On the morning of September 11, 2001, Robert Herzog dropped off his laundry, picked up his mail, and took the local C train to work instead of the express A train. When he arrived for work at the north World Trade Center tower that morning, nearly 300 of his coworkers were dead. Stunned by his inexplicable escape from death, Herzog battled through his trauma by focusing on the good things in his life. Earlier that year, he met his wife-to-be playing coed softball. He had enjoyed the league but felt he could do better. Tempered by the sense of charity and community that was so ubiquitous after September 11, he opened ZogSports—a sports league that donates 10% of its profits to charity—in 2002.
Since then, leagues have spread from New York and the northeast out to Atlanta and the Twin Cities. Casual competitors in their 20s and 30s team up in touch-football leagues and indoor-volleyball leagues, making new friends on the field, at postgame happy hours, and at preseason press conferences.
When teams sign up for ZogSports's leagues, they choose a charity to represent. From there, teams compete to win the league championship, come up with the funniest team name, or order the most drinks at the bar after the game, all of which earn them money for their charity of choice. To date, the company has donated more than $1.5 million to various charities.
The Atlanta Chef's Expo plates up a citywide taste test, showcasing local culinary artists while raising proceeds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Throughout the event, chefs from area eateries including Baraonda, Thrive, and Clement Catering Co. sling edible specialties from one of four neighborhood-themed divisions, including Restaurant Row, the Sugar Shack, and Catering Alley, where food is delivered hot and garages are built from soup crackers. Emmy-nominated television personality Holly Firfer and food blogger Broderick Smylie dish out awards with a panel of judges, and cooking demos from such celebrity chefs as Scott Serpas and Joe Arvin reveal professional methods and tricks of the trade. The beats of DJ Joel Rabe of Lethal Rhythms Entertainment punctuate the event, adding rhythm to exploratory bites and attempts to translate satisfied "mmm"s into English.
Founded in 2013, the Bikini Basketball Association is comprised of five female teams in Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, and Philadelphia. Though the association's name suggests that players hit the court wearing swimwear, they actually play in tight-fitting spandex athletic gear that does not billow in the wind like traditional jerseys, threatening to fill with air and lift players off the court and out of the gymnasium.
Hittersbox Baseball lets hitters battle against pros without ever leaving the batting cage. With its ProBatter PX2 Professional Baseball System—one of several training tools used by major leaguers—a virtual pitcher winds up just as a ball is launched through a hole in the video screen by a pitching machine hidden behind it. For a greater challenge, batters can change the location, pitch type, and sequence of pitches, or just close their eyes.
After practice, Pro Mirror video training allows players to relive their swings and analyze any pitfalls by watching five minutes of batting-cage video. These modern takes on traditional baseball practice, which Hittersbox coaches use for beginners and serious players alike, boast approval from owner Jasha Balcom, a former Chicago Cub, as well as an elite list of major-league clients.
An ECHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, the Gwinnett Gladiators skate constant circles in pursuit of the Kelly Cup. After joining the league in 2003, the team reached the playoffs in seven of its first nine seasons, netting one trip to the finals. Since its inception, the team has played at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, entertaining up to 13,000 fans with fast-paced hockey action and tense moments when the Gladiator's goalie sticks his tongue to the ice at crucial moments.