Breakout is a hybrid contact sport and team-based martial art playable in a microgravity environment, most often with five players a side. The objective is to touch a ball to a free floating target at either end of the court. A team can score a field goal by connecting the ball with the target defended by the opposition during play.
Perhaps because of its competition with the system’s other premiere sport, Freefall Fighting Championship (3FC), professional breakout has few illegal contact rules. The use of martial arts techniques or brute force to neutralise other players is encouraged. In most matches, the action and positioning required to block the opposing teams from scoring prevents the match from becoming a total brawl; however there are several notable matches in the sport’s history which became exactly that.
There are two professional breakout leagues: the Outer Space Breakout League, OSBL, and the Mars Breakout League, MBL. Besides minor rule variations between the two, MBL is exclusively played in the 0.38 Gs of Martian surface gravity.
- Origin: Ceres
Breakout was designed in 2033 by three engineers: Santino ‘Sonny’ Ricci, Tara Schneider, and Phạm Mai Linh. While working in a scrum team on the excavation of Ceres, the engineers devised a way to entertain themselves during their break. Accounts vary between the creators, but the generally accepted version of events is that Sonny and Schneider attempted to play one-on-one basketball in a free cargo bay while Linh observed, gave feedback, and suggested rules alterations. It was Linh’s fascination with the burgeoning 3FC culture that led to the use of martial arts to control contact in zero gravity, particularly with judo and other grappling techniques. By the end of the week, other teams on the station had formed a round-robin tournament adopting the trio’s rules. The second such tournament featured five players a side and was streamed across Ceres.
The Mercer Entertainment Group approached the three creators in 2036, offering a promotional deal and a widely publicised showmatch to introduce Breakout to a wider audience. Sonny and Schneider accepted and went on to create the Outer Space Breakout League, a System-wide professional association for the sport. Controversially, Phạm Mai Linh refused the offer due to the loss of creative control over developing the sport for broadcast. She would eventually create the Mars Breakout League in 2042 in partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Sport at Tharsis Landing.
There are fourteen teams in the Mars Breakout League, which mostly hail from large settlements. The OSBL has fewer at just nine, perhaps due to the difficulty and expenses associated with maintaining an interplanetary sports team. However, the sport is typically much more ingrained in local station culture. Off world minor leagues are common, especially the Ceres Minor League, which is often likened to old college basketball.
- The Tharsis Timber Wolves have won the MBL championship eight years in total, and for the past two years in a row. At the end of this dominant showing, key players like Anna ‘The Freeze’ Gosteva entered retirement or jumped ship to other teams.
- The Gods of Olympus are considered ‘the best team never to win a championship’. Cursed with second place twelve times in the sport’s 30+ year history, their professionalism and skill have nevertheless made them fan favourites.
- The New Xian Dragons have more brutality fouls than any two other teams combined.
- The Ceres Rioters are locked in an internecine struggle for popularity and players with Ceres’ other major team, the Shooters. Their animosity is mirrored by fans on the station. The rivalry casts dividing lines through neighbourhoods, friendships, even families.
- The Ganymede Warriors are last year’s pennant winners of the OSBL. Their win comes after an excessive doping scandal decimated the team’s previous roster. The return to form is seen by longtime fans as proof of the team’s enduring spirit, and past indiscretions are already being forgotten.