ARVADA — Miguel Alvarado fields the question a lot.
"What are you doing?" they inevitably ask, pointing to his friends out on the grass at Arvada West High School.
Even on nights when the athletic fields are buzzing — tennis, volleyball, baseball, ultimate frisbee, runners, walkers, Color Guard practice — Alvarado's group sticks out.
Blame it on the foam spears and shields they wield as teams attempt to score goals, the game one part rugby, one part Medieval Times.
"We like coming to parks because people will come over and ask," Alvarado said. "We'll go over and play football, and they'll come over and play jugger."
Alvarado, 22, is the de facto spokesman for the Colorado Jugger League, the loosely organized local governing body for the sport of jugger — a term not to be confused with juggalo, those face-painted followers of the rap group Insane Clown Posse.
Jugger, the sport, began popping up in Denver area parks only recently, about a year ago in City Park and later in Del Mar Park in Aurora, Arvada West and elsewhere.
Today, the Colorado Jugger League counts more than 350 fans on Facebook and some 35 regular players — not bad for a foam combat sport based on "The Blood of Heroes," a 1989 action movie starring Rutger Hauer that most people have never seen.
"It's a terrible B-movie, but it's great inspiration," said Jack Baxter, 40, one of the founding members of the league.
"We always call it fencing on a team where you can tackle people — football fencing," Alvarado said.
In the movie, set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, jugger is a blood sport, played in rudimentary armor and with steel weapons. The ball is the skull of a dog.
As a real-life sport, jugger got its start in Germany and Australia and has since surfaced in countries around the world, including Ireland, Spain, Canada, Argentina and Mexico, and stateside in Ohio, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
Just don't compare jugger to quidditch. And certainly don't call it live-action role playing, which can also feature foam weaponry.
"We're not a LARP (live-action role playing). We're a sport," Baxter said, emphatically.
Jugger, for one, involves no costumes, characters or heraldry — except for the modified Colorado flag the league hangs at practices. (In the yellow center of the C, there's a black dog skull, a homage to the game ball in the movie.)
Playing jugger works up a sweat, too. Each point begins with sprinting, and players are rewarded for quick reflexes and bursts of speed. Serious players wear cleats.
Baxter said he's lost about 30 pounds since he started playing last year. His introduction was in City Park about a year ago. He and his wife saw a group of live-action role players doing something they call "jugging," which is similar to jugger but played with LARP rules — if you're hit in the arm, you "lose" the arm and keep going, Baxter said.
Watching a YouTube video of a true jugger match in Germany sold him on the game.
He found the official German rulebook online and with a few friends, started the Colorado Jugger League.
Most of their equipment is homemade, following specifications laid out in the rulebooks. The Foam Forge, a local company that specializes in foam LARP gear, has also fabricated spars for the team.
Baxter and his oldest son, Brandon, 18, play together and, this summer, traveled as part of a group of five Colorado juggers to Ireland for an international tournament.
"It's a sport that can get non-sport people playing," Brandon Baxter said. "I'm not into physical activity, but this is so much fun."
Alvarado, who was introduced to the game by a friend of a friend last May, said they met people in Ireland who have been playing jugger for a decade.
It inspired him to start lifting weights and increase his cardiovascular endurance so he "can run with the best," he said.
"I like going to the Y and playing basketball, but this is unique," Alvarado said. "It's so fun to come out here and run around and meet new people."
Getting to swing foam weapons — including a padded ball and chain he made himself — isn't bad, either.
Emilie Rusch: 303-954-2457, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/emilierusch
HOW TO PLAY JUGGER
You need two teams of at least five players. Four players from each team wield foam "spars," while the fifth, the "qwik" or runner, is the only one who can touch the ball and score goals.
Teams line up on opposite sides of a rectangular field, typically 20 meters by 40 meters in size, behind circular, donut-like goals. The ball, shaped like a dog skull, is placed at the center of the field.
With the call "3...2...1...jugger" from the referee, play begins.
Both teams run to the ball, with the four enforcers responsible for protecting their runner and clearing the way for him or her to pick up the ball, run down the field and score.
Tap an opposing player with your spar, and they're down, forced to kneel in place, tagged out from play, for five beats. (Hits to the head, neck or hands are not allowed.)
Beats, which are two seconds long and called "stones," are measured out on a kick drum during the match. One match is made up of two halves of 100 stones each, with the winner the team with the most goals at the end.
Colorado jugger league
Learn more about the group and its upcoming practices at facebook.com/ColoradoJugger