleter 25,000 dollars or more, PLUS endorsements, but for the typical paralympian, well, good luck getting 5 grand.
Unlike the special olympics where every participant receives a medal, the athletes in the Paras are simply fighting for the same three medals as the olympians, but doing it without an arm, or a leg or two, doing so blind, or with without use of lower body or part of the upper body. And the Paras do it in the same venues as the olympics, just a few weeks after the close of the Olympics. The paralympics is in fact the second largest sporting event in the world, after the olympics. There is nothing to NOT admire about these athletes, though when watching Murderball you will surely think they must be crazy.
Back to the movie. It premiered to great audience and critical acclaim in Austin this last winter during the South By Southwest Film festival where I saw it twice, and is now approaching general release throughout the US in major movie markets. (and perhaps abroad)
If you want to come away from a movie feeling good about something AND to change the way you look at , really look at, someone in a wheelchair then I suggest you try this one out.
You can also catch Jay Leno: FRIDAY, July 22 11:30pm EST/PST – NBC “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” – Live in-studio interview with Mark Zupan
From the USOC:
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