Football and jetpacks have a long history together. But what if you actually strapped the jetpacks on the players? That was the idea in this illustration from a 1981 kids’ book that promised “zero-gravity” football played in space colonies of the future.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s there was a sense that as soon as space travel became commonplace, all our favourite pastimes would have to adapt. The most pressing question for kids of the time wasn’t whether they’d get to space or not. It was how would we have the most fun playing the games we love in zero-gravity.
From the book World of Tomorrow: School, Work and Play by Neil Ardley:
What are sports going to be like in the future? Will people thrill to the sight of others exerting themselves to the utmost, or will computers take over? The answer is probably that both things will happen. It’s very likely that people will always want to gather at sports stadiums to watch their home teams in action. But computers may also excite us with amazing new kinds of sports.
The electronic computer games we play now could become popular spectator sports in the future. They would not be seen on television screens but in midair! Using the techniques of holography, a way of producing three-dimensional images that can float above the ground, the games could take place in vast arenas or stadiums before many thousands of people. Imagine a Space Invaders tournament of the future. Teams of players sit in the arena, handling the controls of the computers and lasers which generate the holographic images. With a blast of music or roar of sound, ranks of spaceships belonging to one team appear to dive toward the stadium. The other team’s ships take off and battle with the invaders high above the audience. The game is played at incredible speed, calling for split-second decisions by the players. It provides thrills galore.
Another apparently superhuman sport will be played by people themselves in the future. Out in space colonies or space stations, there will be zero-gravity zones where everything is weightless. Everyone there will float through the air, just as astronauts do in space. Imagine a weightless kind of football in three dimensions, with six fields, or pitches, marked out by laser lines in the shape of a cube. Inside, the players zoom in all directions, using tiny portable compressed-air motors to propel themselves after the ball. There are six goal areas, one in the middle of each field! However, one thing is the same as football now — collisions are just as painful!
We’re still quite a ways from playing the space sports of tomorrow. And further still from zero-gravity football. One imagines that the NFL has enough to do putting house in order here on Earth before it starts seeing concussions on the final frontier.
Picture: Scanned from the 1981 book World of Tomorrow: School, Work and Play by Neil Ardley