Netflix can sometimes feel like an endless pit of content, and finding something to watch can become a longer process than actually watching something. I found myself in a similar pit of searching-despair when I came across a true diamond in the rough under the documentaries category. Home Game is a new docuseries consisting of eight 30-minute episodes that travel to different countries to examine a sport unique to each country’s culture. The games showcased are absolutely fucking insane, as are some of the people featured in the series.
Episode 1 is by far the best and sets up the level of bonkers yet to come for the remainder of the season. The episode transports viewers to Florence, Italy to experience the finals of a tournament called calcio storico, which can best be described as a mash-up between soccer, football, wrestling, boxing, Magic Mike, and the television show Spartacus. Four teams of incredibly hot, muscular men take to a dirt field to quite literally beat the crap out of each other for 50 minutes. Every form of fighting is allowed, and the only rule of the game is that once you are knocked to the ground by an opponent, you have to stay there until a point is scored. The winning team gets a cow. I’m not joking. The tradition of Calcio storico goes back to the 1400s when, in that first game, the winners won a cow. Today, the cow remains a prize, but no one gets to eat the cow. Who doesn’t love a violent, vegetarian-friendly game?
Another episode travels to the Philippines, where we meet the Sama, an indigenous tribe that has spent decades freediving. Freediving is simple enough: a diver plunges into the ocean without an oxygen tank and travels as deep as they can on a single breath. This particular episode isn’t for the faint of heart since watching people freedive knowing that they can’t breathe makes you feel as if you’re suffocating on your couch. But of all the episodes, this is the most visually stunning, capturing life beneath the shores and the deep pride held by the Sama for their relationship with the ocean.
Home Game even takes a quick stop in the United States to highlight the Texas Roller Derby (TXRD) league in Austin. As a newly anointed member of the quad skating community, I found this episode particularly fun and terrifying. TXRD has all the violence of football but with more finesse, skill, and better uniforms. The players also have incredible names like Ninja Please, Rolla Sparks, Jose Queervo, and my new personal hero Mad Maxican. If the skaters of TXRD, a player-owned league, seem familiar at all, you have Drew Barrymore to thank for that. In 2009, Barrymore directed the film Whip It, which takes place in a fictionalized version of TXRD and is based on the book Derby Girl by Shauna Cross.
For lovers of sports and travel shows, the series is not only fun to watch but a nice way to cleanse the binging palette before diving back into meatier viewing like all three seasons of Hannibal.