May 31 – False Start

Legendary Leagues

Most leagues fail within their first year of operation. If they survive long enough to hand out their inaugural championship, then they usually face other elements of strife, such as low attendance, trouble landing a TV broadcasting deal, and teams folding or relocating. The waters are rough, but if a leagues treads long enough, it just may endure. Here are the top 5 defunct sports leagues and their intriguing stories:

#5: X Football League

Because the NFL just wasn’t fun enough, along came the XFL from World Wrestling Entertainment mogul Vince McMahon. Ironically, while most believe the ‘X’ stood for eXtreme, this is not actually the case and the ‘X’ was never defined. In partnership with NBC, the league only lasted one season. With a few rule changes that were meant to spice up pro football, the eight-team league was dogged by the stigma attached to professional wrestling and what many thought was an inferior quality of play. Ratings were initially strong, but dropped in half from week one to week two and continued to decline over the course of the year. The XFL fizzled out following the season-ending Million Dollar Game and closed up shop on May 10, 2001. Both McMahon and NBC reportedly lost $35 million each in the joint venture.

XFL

#4: SlamBall

A sport with trampolines and full body contact… sounds like a recipe for success to the Sip Advisor and the one time in my life I was mildly interested in the sport of basketball. When TNN (now Spike TV) was making strides to change its image from a country music station to a network geared towards male viewers, one of their early experiments was SlamBall. Unfortunately, the league only ran seasons in 2002, 2003 and 2008, but did hold an international tournament in 2012, in China. Created by Mason Gordon, SlamBall grew from six to eight teams for the 2003 season, but a disagreement between Gordon and Warner Bros. ended with the league being dissolved. The 2008 season returned to a six-team format and the winning coach was Samuel L. Jackson… er, I mean Coach (Ken) Carter.

#3: Roller Hockey International

The early 90’s were a wonderful time and part of that amazing period was the advent and popularity of rollerblades. So, along comes the RHI, hoping to capitalize on that fad. Games were even broadcast on ESPN2 during the early years, showing the potential popularity the sport could have harnessed. The high-scoring (RHI averaged 16.7 goals per game, compared to the NHL’s seven at the time) league played from 1993-97 and also in 1999. Played 4-on-4, a number of NHL alum also strapped on the blades, including Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier. Unfortunately, a planned Super Nintendo video game never materialized, although that fact probably saved me hours in front of the TV and instead, I was outside playing roller hockey! RHI folded operations for good in 2001, despite some of the best team names ever seen in sport.

RHI SNES

Sadly, it never came to be!

#2: United States Football League

Looking to compete with the NFL and offer fans an alternative to fill their growing football needs, the USFL may not have succeeded, but many of the innovations they brought to the game, as well as markets they used for franchises, would eventually be adopted by the NFL juggernaut. Backed by Donald Trump and others with deep pockets, the league produced a number of stars who also enjoyed success in the NFL, as well as two future wrestling World Champions in Lex Luger and Ron Simmons. The crushing blow to the USFL came when they filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, claiming it had established a monopoly. Despite expecting a substantial windfall, the USFL was awarded $1 (that’s not a typo). Heavily in debt, the league ceased operations. The ESPN’s 30-for-30 documentary Who Killed the USFL? examines the league’s brief existence.

#1: World Hockey Association

Launching in 1972 with 12 teams, the WHA made an immediate big splash with the signing of NHL star Bobby Hull to a 10-year, $2.7 million contract. In all, 67 players jumped ship from the NHL to the WHA for the inaugural season. Sadly, the league was plagued with difficulties, including financial struggles, arena issues, teams relocating, and franchises folding. Four WHA franchises still exist in today’s NHL: the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets (moved to Phoenix), Quebec Nordiques (moved to Colorado), and Hartford Whalers (moved to Carolina). The league’s legacy also lives on via European stars coming to North America, higher salaries, and a lower draft age. For an in-depth look at the WHA’s seven tumultuous seasons, check out Ed Willes book, The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association.

Super Saturday Shot Day: False Start

False Start Shot

  • 0.4 oz Cider
  • 0.4 oz Bourbon
  • 0.4 oz Brandy
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Garnish with an Apple Slice

Honourable mentions include the American Basketball Association, which was loosely spoofed in the Will Ferrell film Semi-Pro, and the Arena Football League, which cancelled their 2009 season, but has since been resurrected under new ownership. Which defunct sports league do you miss?

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
This shooter went down very easy and was fun thanks to the bubbles of the Cider. The Bourbon and Brandy flavours do play a role, but not too aggressively. That makes for a couple good Cider recipes for me in the last little while and I might be experiencing a change of heart as far as the beverage goes!

Japan – White Mountain

Gamesmanship

Simply put, without Japan, we wouldn’t have the video games we know and love. Companies like Nintendo, Sony, Sega, Taito, Namco, Capcom, and Konami all originated in the land of the rising sun and gave birth to many of the most popular systems, games, and characters ever. Here are some little known facts about those great gaming corporations:

Nintendo

Nintendo has provided my favourite gaming systems growing up and even into my adult years. Titles starring the likes of Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, and others have made me a fan of the company that began operations all the way back in 1889 as a trading card enterprise. Nintendo even ventured into the love hotel business in the 1960’s, as well as a block building product meant to compete with LEGO. One of Nintendo’s first big releases, Donkey Kong, prompted legal action from Universal Studios, as they believed the character was too close to King Kong. Nintendo won the case, claiming the King Kong story and characters were part of the public domain. Finally, the company was a one-time owner of the Seattle Mariners… can you imagine a mascot Mario warming up in the on-deck circle!

Nintendo Raising

Sega

Originally a manufacturer of pinball machines, Sega entered the video game console market with the SG-1000 in 1983. While I never owned a Sega system, it was a treat to occasionally try exclusive games on it while visiting friends who owned them. Sega’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog was originally to have fangs, be in a band, and have a human girlfriend named Madonna, but those features were removed. Unlike Nintendo, Sega chose not to censor the bloodshed in the violent Mortal Kombat game, creating the Videogame Rating Council in response to the controversy that followed. After failed systems including the Saturn and Dremacast, Sega left the console world and became a game developer for other platforms, such as Nintendo, which is exclusively getting Sonic the Hedgehog releases.

Taito

Broski Sip and I loved a number of Taito games, particularly Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands. When a collection including these titles was released for PCs and other consoles in 2005, we were quick to snatch it up and spent hours reliving our childhood memories (and frustrations!). As a company, Taito moved from vending machines to jukeboxes, before finally settling on arcade games. In 1978, Taito released Space Invaders, which is one of video game history’s most popular titles and one which launched the ‘Golden Age of Arcade Video Games’. Today, Taito has been incorporated by Square Enix (developers of famous titles such as the Final Fantasy series) and operates a number of arcades throughout Japan, known as Taito Stations. I miss arcades, although I can’t say I ever frequented them.

Sony

Sony entered the video game console market when Nintendo ditched a partnership between the two to distribute a CD-ROM drive that would work with Super Nintendo systems. Sony decided to continue down the path they had already started and in essence, Nintendo created their own competition when Sony released the Playstation to compete with the Nintendo 64. The company’s name comes from ‘sonus,’ the Latin word for sound mixed with the slang term ‘sonny’, which for the Japanese meant smart and presentable young men, an appearance founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka believed they exhibited. Of course, we also recognize Sony’s branding from their Walkman and Discman music delivery devices and in other parts of the world, Sony even has financial institutions under their umbrella.

Sony Box

Namco

Namco originated as operators of children’s rides on the roof of a Yokohama, Japan department store and entered the arcade game business in 1970. In 1985, Namco would bid to purchase the struggling Atari for a whopping $800,000, dwarfing other offers, such as Sega’s $50,000. Namco’s Pac-Man, released in 1980, was one of the industry’s most famous creations, although the game could also be cited as a cause of the 1983 Video Game Crash, as Atari rushed to release the game on their home console and it failed to sell as well as hoped. Namco had plans to compete with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis in the late 80’s and early 90’s and released the SuperGrafx console, which was another failure. In more recent years, the company has entered the amusement park business, as well as merged with Bandai in 2005.

Capcom

Capcom’s biggest title is arguably the Street Fighter series of games, which produced one of the most legendary gaming myths of all-time. In Street Fighter II, when you were defeated by Ryu, his taunt of “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!” was mistranslated to read “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.” This caused many players to theorize that Sheng Long was a hidden character in the game. Capcom eventually included the character in games years later and background graffiti in Wreck-It Ralph states that “Sheng Long was here!” Other popular series produced by Capcom include Resident Evil, Mega Man, and Devil May Cry. Capcom titles have been cited as some of the worst video game to movie adaptations ever, although the films are commercially successful.

Konami

While they have produced an extensive and memorable video game line-up, their Blades of Steel hockey release will be forever cherished by anyone who had the privilege of strapping on those virtual skates. The company’s name translates to “be creative” and they have certainly followed their own credo. Konami has dabbled in everything from health and fitness clubs around Japan to trading cards, anime, slot machines, and a slew of other products. Konami is also recognized for their Castlevania, Metal Gear, and Silent Hill franchises and even the most popular cheat code of all-time can be attributed to the company. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A was usually good for some bonus power-ups and extra lives, which were usually necessary.

Japan: White Mountain

May 8

  • Rim glass with Coconut Shavings
  • 2 oz Sake
  • Top with Milk and Pina Colada Mix

While I’ve never been the biggest gamer, I definitely have a place in my heart and mind for video games. Last year, I did a two part series on my favourite releases ever and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane. You can check out those articles here and here.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (??? Sips out of 5):
xxx

November 13 – Warp Pipe

Game Genie

Today we continue our look into the Sip Advisor’s favourite vidya games. This isn’t an article about the greatest games of all-time, just my top picks from childhood to adulthood, where that inner-child just never really went away. I’m not a massive video game guy, but I’ve always played this or that along the way!

Super Mario Bros.

This is one of the games that really boosted the video game industry and made Nintendo a household name. I’d say my favourite Mario game was Super Mario World (SNES), but I have also enjoyed all the original NES titles, as well as releases for Gameboy, N64, and Wii. The Wii version was great because you could play along with your friends all at the same time, although it usually ended up with us “accidentally” killing each other. One thing is certain: the games were far superior to the ill-advised movie!

money-power-woman

Wrestling Games

As I’ve admitted before, I was a huge wrestling fan in my pre-teen and teenage years. Some of the best wrestling classics came out during this period, especially the games made by THQ in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. The company had the WCW license first and then switched over to WWE, putting out one amazing offering after another. My friends and I spent countless hours fighting our issues out in battle royals. The best part was, if you were eliminated, you had another chance with the next entering character.

GoldenEye 007

Similar to the wrestling games, thousands of hours were wasted maiming each other in this N64 classic. Even those who weren’t gamers in the slightest knew about GoldenEye and had probably played at some point. While the single player missions were spectacular, the multiplayer killfests were even better. Our group would play where any damage killed you and would alternate between remote mines and rocket launchers being the feature weapon.

Plants vs. Zombies

While I’m not the biggest fan of tower defense games, this entry, which has you defending your home against an invading horde of zombies, using plants with their own special powers is a total delight. A sequel has been released, but as of yet, it’s only available to losers with iPhones (sorry, I’m a little bitter it’s not available on computers like the original or even for Android users… that misses a lot of the market). I’m sure it will eventually be in my possession, but the waiting is the hardest part (thanks, Tom Petty!).

plants-vs-zombies

Donkey Kong Country

Oh man, I love these games so much, particularly the Super Nintendo trilogy. The re-launch of the series on the Wii was also a spectacular offering for the eyes and the ears (the fingers not so much, as they had to do all the work!). The thing that’s so amazing about these games is that they’re so visually beautiful with rich colours and the music is fantastic. Combine that with smooth gameplay and wonderful level layouts and this is one of the best 2-D side-scrollers to ever exist.

Rollercoaster Tycoon

I love amusement parks and all the rides they contain. Therefore, when these games were released, I was an early adopter. It was so much fun to build your own parks and achieve whatever tasks were outlined. I didn’t play around too much with rollercoaster design except to launch unsuspecting riders off of a dangerously built ride and send them flying through the air to a fiery death!

Tetris

There’s just something about Tetris that is so addicting. I especially enjoyed the N64 edition (The New Tetris), which Broski Sip, Cousin Sip, and I used to play a lot, challenging each other to see who could last the longest without dying. The more lines you made, the faster you were able to build the world’s greatest landmarks. Much like Donkey Kong Country, the music in this franchise has always been top notch and keeps you wanting to play the game.

Drink #317: Warp Pipe

Warp Pipe Drink Recipe

That wraps up our look at my favourite video games of all-time. What are some of your favourite electronic pastimes? Perhaps you’ll steer me towards a new addiction, you pusher!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Once again, we go to The Drunken Moogle for this recipe, as they seem to have the market cornered on awesome video game-themed drinks. I used the split-sized glasses to help accentuate that image of the pipes in Super Mario Bros. This backfired on me a little when I went to split them up for Mrs. Sip and myself and she decided to nap instead, leaving me with two cocktails to down. Luckily, they were pretty light and tasty and I enjoyed the double treat!

November 12 – Zelda’s Lullaby

Game Shark

A friend recently wrote to me and pointed out a glaring omission from the Sip Advisor library. While I’ve examined movies, spent a fair bit of time on TV, and even dabbled in the dark arts of travel, I have never done any work in the realm of video games. That is to be corrected in a two-part series on my favourite games and series of all-time. This one is for the nerd in all of us!

Legend of Zelda

The trials and tribulations of our hero Link, as he wages war on Ganondorf in an attempt to save Princess Zelda and keep the Tri-Force out of the hands of evil have been one of the greatest video game epics in history. While there have been many iterations of the franchise, my favourite are A Link to the Past (SNES) and Ocarina of Time (N64), perhaps the greatest video game experience I’ve ever had. Sadly, I started to play Twilight Princess (Wii) a couple years ago, but have found myself too busy to go back to the game.

Ocarina of Time

Blades of Steel

This game is so awesome I can’t even begin to describe what Blades of Steel meant to me as a kid. As a young, aspiring hockey star, this was my first chance to ever take to the ice digitally and guide my team to championship glory. The game had it all: goals, saves, fighting, penalty shots, a shootout if overtime was necessary… you get the picture. When I downloaded a Nintendo emulator onto my computer a number of years back, the first title I searched out was Blades of Steel. This time, though, I got to sub beer in place of chocolate milk!

Peggle

This game takes the Japanese gambling parlour tradition of Pachinko and turns it into something both kids and adults can access and enjoy. One thing the gambling powers can’t provide (although Peggle doesn’t allow you to win money!) is characters who each have their own special power when you use them and access their specific skill. Even after beating the normal game, there were tons of challenges to work through and the fun just kept on going.

Super Mario Kart

The original Mario Kart was awesome, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the Wii entry as well, which required you to actually play with a steering wheel. Once you got the motions down, it was an awesome ride which made you feel more involved in the races. My favourite racer was the Koopa Trooper because I like to have a balance of speed and accurate turning. In the Wii game, I usually used my Mii character and I was awesome behind the wheel!

Mario Kart

7 Wonders of the Ancient World

I’m a certified casual games match-three genius. Seriously, if you could go pro playing these games, I’d be the Wayne Gretzky of the genre. 7 Wonders was one of the first releases I picked up and I’m so glad I did. I find games like these keep your brain sharp, which counteracts all the damage I’ve done to the poor thing with drinking! There were two sequels to the original game, each offering a new gameplay style to switch things up.

Rock Band/Guitar Hero

When Mrs. Sip and I first heard about the Guitar Hero and later Rock Band franchises, it spurred us to go out and buy a Playstation 2 (after not owning a video game system for years) and get these musical games. We spent many nights with Mrs. Sip either rocking the guitar or microphone and me slamming away at the drums, usually downing copious amounts of alcohol, just like all of my drumming idols!

cat-plays-rock-band

Mario Party

While I haven’t played every entry in this series (come on, there’s like 10 of them!) I’ve always enjoyed sitting around with a good group and battling it out in all the mini games to see who will obtain virtual board game glory. My win-loss record might not be great in the Mario Party world, but I always have fun regardless and you never really know who will come out ahead in the end thanks to the games “bonus stars” awarded once all the turns have expired.

Grand Theft Auto

I’m a law-abiding citizen… but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to be a criminal in the fictional world of video games. I played all the GTA games up to San Andreas, with my favourite being the Vice City installment. There was just something so great about stealing cars and performing other underhanded tasks in the Miami beach setting to the greatest (and sometimes lamest) music of the 80’s!

Drink #316: Zelda’s Lullaby

Zelda's Lullaby Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Chambord
  • 0.75 oz Vodka
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Dash of Egg Whites
  • Garnish with a Lemon Twist

Sip Advisor 3:16 (drink #316) says I just got you drunk! Thanks for letting me borrow your famous line Stone Cold! Look out for part two of my favourite games tomorrow, including wrestling titles.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
Credit for this recipe goes to The Drunken Moogle, which is a great site for video game-themed drinks and other pop culture offerings. I was itching to make this cocktail for Mrs. Sip and the long wait made her enjoyment of the martini all that more amazing. Chambord is one of her favourite liquor ingredients, but that does not make a guaranteed success. Where the drink really works is that all the other ingredients come to play as well… like the flying-V in the Mighty Ducks movies!

April 6 – Fire Extinguisher

Weapons of Destruction

Well, it’s WrestleMania weekend, the best time of the year for sports entertainment fanatics. When I heard about this shooter, the first thing I thought of was hardcore matches, where one wrestler would spray another in the face with a fire extinguisher. Always good for a laugh, let’s see if it works as a shot as well. But first, here are some other great wrestling weapon choices while we sip away:

Coconut

One of the most famous feuds of the 1980’s was started when ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper bashed Fijian Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka over the head with a coconut following a verbal lashing that would now be classified as racially-fueled. This defined the term “foreign object”… I mean, what is a coconut doing at a wrestling show anyway!?

Piper-Snuka

The angle may have been controversial, but they turned it into an action figure set, so I guess that makes it all okay.

Mannequin Head

Deranged wrestler (aren’t they all!) Al Snow was often seen talking to a mannequin head, which came in handy during matches where he needed an extra edge. I’m sure the head told Al it didn’t appreciate being used as a blunt object, but Al was so out of his mind he probably didn’t take into account his friend’s concerns.

Kitchen Sink

Ever heard the term, “Everything, but the kitchen sink”? Well, during a Good Housekeeping Match between misogynist Jeff Jarrett and woman wrestler (and later porn star… how’s that for women’s lib?) Chyna, even a kitchen sink was used – as well as a toilet seat, salad tongs, mixing bowl, and ironing board. The match ended with both competitors covered in flour and with Chyna becoming the first ever female Intercontinental Champion.

Snakes

Indiana Jones least favourite animal (and the Sip Advisor’s) has actually been used as a weapon in wrestling rings. Jake “The Snake” Roberts has on a few occasions used pythons and cobras to attack his opponents. The dastardly attack even backfired on him once, ending with a snake biting at his own neck.

Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo/Laptop

Hardcore icon New Jack was known for bringing an entire garbage bin filled with weapons to the ring with him for matches – well, they could more likely be classified as attacks. One of his trademark assaults involved placing a vintage video game system or laptop on his victim’s crotch before smashing it with a crutch of other swingable object.

new-jack

New Jack: definitely not the kind of guy you want taking a swing at your baws!

Payphone Handset

When The Rock (Hollywood star Dwayne Johnson) was battling with Mankind (best selling author Mick Foley… proving wrestlers actually are intelligent at times) over the WWE Title over a decade ago, the two met in a number of brutal encounters. One such match featured The Rock bashing Mankind in the head with a payphone handset while shouting “It’s for you!”

Tennis Racket

Manager Jim Cornette was rarely seen without his patented tennis racket and his opponents were seldom left unscathed when the ‘Louisville Slugger’ had a chance to wallop them behind the referees back. I wonder if he ever hit the court to play…

Urn

The legendary Undertaker – whose gimmick was that he was thought to be undead – was often ushered to the ring by his manager Paul Bearer, who was in possession of the urn said to contain The Undertaker’s ashes. Whether this story pans out or not, the urn was definitely used on multiple occasions to batter an opponent of ‘The Deadman’ and help secure a number of victories.

Drink #96: Fire Extinguisher

Fire Extinguisher Shot

Judging by the list above, it seems as if anything can be used as a weapon in the ring. I know wrestling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (although who drinks tea around this site anyways? Well, maybe the Long Island version), but thank you for letting me relive some memories on this special weekend for all the Hulkamaniacs out there!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I really enjoyed this shooter. The burn of the Fireball Whiskey was quickly cooled by the creamy Bailey’s and a Cinnamon-Sugar rim is always welcomed by me. The addition of Red Hots completed the presentation wonderfully.