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A brief history of Bulletball
November 14, 2012 2:22 PM   Subscribe

In 2006, aspiring inventor Marc Griffin appeared on the show American Inventor with a table game he had invented called Bulletball. Convinced he had created the next Olympic sport, he had spent 26 years of his life on the idea. He'd quit his job, sold all his possessions including his wife's wedding ring, and was sleeping in his car. The judges hated the idea – and his gut-wrenching experience on the show went viral.

Then in 2009, a report from a local Fox news channel was posted on YouTube. Marc was proving his doubters wrong.

This year, according to Marc's website, Bulletball was featured in the St Louis Senior Olympics.
posted by dontjumplarry (59 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember that, and that Bulletball looked awesome.
posted by drezdn at 2:27 PM on November 14, 2012


Wow, holy fuck, I've never seen this before. The 3rd judge (in the brown suit) who says he's worried Marc is trying to relive a great moment in his life through the game... Jesus, that is fucking insightful. I'd see that guy as a therapist.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Kids play that game all the time, with the ground as the table and their legs as the guardrails.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:35 PM on November 14, 2012


Weirdly, the original Bulletball video is still being shared as an example of the "delusional reality show contestant" archetype.
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:35 PM on November 14, 2012


Now it's Inclusion Sports? If he had first marketed it as a sport or activity for seniors and for the differently-abled, and has having therapeutic value, then it would have made a totally different impression, and may have won people over. But he sold it as a "high caliber table game designed for the 21st century lifestyle." He compared it to basketball and soccer, and was confident it would be in the Olympics. Delusional. Now he has settled on Inclusion Sports. This could work. I really hope it does, because I don't wish a life like that--such abject failure and delusion--on anyone.
posted by oneironaut at 2:37 PM on November 14, 2012 [14 favorites]


I think Inclusion Sports is an AWESOME name. It appears he's found his niche, and I wish him all the luck in the world.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:39 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Inclusion Sports is genius. If he invented that, he's a great inventor. (or yaknow, writer)
posted by dabitch at 2:41 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


That will become an Olympic sport right after crokinole. Which is actually fun.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:43 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


How is that game not a recipe for bruises, sprains, and fractures from the elbow down?
posted by cilantro at 2:43 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, he's sold about 10 of them then?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:44 PM on November 14, 2012


Just wait for the licensed protective gear, cilantro.
posted by oneironaut at 2:46 PM on November 14, 2012


cilantro as protective gear? Well at least they've finally found a use for it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:53 PM on November 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


Man, Tim & Eric are working dark these days.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:55 PM on November 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


So he basically invented air hockey, minus the paddles.
posted by afx237vi at 2:56 PM on November 14, 2012


Garlic for the vampires, cilantro for the philistines.
posted by oneironaut at 2:57 PM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think this game might have worked in the 70's. With a cool commercial airing during the Saturday morning cartoons, this could have been a killer Mattel product. The 9 year old me would have lusted after it big time.
posted by davebush at 2:57 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think there's a tragedy here in that we assume he's done nothing else with his life in the years since his TV appearance. That his idea for this sport has found a new lease is actually rather commendable. That's some tenacity to admire. History is littered with dreams more broken than this.
posted by Catblack at 2:59 PM on November 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm really good, by the way -- but I don't mean to brag.

Any person who creates something that enables this emotion wins at life by my standards.
posted by sarastro at 3:03 PM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


mandatory
posted by demonic winged headgear at 3:05 PM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm actually curious as to what he was doing previously; he said in 2006 that he'd been working on this dream for 26 years, and had sold his house, his car, his wife's wedding ring and the rest of his possessions, but...like...why would he have to do that? I mean, the concept and the associated gear don't seem so expensive and difficult to create (at least for a prototype that you're trying to sell) that you'd have to give up everything, you know? Couldn't you still keep a day job, and then use your vacation time to try and sell BulletBall until your ship comes in, or whatever?
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:05 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


That show was brutal. I remember one about a kid who invented a passive AC you could stick in a car window to keep pets cool so you could leave them in the car. They said no, and the kid was inconsolable for like 30 minutes, they showed the whole thing. It was the saddest thing I'd ever seen on TV.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:07 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


That was my initial question as well, infinitywaltz. I was expecting something more complicated. Instead, it's like the paper football game I always played as a kid in school but with a ball. And you don't get to kick a field goal, which was the best part and the thing that always got you in trouble.
posted by perhapses at 3:09 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


mandatory

I so thought you were going for the Jump to Conclusions mat.

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:10 PM on November 14, 2012


Yeah...where did years of money go? Game consultants?
posted by davebush at 3:11 PM on November 14, 2012


when i saw the clip with the disabled people playing i just thought "of course! that's brilliant! just needed to find its niche"

the game is very well designed for an "inclusion sport" that everyone can play.
posted by striatic at 3:13 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ad hominem: "That show was brutal. I remember one about a kid who invented a passive AC you could stick in a car window to keep pets cool so you could leave them in the car. They said no, and the kid was inconsolable for like 30 minutes, they showed the whole thing. It was the saddest thing I'd ever seen on TV."

Passive AC like solar cell with a fan? That was the runner-up project given to students who couldn't think of anything else to do for my Senior Engineering Project.
posted by notsnot at 3:14 PM on November 14, 2012


Passive AC like solar cell with a fan? That was the runner-up project given to students who couldn't think of anything else to do for my Senior Engineering Project.

Doggie AC. They cut off the end. He was crying in the lobby and one of the judges went out and hugged him. That shit was sad
posted by Ad hominem at 3:17 PM on November 14, 2012


I never thought I would link to this on MetaFilter, but now's a good a time as any.
posted by phaedon at 3:17 PM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


In a way, this totally comes from a different time, doesn't it? Nowadays, you could just throw together a web site, put some videos on Youtube, get some scrap wood and colored ping pong balls, and start selling boards for $50 or whatever. I guess you could have done the same thing with mail order back then, but now it'd be tons easier.
posted by koeselitz at 3:19 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I never saw the original show, but that clip was absolutely brutal. So, so sad. That the guy could actually find some success with this thing is the kind of underdog triumph that happens all the time in the movies but all too rarely in real life. It's even got that classic third act reversal, where the guy has been going nuts trying to sell this as a regular game for years, and then, just when all seems lost, he has a flash of insight: Hang on, what if this was a game to help rehabilitate disabled people...

I think they SHOULD make Bulletball part of the Olympics! There are all sorts of weird little sports in the Olympics, what's one more?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:23 PM on November 14, 2012


Sure, the clip was brutal, but those judges seem miles more human than the dream-crushing androids who host Shark Tank.
posted by Edgewise at 3:28 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's actually a pretty good interview with the guy here.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:33 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nowadays, you could just throw together a web site, put some videos on Youtube, get some scrap wood and colored ping pong balls, and start selling boards for $50 or whatever.

Yeah, and isn't that pretty much (with the addition of a Kickstarter campaign) what the Cards Against Humanity people did?

I bet CAH wouldn't have fared very well on any of the pitch-your-invention/business type reality TV shows ... hell, you couldn't even play a round of the game on national TV. But it's out there, making money, and now you can buy it on Amazon.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:33 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh sure, when this guy tries to relive a special moment between him and his ex-wife with a game called "Bullet Ball", it's a heartwarming feel-good story, but when William S. Burroughs does it, suddenly it's creepy and weird.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:35 PM on November 14, 2012 [18 favorites]


I'm so happy for that guy.
posted by Wataki at 3:38 PM on November 14, 2012


If they ever make a film version of the BulletBall story, I want Giancarlo Esposito to play the inventor.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:40 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


So he basically invented air hockey, minus the paddles.

Well that, and you have to chase the ball around the floor every time someone scores.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:13 PM on November 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


When we were kids, we used to fold up a piece of paper into a right triangle and then play this tabletop football game with it. We had another one that involved three pennies that we called "soccer" that basically involved flicking one penny between the other two over and over again.

Anyhow, they would be Olympic sports before Bulletball. And I was really good at those games, not to brag.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:19 PM on November 14, 2012


Oh, I remember that Doggie AC idea. My gf and I both thought his idea was GREAT. And less than a year later, we started seeing "As Seen On TV" ads for an IDENTICALLY-LOOKING product. We looked at each other, saying, "Wait, isn't that that kid's AC idea...?"
posted by insert.witticism.here at 4:32 PM on November 14, 2012


Needs to be played with something like five croquet balls on a larger table that not only has those rails around the edges but that the rails enclose the whole surface in a dome--kind of like a really large popcorn popper from about 1975. As it is, pretty much the opposite of rad.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:36 PM on November 14, 2012


Bulletball, Bulletball, Bulletball, that's a Bulletball.
posted by orme at 4:57 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


My cousins and I did this as kids with the billiards table in my grandmas basement.

We weren't coordinated enough to use the cues but we just rolled(heaved) the balls across the table at each other, usually smashing each other fingers.
posted by wcfields at 5:03 PM on November 14, 2012


Doggie AC . They cut off the end. He was crying in the lobby and one of the judges went out and hugged him. That shit was sad

Yeah that's a supervillain creation story if ever there was one.
posted by grog at 6:35 PM on November 14, 2012


Can't you just use your extended arms to block off your whole side of the table? Air balls aren't allowed so they'd never get past you. Or is this rule covering it:
If an opponent's hand or arm is resting on the table surface in his or her colored playing area, their hand or arm is then considered an extension of his or her playing area.
I can't quite follow what they're getting at.
posted by unliteral at 7:06 PM on November 14, 2012


That Doggie AC kid lost as soon as he started backtracking on the car idea. When that woman said "you don't put a dog it a hot car" he should have responded with "people shouldn't, but they do, to the tune of___ dead puppies per year, and this inexpensive product will save countless lives, say no to me and their blood will be on your hands"
posted by any major dude at 7:52 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


To the extent this FPP is trying to prove the American Inventor judges wrong, it fails. I'm happy that the guy seems to have finally found a track for his invention that can make both him and others happy, but that doesn't validate the pitch he made on ABC.

I liked that show. Shark Tank is miles better, but this one wasn't bad.
posted by cribcage at 8:15 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


When we were kids, we used to fold up a piece of paper into a right triangle and then play this tabletop football game with it. We had another one that involved three pennies that we called "soccer" that basically involved flicking one penny between the other two over and over again.

Joey Michaels, I played both of those as a kid, too. But we called the game with the pennies "Bullwinkle," like the cartoon moose. No idea why, though, as there's really nothing cartoony or moose-like about flicking pennies around on a tabletop.

Calling it "soccer" actually makes more sense, since, as I recall, the ultimate objective was to "score" by getting one of the pennies to your opponent's end of the table, which is sort of like kicking a goal in miniature, I guess.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 8:47 PM on November 14, 2012


cribcage, I wasn't trying to suggest the judges erred in telling him to give up on his dream (as one of them explicitly said). Maybe in 99% of cases like this, it'd be the right call. As it turned out, though, in this particular case it was lucky he didn't give up, because in the end it seems he finally found a market for his invention.

It wasn't just the judges. After his appearance on the show went viral, the folks at Encyclopedia Dramatica made a pretty spiteful page on him and there were Youtube parodies, etc. Didn't want to link them here but it was nice he showed those fuckers, too.
posted by dontjumplarry at 9:12 PM on November 14, 2012


Here's my thing: I saw this a while back featured on some Seanbaby article on cracked.com, and even Seanbaby (who I believe may lack a soul) seemed wanting for trying to find some lightness and humor in how this man had wasted his life and limited fortune on this game.

But looking at it again, what's interesting to me is that his end-goal does not appear to be money. It seems that he simply wanted others to share in the joy he had and has for this game of his.

And what makes that clip so brutal is that the judges appear, kind as they may be, to think that goal is crazy.

And now, yes it may be niche, people are finding much-needed joy in it.

Marc Griffin, it might have taken forever, but you have realized a dream. I have invented games, I have gotten people to test them with me and play them and enjoy them. I have not taken the steps to try to bring them to the larger audience I hoped they would have. I have not risked failure. And that is why I have not tasted the success you have now.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:17 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


0:51. I couldn't go through with it.

(Wait, is that the game?)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:41 PM on November 14, 2012


...aaand I watched the second one.

Suck it, what I'm assuming are bad people in the first one I didn't watch.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:50 PM on November 14, 2012


viral? k-pop songs are 29x more viral than this toilet bowl cleanser.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 2:41 AM on November 15, 2012


I use to work for the judge in the Hawaiian shirt. That's all I'm gonna say about that.
posted by Mick at 5:42 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's nothing wrong with his latent idea, it just isn't developed. He needs pin-ball style flippers using some elastic reaction to send the balls around and off each other to try to get them across the opposing threshold into a hanging bag. Sloped objects placed strategically could keep the balls rolling unpredictably, requiring skills. Territories could be owned on the table. You could launch some from the middle, etc. The real problem becomes the price point if the table is included.
posted by Brian B. at 6:30 AM on November 15, 2012


the game is very well designed

I don't see any design. I see a pathetic sales-jerk who spent 26 years and I-don't-know-how-much money figuring out a way to rip-off SOMEBODY with a product that several pre-adolescents spontaneously invent every year with textbooks, a rubber ball, and a school desk.
posted by snottydick at 7:54 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bulletball? Bulletball?

Hairlip! Hairlip!
posted by slogger at 8:49 AM on November 15, 2012


That video made me so sad, and I'm happy to see he has had some success with it (even if I think the idea is uninspired).
I'm confused, though, and can't find anything explaining the difference between Bulletball and Bulletball Extreme. I know I must be missing it somewhere.
The other thing is that I clicked on the link for the store and they have every iteration of t-shirt available but I couldn't find a link to buy Bulletball itself!
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 9:23 AM on November 15, 2012


Did he work on this for 26 years? Or did he have the idea 26 years ago and then one day decide to give up everything to make it happen?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 1:20 PM on November 15, 2012


Here is the new website for BulletBall, featuring colorful game tops, and lots of schoolchildren playing or watching it. By InclusionSports.com.
posted by Brian B. at 7:19 PM on November 15, 2012


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