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Why the Savannah Bananas Are the Greatest Show in Sports

Why the Savannah Bananas Are the Greatest Show in Sports

by Trash Sandwiches

Whether you agree or not, you’ve probably heard all the typical criticism of traditional baseball. The games are too long. The pace is too slow. It’s boring.

The new Major League Baseball rules introduced for the 2023 season have helped to combat that a bit. Games are shorter, and the pace is faster, thanks to the new pitch clock and other changes.

But the Savannah Bananas are trying to take it even further. They’re on a mission to change baseball, create a new generation of fans and bring Banana Ball to the world.

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The Savannah Bananas & Banana Ball for Beginners

Nicknamed “The Greatest Show in Sports,” the Savannah Bananas are essentially a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters with the showmanship of P.T. Barnum but made for the TikTok era. They play Banana Ball, which is not dissimilar to baseball, albeit with a lot more dance breaks.

Banana Ball has its own unique set of rules, most of which are to counter traditional baseball criticism. The games are limited to two hours, although they are often shorter. They recently played one in a record-breaking one hour and 34 minutes. Walks become sprints. Teams accrue points by winning the inning rather than for each run (every run counts in the last inning, though).

Founders Jesse and Emily Cole created Banana Ball, and the whole experience to be fun and engaging for the fans. Fans can get players out by catching foul balls and challenging one play per game. They have the usual goofy between-inning competitions that you’d find at any baseball game. There’s an abundance of trick plays and impressive behind-the-back and through-the-leg catches that remind you that they’re also great baseball players (some had stints in the Majors or Minors, and some are still hoping to make it there).

But there are also some totally unique shticks and players who bring their own flair to the game. Their pitching rotation ranges from a rodeo clown to a guy on stilts to Bill “Spaceman” Lee, the 76-year-old former MLB pitcher who played with the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos between 1969 and 1982. They have folks who are accompanied to the plate by the Banana Pep Band and others who walk up with a flaming bat. There’s the Banana Nanas senior citizen dance team and mid-game interruptions to jump on TikTok trends.

Sports in the Social Media Era

In fact, their social media presence is a huge part of what makes the Savannah Bananas who they are and how they became popular. The Bananas have a bigger social media following than every team in the MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA. It’s how many fans found the team, myself included.

But their reach goes beyond that. There’s a five-part docuseries on Hulu entitled “Bananaland,” which chronicles their growth from a summer collegiate team to the exhibition team, or rather teams, that they are today.

To explain, the team was developed alongside the Party Animals, an on-the-field rival squad and off-the-field part of the Banana family. The Bananas are the cleaner-cut (albeit still a bit raunchy) counterpart to the bad-boy Party Animals. Both teams are evenly matched by skill level to make it a fair game, unlike the Harlem Globetrotters, who always defeat their heels, the Washington Generals.

The two teams typically play each other either at home in Savannah, Ga.’s historic Grayson Stadium or on the road as part of the Banana Ball World Tour. However, they will also take on challenger teams, many of whom are playing Banana Ball for the first time. Tickets are hard to get for either home or road matchups, but all games are livestreamed on YouTube. So, in addition to watching the docu-series and spending way too much time on their TikToks (via Instagram, of course, as I am too old for TikTok), I decided to watch a couple of games and see if it really lives up to their goal of re-imagining baseball.

The Savannah Bananas Are Better Than Just Baseball

Does Banana Ball really revolutionize the game of baseball? Probably not. Fundamentally, it’s still baseball.

But was it the most entertaining baseball I’ve ever seen, even if it was through a screen? Absolutely!

In case you couldn’t tell, I am not a baseball fan. Sure, I love watching my home team, the Vermont Lake Monsters, play once or twice a year, usually on 25-cent hot dog night. But beyond that, it’s not really my thing. That being said, my favorite part of the Lake Monsters games are the little touches that make it more than just a baseball game, and the Bananas have that in spades.

It’s more than just the choreographed dances or on-field hijinks. It’s the way that you can tell the players, coaches, staff, fans and everyone involved is having a blast. That was a major goal of Banana Ball, and that enthusiasm comes through in everything, whether it’s the entire stadium joining together for the “Hey Baby” dance or the superfans in the livestream chat bringing a bit of the crowd excitement to home viewing.

I’m still not going to become a big baseball fan, but I can confidently say I’m a Savannah Bananas fan. I probably won’t livestream every single game, but I’ll keep putting my name in the ticket lottery and scrolling their social media in the meantime. And if this is your first foray into Bananaland, I encourage you to delve a little deeper because it’s a whole lot of fun and surely poised to be the next big thing in baseball!

PS: If the Savannah Bananas are reading this, please come to Vermont! I know some of you have roots here…

Thanks for reading! If you like my kind of trash, you can read more here and follow me on Twitter @trashsandwiches.

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