Who invented the Showdown

What is Showdown? Table Game for the Blind Demands Speed, Agility, and Competitiveness. Slap shots with mini cricket bats at a hard, BB-filled ball should make Showdown the Murderball of blind sports, but game table cost and scarcity has hindered growth.

Showdown (PowerShowdown in the US) is a table game — often described as a cross between air hockey and ping-pong — invented in the late 1960s by Canadians Joe Lewis and Geraldine and Patrick York specifically for the blind and visually impaired.

Showdown debuted in Arnhem, Holland in 1980 as a recreational sport at the Olympiad for the Physically Disabled (forerunner to the Paralympics), and has been played recreationally at each Paralympiad.

The game is recognized by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), and has been popular in Europe for over two decades, though the high cost of showdown tables (whether imported or custom-built) has limited the game’s development in North America.

Showdown Table, Equipment, and Rules

  • Table: Showdown tables (mostly wood) measure 12’ by 4’ with rounded corners and a 6” high wall encircling the game surface. There is a goal pocket at each end and an 18” high centerboard screen to block errant shots
  • Bat: Showdown bats resemble small cricket bats with a 4” handle and a 12” by 4” elongated wooden blade or paddle
  • Balls: Showdown balls are racquetball-sized, made of hard, hollow plastic, and are filled with BBs that rattle enabling players to track its movement
  • Pads: Most players wear gloves and hand padding as the hard ball can travel at high speeds.

How to Play Showdown

Showdown games start with a coin toss; the winner chooses who serves first. As in ping-pong, each player gets five consecutive serves. A serve must hit a sidewall before passing under the centerboard. Failure results in loss of that serve, but no penalty points.

Ball-striking techniques include wrist- and slap-shots similar to those in hockey, and slower shots that employ topspin, undercut, or the table’s rounded corners — a key component of the playing surface that balances showdown’s fierce pace with an element of finesse.

Players score two points for shots landing in their opponent’s goal pocket and one point when an opponent’s shot goes off the table or into the centerboard screen. On defense, only the bat hand can be on the table. Players are penalized one point for using two hands on the bat.

Games can either be timed (usually 15 minutes) or played for points. In timed games, the player leading when time expires wins. In point games, the first player to reach 11 wins and must win by two (or by one after 16 points).

Showdown Game Tables Key to Growth

Storied blind athletes James Mastro, a seven-time Paralympian who won gold in goalball, judo, track, and wrestling and is now a professor at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, has championed showdown’s development since discovering the game in the recreation tent at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.

Mastro introduced showdown to children attending his Northern Plains Visions of Sport Camp using a student-built table based on ISBA specifications. “Campers and coaches alike loved the game,” says Mastro, who owns two of the 10 showdown tables in the US.

According to Mastro, the specifications, which require rounded corners, add hundreds to the $3,000 cost of a custom built table, which, thus far, has limited the game’s growth.

Mastro feels showdown has the potential to eclipse goalball in popularity as it is far less physically taxing and can accommodate broader range of ages and abilities.

Showdown is one of the few games designed for blind players. It combines exciting elements from ping-pong and air hockey, and with time and backing from blind sports organizations, the game will gain ground in the US and Canada and likely develop into an Paralympic sport.

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