The Fun and Pain of Educating Sports Fans

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They say curiosity can kill. And though John Brenkus hasn’t come close to death just yet, his desire to uncover the science behind the world of sports has left him battered and bruised on a regular basis.
Brenkus is the founder and host of “Sport Science,” a show on Fox Sports Net that seeks to answer some of sports most intriguing questions. In many cases, Brenkus is the guinea pig.

Brenkus is not a stuntman but an average athlete who partnered with his friend Mickey Stern in forming BASE Productions, a television production company with offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. The idea for “Sport Science” came after the success of “Fight Science,” a special about the science behind mixed martial arts, boxing and self-defense techniques. “Fight Science” then aired on Fox Sports Net, and Brenkus caught the attention of FSN executives George Greenberg and David Leepson. He decided to produce a whole series devoted to the science of sports, creating a mobile laboratory and recruiting top athletes.

“You would think it would be tough to get athletes, but we created the world’s greatest laboratory to truly test them,” Brenkus said. “Our philosophy was, ‘build it and they will come.’ Pretty much everyone we send video clips to was really eager to come down to the lab.”

Highlights from the second season, which started Sunday, include getting tossed nine feet in the air by New York Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins (“He didn’t let up at all”) and being pulled across a turf field by San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.
“When he took off, I banged my chin pretty good and ripped up my arms,” Brenkus said. “I got pretty hurt on that. Whiplash on the back of my neck…it was definitely a big impact.”

Check some of the “highlights” of the show here:

Some of the most poignant questions the show will seek to answer include:
-Who hits harder, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis or a S.W.A.T team member with a battering ram?
-Who’s more accurate, Saints quarterback Drew Brees or an Olympic archer?
-Is it really possible to jump over a moving car, as Kobe Bryant once did in a commercial with the help of special effects?
-Who creates a larger receiving target, Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald or a wooly mammoth? (This one was inspired from last year’s experiment in which we learned that Chad Johnson created a bigger target than an African elephant.)

Brenkus is also brave enough to fool around with some of the best fighters in mixed martial arts, allowing himself to be choked unconscious by Fedor Emelianenko and Gina Carano. (Suffice it to say, Carano did it a little more gently.) This season, Brenkus brought in UFC light heavyweight Houston Alexander to find out if natural adrenaline could lead to as hard a punch as a shot of adrenaline.
“That was probably our riskiest experiment,” Brenkus acknowledged.

(Well, maybe. As you’ll see in the above video, Brenkus did take a 90 mile per hour fastball to the groin to test the effectiveness of a protective cup.)

Time will tell whether Brenkus can afford to sacrifice personal health for the purpose of educating and entertaining sports fans. But for now, he’s enjoying it.

“By allowing myself to put my body on the line, it really does translate to the audience of how amazing these athletes actually are,” he said. “I’m willing to take one for the team to make a point.”

“Sport Science” can be seen in the Washington area on Comcast SportsNet. Check your listings for date and time.

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