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Super Show Has Goods Vibrations / Atlanta sports lots of hot new products

ATLANTA

NO ONE KNOWS who invented the skateboard, but at the Super Show-the world's

largest sporting goods trade show, which took place here earlier this month-you

can find someone who'll give you an educated guess. And he'll speak of it with

only slightly less reverence than if he were discussing the inventor of the

wheel.

"It first appeared in Southern California in the early 1960s," said Keith

Parten, who owns Nash, a company that has been manufacturing skateboards for 35

years. "It was probably some kid who took a plank of wood over a pair of

roller skates."

Skateboarding, it appears, was spread in part through a 1966 Life magazine

cover story on what was then a fad, and what is now, in Parten's words, "a

basic product." Yet, the latest models-among the things everyone comes to the

Super Show to see-look anything but basic: Today's skateboards are made of the

same material as bulletproof glass. They're light and flexible but nearly

unbreakable-a point Parten illustrates by whipping out a hammer from behind the

table at his booth and pounding mercilessly on one. And, he adds, pointing to

a wall display of his Diamond Deck boards in incendiary colors that I couldn't

even name, "you get a helluva cool look."

Indeed, you get that and much more at the Super Show 2000, held at the

cavernous Georgia World Congress Center. As its name suggests, the Super Show

is big: This year, 59,600 attended the show to view 2,973 exhibitors of

footwear, licensed merchandise, team and outdoor sports, fitness and sports

nutrition products. The 15-year-old event is designed for people in the

industry-the buyers for places such as Modell's, the Sports Authority, the

souvenir stands at Shea Stadium and your local health club-who come here in

search of hot new products that help fuel the $46 billion sporting goods

industry.

What they found this year ranged from the, shall we say, conversational-an

inflatable NFL chair with built-in beer holders and surround- sound speakers, a

croquet set that glows in the dark, a Budweiser can that's actually a

telephone-to more substantial-a high-tech full-body suit used in self-defense

training (think kick boxing with full body contact). In the presence of this

display of American ingenuity, important questions must be asked: Such as, do

we really need a TV remote in the shape of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt's

customized black Monte Carlo? The answer: an unequivocal yes. "We can't pry

this thing out of people's hands," said Scott Robinson of BSI Products in

Columbia, Md., which markets both the hot-selling beer phone and the remote.

While the Yankees still claim the most popular of all team logos, a stroll down

the aisles of the Super Show can make a New Yorker feel awfully parochial.

Apparently, while we've been spending all our time watching "The Sopranos" and

worrying about the Jets' coaching situation, everyone else-or at least everyone

in the warmer parts of the country-has been out in public parks throwing

Frisbees into metal baskets. It's called "disc golf," and it's played by all

the same rules of golf except that, instead of clubs and a ball, you use

Frisbees. "It has all the same challenges of golf," says John Houck, who

designs disc golf courses in Austin, Texas. "And it's just as addicting." Disc

golf, which is played by an estimated 3 million people, even has a professional

division with its own Tiger Woods-one Ken Climo, who was shown on videotape at

the sport's booth, making the winning toss at last year's Professional Disc

Golfer's Association (PDGA) tournament. While there are still no disc golf

courses on Long Island or in New York City, the sport has been around for 20

years.

Of course the show offered more traditional fitness products: rows and rows of

treadmills, stationary bikes and new weight-training machines to help Americans

in their ongoing quest to get buff. And, not surprisingly, the "e-commerce"

area of the Super Show was humming with exhibitors and new products, such as a

fitness version of the Palm Pilot. Called the Vivonic Fitness Planner, this

gizmo records every calorie you consume and every calorie you burn through

exercise. It can also help set up your exercise program, keep track of it and

do everything except the exercise itself.

But we wouldn't be surprised if that changes soon: The real competition these

days, says Mike May of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the Super

Show's organizer, is not Nike vs. Reebok or PowerBar vs. the Balance Bar. It's

the entire sporting goods industry vs. Microsoft, Apple and IBM. "People are

dedicating huge volumes of time to ," says May. "And that's at the expense of

sports and fitness activities."

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