Turtle Racing at your local bar and zoo

Wikipedia informs us that Turtle Racing that is "a popular event in the Central United States which is usually held at county fairs or picnics in which turtles are placed in the center of a circle by children and are allowed to walk around until one of them crosses out of the circle."

The neat ones at Neatorama recently posted an article about the aforementioned semi-sport having purportedly become "a trend in metropolitan bars like Bucky’s Grill and Pub in Indianapolis." As a newly converted semi-Hoosier, I was especially intrigued to learn that such goings on actually go in locally, at Bucky's Bar and Grill.

My subsequent Internet searches, however, led me inexorably to this video, which was taken, not at Bucky's, but at Brennans Pub in Marina Del Rey, CA, nigh onto my former Redondo Beach stomping grounds (I sigh for the stomps of yesteryear). An illustrative, and preternaturally exciting video, nonetheless.


Irish Road Bowling

According to Wikipedia, "Irish road bowling (Irish: Ból an bhóthair) is an ancient sport." Yet I can't help find it reminiscent, in concept if not in spirit, to, of course, Urban Golf, and in a similar vein: Free Form Frisbee Golf, Ice Golfing, eXtreme Croquet and ilk of like similarity.

Not sure if it's an improvement. But it is clearly a predecessor.

via MetaFilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Sportpong and the future of sports

players playing pong, with their feet, on projected boardSportpong "is an interactive physical computer game. The field is projected on the floor, two or more players can fight in teams against each other. With a paddle on each foot you hit the ball to the goal or to defend your goal. Not only smartnes and reactivity let you win, also geometric appreciation and teamplay is required...a reflector on each foot is the only physical tool to interact with Sportpong. The interface is integrated in the field which is projected on the floor. The players control the game with their feet, nothing else."

It bears all the hallmarks of a genuine sport - engaging mind and body, requring speed, agility, focus. But it's played in a darkened room, with computer-controlled light. There's no physical ball or racquet. To get a better feel for the depth of the game, take a look at these videos or images.

Sportpong is an intimation of the future of sports. We may not see Sportpong in the coming Olympics, but it is clearly inevitable that, sooner or later, advances in technology will become so profoundly incorporated into the very definition of sports that we will be meeting on computer-enhanced playing fields, interfacing with technology and each other to test our extended virtual, intellectual, social and physical skills.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Soccette and Cuju, too

Soccette is a combination of soccer and basketball - it's like basketball because there's a basket. It's like soccer because you can't use your hands. It's like neither because there's only one goal/basket.

It looks different. And, most important, it looks like fun.

Soccette was reportedly invented in Africa.

Cuju is yet another soccer-like sport, featuring yet another innovation - a volleyball net with a hole in the middle. Cuju was invented in China. "..a.rcheologists discovered a book in China on Cuju entitled, "Twenty-Five Articles on Cuju" which was written during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 24). In this book, Cuju is explained as being played by two teams on a field with goals, and the matches were officiated by referees who followed prescribed rules. "

Both of these sports, new and old, are available from the same company, and both are genuine invitations to fun. As long as they remain "new" to the people who play them, they remain informal enough to be played just for the sake of playing. Once everything is figured out and all the rules are properly memorized and officials are appointed and equipment standardized and varsity teams created, perhaps they won't be as much fun. But, in the mean time, they are welcome additions to our continuously growing repertoire of alternatives to professional sports.


"Newly invented sports are fun for all"

Circle Rules Football, Mojo Kickball, Whiffle Hurling, Office Chair Polo... all "newly invented," all demonstrating a common assumption that new sports should be, first and foremost, fun for all; all featured on Good Morning America Weekend.

"Game on" the subtitle reads, "New Sports for Non-Jocks." Sports whose acknowledged purpose, whether devised by art students or social activists or people who are just playing around, is to create a sport that is physically challenging, engaging, and that anyone can play. Of the four, Office Chair Polo is the only sport that you can play sitting down - hence of most inherent interest to the under-exercised majority. It also looks fun (as well as funny), has a flavor of mild rebelliousness (office chairs, for goodness sake), and most vividly objectifies the "sports for all/fun for all" message.

Whiffle Hurling, Mojo Kickball, and Circle Rules Football are sports we have been following on this blog for quite some time, encouraged by how these sports manifest that wonderful spirit of newness, playfulness and inclusion that characterized the New Games movement (this is a link to the HTML version of a seminal paper by the Ludica group - it describes the New Games movement and makes a case for a similar initiative in online games - you can download the PDF version here).

Seeing these new sports together, mainstreamed, is more than an encouraging sign - it is a mandate for all of us who have the creativity, the playfulness, the social awareness; an inspiration to universities, athletic centers, art and recreation schools. Let's make new sports, sports that emphasize fun and inclusiveness more than competitiveness and professionalism. The masses and media are ready. It's time, once again, to take playfulness seriously.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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All you need are a bunch of friends, a place to play, "a soccer ball (size 5, preferably the Brine Matrix 100), two street hockey nets, two lacrosse (goalie) stick, and eight cones" - and you've got your basic Andyball. Andyball - a genuine, certifiably sportly sport, with teams and leagues and stats and uniforms and devoted fans and a meaningful invitation to serious, all-out, competitive fun.

How did it all come to pass? Divine intervention? Exhaustive plotting and planning by the National Commission for Athletic Events? Actually, according to their historical synopsis, it went something like this:
"On July 14, 2003, four bored teenagers from Quincy, Massachusetts met to do something. Having been turned away from the Shaw’s NBA Summer League at UMass Boston, where they had hoped to see a young LeBron James take the floor for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the gang regrouped back on the concrete tundra of Dayton Street in Quincy. The foursome, made up of Joe Griffin, Steve McDonagh, Andrew Potter, and Brandon Ranalli, would quickly find themselves down a man after Brandon’s mom made him come home for dinner. Steak dinner. Left with a treacherous trio, Griffin, McDonagh, and Potter, batted around ideas of how to enjoy themselves on a fine summer evening. They thought about playing basketball, soccer, hockey, football, wiffleball, and pretty much everything else. None of these, however, seemed to satisfy the deep longing in their souls for something new and different. With the light growing dim and the mosquitoes fast approaching, the gang quickly improvised. Rooting through the McDonagh household’s basement and backyard, they came up with a soccer ball, a hockey net, and a lacrosse stick. Using their Quincy Public School-educated brains, they quickly brought together these seemingly unrelated weapons of fun into a new game that they played well into the night, only pausing to watch Garret Anderson defeat Albert Pujols to win the Home Run Derby."
And the result, six years later, something worth playing. Something that clearly started life as what some would refer to as your typical Junkyard Sport, and went beyond to become something worth watching. Something worth celebrating. Something known to those who know it, as Andyball.

If there's anything else you need to know about Andyball, you can probably find it on the Andyball website.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Opener - the game

"The first game of Opener, a new sport where the goals are on the players' heads. The Labrador Dandies faced the dangerous Estonian selection Karaoke Saaremma and prevailed 7-5." From Aesthletics and the inimicable game artist, Tom Rusotti. O, the intensity, the competition, the athleticism, the blessed silliness of it all.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Extreme Golf Courses

Extreme golf courses? Not since our discovery of Ice Golfing have we seen signs of such a promising future for the game/sport of golf.

For example, the par 3 Extreme 19th Hole at New Zealand's Legend Lodge and Golf Course Resort where one's golf cart is a helicopter. Yes. Par 3.

For another example, the beautiful Floating Green at the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course which is "computer controlled to a different distance from the tee each day. At approximately 15,000 square feet, the island, although intimidating, is a deceivingly large target. The back and front right of the green is protected by bunkers. Golfers take a maximum of two attempts to land safely on the island before taking a drop on the green if necessary." And who could possibly object to taking a drop on a green such as this, I ask, as if I know what "taking a drop" actually means. (I do find it somewhat comforting, however, to learn that, when taking a drop, one can even use a belly putter.)

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with Amistice and/or Veterans Day. I was sure there were many enlightening parallels when I started writing this post, and would very much appreciate hearing of any correlations you might find.

via the Presurfer

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Football (a.k.a. Soccer) Made in Africa

We have a great deal to learn from Africa, about celebrations, about recycling, about living with little, about the generosity of spirit. One of my favorite resources is a site called Afrigadget where I recently learned about a project called: Football Made in Africa.

By focusing on the game of Soccer (which everyone in the world except here calls "football"), Football Made in Africa gives us a window into the joy of sport and the irrepressibility of the need to play. Under development by a talents group of artists called Take Five, the goal is to create 50, 90-second videos, like this one showing how to make a soccer ball out of a condom and some string, documenting the spirit of Africa through the game of soccer. They explain:
With the 2010 World Cup in South Africa just a year away, it seems only natural to talk about Africa. Not the Africa of poverty, conflicts and capable Africa of Football Made in Africa, or the grassroot portrait of a continent that lives, thrives and enthuses on football!

Every episode offers an original angle on a story, a slice of everyday life, where football is present everywhere. From the production of goals in the outskirts of Maputo to the atmosphere in bars where matches are aired on tiny TV screens, the harvesting of rubber tree waste to make balls or the beaches of Cameroon where fishermen use their nets to play. The films are funny and poetic snapshots that reflect the unique imagination and energy of the African continent.

Football Made in Africa demonstrates all the creativity and dynamism of the peoples obliged to deploy a fair amount of cleverness and resourcefulness on a daily basis to be able to indulge in their passion: football.

Football Made in Africa is a canvas on which African society is painted. The different episodes are the colours, applied one by one, that produce a diversified picture of today's Africa.
And, of course, the insights go way beyond Africa, far further than country or continent, exploring the geography of the human soul.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Hoop Gardens

Oddly (or perhaps, predictably), some of the most exciting innovations in sports are not coming from athletes or physical educators, but from artists, like Tom Rusotti, through his Aesthletics Institute.

He explains:

Hoop Gardens was a commissioned installation in the summer of 2006 in Washington Square Park. The project developed from a Project for Public Spaces report on Washington Square Park that listed sports facilities as the most desired and lacking element of the park. As well, the triangular grass spaces carved out by the radial footpaths were the least used areas of the park. A game was the perfect solution for both engaging the space and bringing physical activity to the park.

The idea to put basketball on grass was influenced by the multi-surfaced courts of tennis, and also by the scorching hot conditions of New York City blacktops in the summer. A site specific game called Lawn Basketball was developed in the triangular space; three teams competed against each other at the same time on three hoops using two balls.

The idea of three teams playing each other is meant to challenge the often simplistic model of one-on-one competition presented by modern sports. One of the main and accurate criticisms of sports is that they symbolize an us versus them, black and white mentality that gives refuge to neo-fascist ideology. One just has to look at English football supporter clubs to confirm this link. Three teams playing against each other discards this notion, presenting a more challenging yet accurate cultural system in its reflections on competition and power.

Hoop Gardens also successfully proved the hypothesis that competitive desire trumps fashion sense (As if professional sports hadn’t proved this already). Grown men and women, starved of fun, competitive outlets, gladly suited up for the Butterfly, Sunflower and Tomato teams, each with their own Hawaiian board shorts to battle it out on the lawn of Washington Square. Hoop Gardens also marked the introduction of the Institute’s man on the microphone, Mike McDonald.

Surprisingly, my grandmother’s priest saw footage of Hoop Gardens and decided the activity would be suitable for a church picnic. The Institute obliged, creating teams worthy of the affair: the Cardinals, Saints, and Padres.
Clearly, the sports/arts connection is a fruitful, and, now that you think about it, obvious resource for sport innovation. It is closer to the way we played as children, when the divisions between games and art and playfulness were less distinct, and, when we were young enough, non-existent. Perhaps we should consider introducing sports design to our art school curriculum, and vice versa.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Circle Rules Football (soccer) wins Come Out and Play Best Sport award

It removes significant plaque from my playful heart when I learn that Circle Rules Football was recognized as "Best Sport" in the recent Come out and Play festival here in the States. (Read the well-illustrated rules here.) Not because it's any less competitive than soccer or any less demanding of teamwork or significant athletic prowess, but simply because it's new. Because, as a new sport, it's still free from all those commercial/official interests that turns sport into something other than an invitation to play.

And maybe just a tad because it uses a "a swiss ball, a body ball, a yoga ball, or an exercise ball, whatever you want to call it." Todd Strong and I and Human Kinetics chose to call it an "Activity Ball" in our soon-to-be-published Great Games for Big Activity Balls - a collection of significantly fun games to play with the aforementioned. Which, in retrospect, makes the success of Circle Rules Football even more celebration-worthy, for Todd, myself, our publisher, the manufacturers, distributors and owners of these over-sized bouncy wonders, and especially for those of us who get to play with them.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Cross-Court Rotation Variation

Though I have written many articles about volleyball, devoted an entire funcast and even a full chapter of Junkyard Sports to volleyball, I have yet to find anywhere outside of my own writings any mention of the perhaps most profound and, dare I say revolutionary contribution to the very nature of volleyball - the Cross-Court Rotation Variation. Not even in the Wikipedia article "Volleyball Variations," or the obversely titled Thinkquest article "Variations of Volleyball," have my Googling eyes sighted anything approaching actual citing.

Perhaps a diagram is necessary. Perhaps two diagrams.

Here, from Wikipedia, the traditional method of rotating:

While in the Cross-Court Rotation Variation the Number One-positioned player in team A (herein illustrated as the Red Team) goes to the Number Six position in team B (the Green Team) while simultaneously the Number One-positioned player in team B moves to the Number Six position in team A, all other players moving down-position according to the traditional rotation rule.

Perhaps the merits of the Cross-Court Rotation Variation are too numerous to enumerate. Perhaps the concept is too subtle or simple to catch the attention of the sport-minded many. But the truth remains: simply by letting players change sides as well as positions we can not only satisfy all the purposes of the official rotation rules, but we can also make the game a lot more fun for anyone who wants to play. Anyone.

But wait, a note of hope from my colleague Roger Greenaway:
"You will find a reference to this variation of volleyball which forms part of the history of Turntable (née Revolver) ending with a climactic reference to Junkyard Sports.

"As you will discover, the cross-court variation was invented (or reinvented) in Scotland around 1990 by a group of playful trainers inspired by Terry Orlick's creative interferences with the rules of competitive games.

"I am not trying to compete for ownership of this non-competitive variation, although I do claim to be the creator of Turntable where the 'cross-court' move enables participants to take part on all sides of a discussion."
Thank you, Roger. No, no competition for ownership is implied. Key is that this concept is out there, in use, and extending beyond volleyball, eve. Hope is restored.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Ultimate Peace in Israel, Day 2 and 3 in Denmark

Writing about an event involving Palestinian and Israeli children that was led by the Ultimate Peace initiative - an organization devoted to teaching kids of different cultures to play the sport of Ultimate Frisbee, Al Jazeera reporter Diana Worman notes:

"A sporting initiative like this will always attract its critics, especially at such a sensitive time in such a sensitive place, but the ultimate aim of this week is to allow kids to be kids, and to integrate, and learn with each other and to have fun."

So there they are in Israel, making this incredible thing happen between Palestinian and Israeli children, where they are bridging a cultural chasm, and at the same time being responsible, together, for keeping the game fair - and the big thing, the main thing is that they are having fun together.

Which reminds me about something I learned during Day 2 and 3 in Denmark, at the Lego Idea Conference and a follow-up meeting of Lego designers. I was there to lead participants in my Junkyard Sports Tabletop Olympiad. And, as you know, the game is jam-packed with "teachable moments" about teamwork and creativity, resourcefulness and innovation. And I learned from the participants that what really mattered, every time I played it, had nothing to do with the copiousity of opportunities to gather meaningful insights, and everything to do with how much sheer, all-embracing fun it allowed them to have together.

Link to the Al-Jazeera story came from Joey Grey

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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re: Putting play back in Playground

Friend, and fellow Recess Advocate Amy Lux writes:
Hi Bernie,

Someone else send me info on this program last year, and I think is absolutely necessary for so many kids. I get this, "at recess, the kids sit around and play with dirt and grass", go figure its kids who never had any experience with the spirit of play. So many kids in bad areas dont get to a play lot til they get to SCHOOL... so tragic. Someone said "half the kids go at it, but there will always be a group that just stands there". A large advocacy group in Chicago was asked to look at our recess legislation, and wouldn't support it unless it defined recess as unstructured, non- instructional. I think you have to be flexible, it never hurts to have someone out there, a recess coach (MY SCHOOL HAS AN UNOFFICIAL ONE HURRAY), to organize a different area each day, which is so so so helpful. We have a huge field, and if someone wasn't out there to say, today we are going to do "this", the in crowd jock boys would take over the field each and every day to play football. hey, why not co-ed soccer or kickball, or co-ed football. It helped so much, because some of the boys just never even tried to be included, and finally felt comfortable asking to play. Thankfully, my guys were never in that group, but it can be so hard on kids.

So I am totally in favor of having a recess helper, play program. It's not like they can organize all 80 kids anyway. Some kids just need guidance.
She continues:
You are absolutely right about it being too sports oriented, but I think many of these not for profit programs are funded by the big sports clubs, PE orgs, which are overly staffed with coaches. YOUR work, the fun quirky kind of play, is more important, and would be EXACTLY what kids who don't hang with the sports crowd would gravitate to.

You said you're a grandfather!! Your grandkids have got to be the luckiest kids in town. "My grandfather's job is to make fun". My dad, 72, still plays with my kids like he were 10. It is such a riot. He still thinks he's a track running football star. I guess we, me and my brothers were so lucky that he was so fun spirited. So many kids don't have that, or have a father figure at all, just "head of household"-filling moms.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Putting the Play back in Playgrounds

Rocky (my best friend and wife, too) heard this on NPR today - a story titled: "Oakland Group Seeks More Play In School Day." It's about a school program taught by a group called Sports4Kids. They explain:
"Since 1996, Sports4Kids has been transforming chaotic playgrounds riddled with fights and inactivity into structured, healthy environments for play. This workshop is designed to provide adults within school communities the tools and strategies to help them create healthy and playful experiences for all students on their playground."
So, OK, it's still adults teaching kids the games that kids should be teaching adults how to play. But its very newsworthiness demonstrates how such a simple idea can speak to such a profound need. May they succeed beyond their wildest.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Extreme Wheelchair

Here, from the new video site "Webby Talents," an inspiring video of junkyard wheelchair play: Extreme Wheelchair:

About Webbytalents, from the site's producers:
"Webbytalents is a new website sharing for films made by or for people with disabilities accross the world. It is also a new kind of platform at the crossroads between a social site and a site media designed to break down barriers for the world's disabled.

"On Webbytalents you’ll be able to share and discover videos from around the world. Nonprofits and organizations, Webbytalents helps you publicize activities and events. It is also a good way to learn about disability from different countries.

"Everyone can participate and become an agent of change for better integration of disability."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Submit your "Sport of the Future"

Here's the description of the contest:
Do you have an overactive imagination? (We lost our years ago.) Are existing sports not doing it for you? Then dream up a sport of the future and send it our way! Be brief in your description (under 150 words, please). Include basic rules and why you chose the sport. If we like it, we might just give you a shout out. Oh, and please, no BASEketball!
Where do you think I found it? ESPN, obviously.

(I submitted the Postapocalympics)

See also: Baseketball

via Bill Harris

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Horny Toad Invent-a-Sport Contest

A Handheld Skating and Snowboarding Sail, for example, would most definitely exemplify the kinds of new invented sports for which the Horny Toad Invent-a-Sport Contest was conceived.

The site features an inspirational collection of games to get you started. You'll probably notice that almost all of the images are of adults engaged in deep explorations of wackiness. See, for example, Crazy Croquet with its cinder block wickets, Richieball (see the official Richieball site for the full rules,) and the highly evolved, Box Ball-like game of Smack Ball.

The contest has already begun. The entry deadline is August 10.

The world is waiting for you.

via Hugh McNally (ex genius)

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Crolf, in case you wondered, is
"a beautifully simple game that can be played by everyone, in any garden where a ball will roll. Hand-made in England the game comes with an easy to wheel trolley and includes 4 hammers, 4 wooden balls, 6 hools [the three way hoops that you shoot through], 6 pins, 4 markers, full instructions, a set of Crolf Laws [only 9 in all], and, of course, a brolly to shade your summer drinks."
Why do I love thee, Crolf? Let me count the ways (I get three):
1. I love thine Hools - thine three-way croquettish golf hole/hoops that seem so much more approachable from so many more directions, and yet so easy to place or displace.
2. I love the Junkyard Sports-likeness of thine silliness - the silliness of the name, the joyous absurdity of trying to play something like lawn croquet in someplace very unlike a flat, well-manicured lawn.
3. I love how thou dost manifest the spirit of playfulness and taketh it beyond the confines of officialdom and tournamentality.
Not that this is the first time there has been something golf/croquet-like. Apparently, there was something Crolfish patented as early as 1925. And Dick Schafer reports on yet another version of Crolf - one that might be called "Snow Crolf" or perhaps "Snolf."

But what and where is Crolf? Well, there's a course in Custer, South Dakota, at the Americas Best Value Inn. A Miniature Crolf course, no less or more, for yet further Crolfish contemplation.

via Roger Greenaway

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Clout Archery

Roger Greenaway writes:
Hi Bernie - finder, keeper and maker of fun

Following golf + archery, you may like to know of this ...

A rarely practiced discipline today, most archers take part in clout archery only for fun.

I kept a lookout for arrows when running round the golf course today - but it was just the usual hazards, golf balls, dogs and runners coming the other way not looking out for runners coming the other way.

I confess to being only an occasional reader of your emails as they are far too distracting!
Clout Archery - competing to shoot as high and as far as possible. Lovely fun. Watching your arrow climb and reach. Reaching with your spirit to guide its flight. Practicing. Dreaming. Competing. Hoping for the higher and further. Lovely fun - especially when you don't really take it seriously. When you and your community of clout archers simply share the delight of the flight.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Archery Golf, seriously

Archery Golf is in all likelihood the one variation of golf in which players take the term "fore" very, very seriously.

Sorry. It was something I had to share. Here's a slightly more inspiring observation: This has to be one beautiful sport. When you think about golf, and that teeny, tiny ball, and how delightful (and challenging) it can be to watch the ball in flight, you can almost vividly imagine the attraction of watching an arrow as it arcs its way towards an impossibly distant target.

This is the second time I've written about this sport (here's the first). This time, I am pleased to bring you further evidence of the beauty of the sport, by way of a most inspiring site, from a most devoted archer/golfer, Eugenio Ciocca. Ciocca is one of the few people to have designed archery golf courses and probably the only person to develop an Archery Golf System for training, equipping and providing for all the glorious needs of the archery golf enthusiast.

Though combining two different sports to create something new is an almost fool-proof technique for creating what I call a "junkyard sport," it is rare when the technique works so beautifully, and the result is so spectacularly playworthy that it attracts the devotion of someone of Mr. Ciocca's ample talents. Whether you play golf, pursue archery, or just know about the sports, a visit to the Archery Golf System website fun and inspiring.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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PoweriSers. On the one hand, if you look at their Policy statement, you can not help note how they note:
PoweriSers are safe to use, however we must state that www.powerizerz.com, its affiliates, owner / owners, supplier, or any other organization associated with it will not be held liable for any loss, injury, or death resulting from the use or misuse of PoweriSer / PoweriSers. You are advised to wear protective gear when you use your PoweriSers and you should also be in good health to use them. Use caution and rational judgement when operating the PoweriSers. PoweriSers are not suitable for small children nor are they recommended for children under age 10. Always supervise your children when they use their PoweriSer/PoweriSers. "
On the other, hand, you get a toy that gives you the possibility of whole new ways to play, new games, new sports, new track and field events; you get the opportunity to perform amazing displays of gravity-defying strength and grace, like this:

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Digiwall - Closer We Come, Step-by-Step

Digiwall "...looks like a traditional climbing-wall but it’s actually a computer game you climb upon. Every climbing-hold is equipped with a sensor that registers hands and feet. In that way DigiWall can keep track on where on the wall the climber or climbers are. This opens up for a large number of games, exercises and competitions of various kinds. DigiWall is also a musical instrument."

A computer game you can climb on. The integration of sports and technology, leading inexorably to new opportunities for bringing mind and body, self and other, into play.

Closer we come, step by step.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Shootball "...is a new sport in ubiquitous computing. This game is playing with tangible ball that can control movies displayed in surrounding screens. This game is team sport played between two teams of 3 players each. The object of the game is to score by displaying movies of own team by throwing the ball at surrounding screens."

The confluence of sports and computing has evolutionary potential for both spheres of human activity, for engaging mind and body, for bridging social and geographical boundaries. It is something to watch. Something to encourage. Something to celebrate.

See also this.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Rock-it-Ball is played with something like a soft tennis ball and plastic sticks with scoops on each end. It's a combination of something like wall ball and, well, dodge ball. Here's the brief:
"Rock-It-Ball is a very versatile sport which can be played in a number of different ways. Each different game can be adjusted to take into account the skill level of the players.

"Getting started is easy – place a tennis ball in either scoop. Throw the ball against a wall, allow it to bounce once and catch it in either scoop. Next, try catching the ball as it comes off the wall and before it bounces.

"Do it again, but now try using an over-arm shot, gently at first and then gradually increasing the power of your shots until you are confident with your throw and catch technique.

"Now you can start playing with a partner – using the Rock-It simply throw the ball to each other and catch it using the Rock-It. Then start adding points!! This is where it becomes really interesting. You score points by striking your opponent with the ball between shoulder and foot. You also score points by catching the ball in the catcher when your opponent fires the ball at you.

"Now team up and play in teams – you can play Combat-Rock-It, Combat-Rock-It-Xtreme, Team-Rock-It, Field Rock-It. Become a Rock-Iteer and download the game sheets free of charge.

"The more you play it the more you will be able to do – make up your own games and tell us about them. "
Fun. Running around, flinging foam balls at each other with your special, two-headed, Rock-It Racket. First dodgeballish sport I've heard of that lessens the pain while increasing the potential blood lust. "Make up your own games." Very fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Leet - write it, talk it, play it

It's called Leet. So, play the video already. See those funny sticks - hollow, with a kind of scoopy end. They're pretty much key to the game. The sticks, and an understanding of Ultimate Frisbee, or maybe Lacrosse and Jai Alai, even, a little.

First, let me tell you about my favorite version, Street Leet. I quote:

Setting Up

Mark the four corners of two rectangular end zones that are equal in size and the desired distance apart (this is up you and obviously depends on the number of players, but anywhere between 20 - 50yds (18 – 46m) is recommended). Mark outer boundaries, agree on the length of the match, and you are ready to go!

A Quick Guide

  1. Usually the game is played four-a-side.
  2. The object of the game is to score more goals that your opponents during the game.
  3. A goal is scored when a player within their opponents’ end zone catches a ball thrown by a team mate.
  4. During the game, once a player has possession of the ball they must come to an immediate stop.
  5. A player in control of the ball may make movements to help them pass or shoot, but must otherwise remain on the spot.
  6. No player may hold the ball for more than five seconds.
  7. If the ball is loose on the ground, players may use their hands to return the ball to their stick.
  8. Any fouls result in a free-throw to the non-offending team from where the foul took place.

As for tournament Leet:
"...Played with a stick and a ball, Leet™ can be played just about anywhere you like: on the beach, in a park, or on almost any traditional sports surface! At the professional level however, the sport is played in the unique, transparent Leet™ arena where two circular goals are raised 5.63yds (5.15m) above the arena floor....Leet™ is played four-a-side, with each team trying to surge past their opponents’ defenses in an effort to score more goals than their competitors."

I like this new sport of Leet. I like the energy, the effort, the belief that has forged this into what it is now. Even if it started out as an idea for a reality show called "The Winning Team." The reality looks better than the show.

It's got attitude. It speaks Leet.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Best Game Ever - Fantastic Fun

As you know, my interest in Improv Everywhere has been high ever since I first heard about their playful public theatrics. Most recently, Improv Everywhere launched a new, shall we say, play, which very well might prove, as they themselves describe it, to be the Best Game Ever.

Start here, with a video of the event. Then read about it. Then ask yourself what it would be like if you had actually been there, been one of the parents, or better yet, one of the kids.

This Best Game Ever is right on the edge of art, theater, and social comment. It wouldn't succeed if not for the playfulness and sensitivity of the Improv Everywhere company - the people who conceived and staged the event. It could have proven insulting to both parents and players, it could have proven upsetting, been perceived as an act of ridicule. But apparently the event stopped short of being ridiculous, just at the point of being almost entirely believable. If not because of the believability of the actor-spectators, then because of the player's willingness to belive. If not by the actuality of the giant scoreboard, then most definitely by the blimp. Why don't we do this for all kids, everywhere - invest great effort and expense, yes, but, for the kids, and parents - to give them one random hour, of sheer, magical, transformational fun. Beyond game and sport. A theater of total participation.

Fantastic fun. The fun of fantasy fulfilled. Ah, delicious.

via Metafilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Aesthletics - sports artists

We begin our exploration of the practice of Aesthletics with an brief critique of one of their sport-arts, StraightJacket Baseball. In the words of Warren Fry, of the Brooklyn Rail "In this softball variant invented by Tom Russotti, founder of Aesthletics, the bases are actually members of the fielding team in arm restrictive garments. The player has a ten-yard circle within which to dodge opposing players trying to make it on base. Other than this, normal softball rules applied. It was decided, after a mid-game argument, that infielders couldn’t block runners as they tried to catch the base. Bases were allowed, however, to wear out opposing players by running in circles. Improvised strategies and sudden rule changes are part of the Aesthletic treatment of the sporting act—which stresses socio-creative dynamics over competitiveness and athletic virtuosity."

Though we may not have heard of Aaesthletics, StraitJacket Softball, and Bosch on Ice, we are more than passing familiar with that other example of Aesthletic socio-creativity, by that, I mean, of course, no less than the now classic sport of Whiffle Hurling.

And then there's Hoop Gardens, yet another manifestation of joyfully athletic irreverence from your local Aesthletician, something that appears to be a basketball game, played on the grass, with three basketball hoops, and, of course, two balls.

I would like, if I may, add my personal side note to all this:

Aesthletics is very much like a joke
because the fun it is creating is funny.
It is nonetheless to be taken quite seriously in deed,
this intermingling of art and sport, this work of socio-creativity.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Deep Rope

There was a minute or two in that increasingly amazing movie Mystic Ball (increasingly amazing just in the memory of what you've witnessed: the love, the play, the skill), when you get a glimpse of a few girls playing rope. Take a look. Click on the image if you want to see it bigger.

Looks like they're playing Double Dutch, right? Except, as Greg Hamilton, director of Mystic Ball notes: "The girl in the center (Su Su Hlaing's younger sister) is jumping 3 ropes - her rope she is turning and the two DD ropes. The girls are all kicking the ball lightly to keep it going up and down a few inches above the foot. There are six points of contact with the ball: top of the toes (the one they are using here), inside edge of foot, outside edge of foot, sole, heel, and knee. Chibya, or top of the toes - is the foundation of Chinlone playing and considered the most important technique. These girls are keeping the ball below knee height as they kick it to keep it up. It's very difficult to do in such a controlled and precise way. If they were just balancing the ball on their feet it would be much easier - they could actually take their eyes off their own ball to look at the girl in the center skipping. Whenever you are doing this type of chibya exercise, you have to watch every single kick - no looking away at all. Adjustments in aim and timing have to be made non-stop as long as the ball is up. As you can imagine, this kind of control takes years of practice for hours a day. They can also do some tricks in the center of the ropes - crossing their own rope, turning around, skipping backwards etc. This style of play is also something only women do, you may recall that Su Su says in the film that "men are not patient enough" to do the solo performance style."

OK. Now look at this picture from the same game? Things any clearer?

This is the kind of stuff that gives me chills, that makes me just about want to pray to the spirit of play, if you know what I mean, if there is such a thing. Double Dutch, from 4 corners, while balancing a ball on one foot. And, o, wait. Isn't the girl in the middle also jumping her own rope while she's jumping the two crossed ropes while keeping a ball balanced on her foot? How utterly accomplished is that? How fun, how lovely, how spiritual, how miraculous how the spirit of play has moved these girls to such profound and practiced depth!

Play. Do not doubt its powers. Even when no one wins, everyone wins.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Top Ten Tips for Run-of-the-Mill Players to Enjoy Outstanding Games - from Craig Conley, guest blogger

There's nothing so comfy as mediocrity. Indeed, our culture teaches us both explicitly and implicitly that "okay" is good enough. But when it comes to fun, the middle-of-the-road game players cheat themselves out of something precious. Lackluster players miss out on the special spark that characterizes outstanding game play. We're not talking about the thrill of victory versus the agony of defeat. An outstanding player will have more fun losing a game than an average player will have winning a game. The fact is that mediocre players cannot, by definition, get caught up in the lighthearted spirit of the game.

Following are ten techniques for transforming yourself into an outstanding player of your favorite game.

1. Seek your game's hidden source of entertainment, its heart of fascination. In Classical times, Greek and Roman games consisted mainly of running, wrestling, jumping, riding, and racing. On the surface, these games were nothing out of the ordinary, yet their players made them the world's most extraordinary entertainments, exciting the enthusiasm and awakening the spirits of the spectators.[1]

To find your game's heart of fascination, observe those moments when players become carried away, when they exclaim joyously, when they leap into the air or rise off their seats as if suddenly weightless. Notice those moments when teams cheer one another, when the thrill of the play dissolves rivalry. When you identify the dynamic at play—the true spirit of the game—you can foster it, prolong it, and take it to Olympic heights.

2. Improve your flexibility and agility (whether muscular or mental). To stretch your gray matter, a Web search for "lateral thinking exercise" will offer puzzles unsolvable by traditional step-by-step logic. To increase your physical flexibility, the "sun salutation" of Yoga is a 12-step series of poses that exercise every muscle and joint of the body. Do a Web search for "sun salutation" to find free pictorial guidance.

3. Use drills to work on weaknesses (whether muscular or mental). If another player is one step ahead of you mentally or one second faster than you physically, that's a winning edge. A single increment of improvement may be all you need for success. Set simple goals and work one step at a time.

4. Better your memory. A good memory is a boon to virtually any game. A Web search for "memory game" will yield hundreds of free online resources for exercising your powers of recollection.

5. Dispel falsehoods that hinder you. Are you convinced that golf isn't a woman's game, or that softball is a young person's game, or that pinball is about making lights blink with a rolling ball? Educate yourself about your game. Read books, explore websites, talk to other players. There's always more to learn.

6. Sharpen your concentration. This is the age of the eleven-second attention span. Being easily distracted is ruinous to game play. Sharpening your concentration takes conscious, prolonged, repeated effort. Keep a journal about your game. Thinking and writing about your game will help to increase your power of concentration.

7. Manage your stress. Stress management techniques will help you improve virtually any game. A Web search for "stress management" will yield hundreds of free online tips and techniques. One marvelous stress reducer is laughter. A Web search for "laughter therapy" will inform you about how laughter reduces stress hormones, boosts immunity, promotes a positive attitude, and engenders a feeling of power.

8. Practice solo. If your game involves two or more people, don't let that fact discourage you from practicing any aspects you can work on by yourself.

9. Embrace change. "Change is necessary to improve your game. You must not be afraid to risk giving up the known for the unknown if you wish to play better."[2]

10. The final tip is too specific to apply to just any game. You already know what it implies, or will soon discover it through your ongoing self-education. Perhaps this tip will require the help of a coach or the advice of a teaching pro. Perhaps it will involve visualization techniques, or the use of a video camera, or familiarization with quantum physics. This final tip may be the ultimate key to your fullest enjoyment of your game.


[1] Lewis Henry Morgan, League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee or Iroquois, 1904, p. 303.
[2] Philip B. Capelle, Play Your Best Pool, 1995, p. 383.

Craig Conley is an independent scholar and author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins) and Magic Words: A Dictionary (Red Wheel). His website is One Letter Words. His Zen version of Rock-Paper-Scissors is called "Moon, Fish, Ocean."

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The Spirit of the Game - from guest blogger Craig Conley

The "Spirit of the Game"

by Craig Conley

Without the spirit of the game,
what would the game be?
—Nevin H. Gibson,
The Encyclopedia of Golf

Arabian folklore tells of a wish-granting genie imprisoned in an oil lamp or bottle. Might players innocently conjure such a spirit in a game of spin-the-bottle? Indeed, every game has a motivating force at the heart of it -- its own sort of soul. Whatever we might call it -- essence, atmosphere, intention, or ethos -- it's that special spark that distinguishes the game from all others. Like a genie of folklore, the Spirit of the Game grants good sports a wish -- the ultimate wish. (We'll get to that in a moment.)

The Spirit of the Game is not necessarily spelled out in the rules. Indeed, "There are situations in which adherence to the so-called letter of the rules can be taken to violate the spirit of the game."[1]

The Spirit of the Game is a distillation of the intent of the rules. It has been called "a self-regulating set of norms without which some games would degenerate into anarchy."[2]

It is a frame of mind, not a commandment carved in stone. It's a point of view, a sense of humor, a strength of character. Novelist Richard Le Gallienne summed it up perfectly: "To be whimsical, therefore, in pursuit of a whim, fanciful in the chase of a fancy, is surely but to maintain the spirit of the game."[3]

Because it is typically undefined, the Spirit of the Game can be abused. Unsportsmanlike conduct (like taunting and intimidation) is one indication of abuse; bringing the game into disrepute is another.[4]

When honored across the board, the Spirit of the Game turns opponents into equals. Most importantly, it engenders fun. While camaraderie is jolly and competition is stimulating, "the real spirit of the game is all about having fun."[5]

Though each game has its own unique Spirit, there are some universal characteristics. The Spirit of the Game is:

• even-tempered
• self-possessed, yet unselfish
• levelheaded
• well-balanced
• untroubled
• either easygoing or animated
• motivated
• spontaneous
• committed
• earnest
• disciplined
• wholehearted
• courteous
• honorable
• responsible
• idealistic
Ultimately, the Spirit of the Game "is the only thing in the game which is lasting."[6]

Corporate trainer Julius E. Eitington makes an interesting observation: when players become caught up in the Spirit of the Game, they "become themselves."[7]

What is one's true self, but that of a player on the grand game board of life? Edward Clark Marsh once described being enlivened by the Spirit of the Game: "If it was not for a moment real life, it at least made you wish it were."[8]

Other signs that the Spirit of the Game is present include:

• both sides wish each other good luck
• both sides cheer one another (winning or losing is secondary; the game itself is a victory for all [9])
• everyone plays fair (no cheating, no bending of the rules)
• players celebrate the game's tradition, safeguard its precedent, and carry on its legacy
• players supervise themselves.
Game scientist Andrew Thornton notes that "There is no agreed upon definition of the Spirit of the Game, but there is a pervasive sense that one should play by it. The Spirit of the Game is the Police" inside each player's head.[10]

But we've neglected the quintessential sign that the Spirit of the Game is present. And that's when the ultimate wish is granted: the firing shot that sets play into motion. When the game is afoot, all else is inconsequential!

Fun Facts about the Spirit of the Game:

• In Ultimate Frisbee, where there are no referees and no penalties, the Spirit of the Game is the underlying philosophy. "The Ultimate player will always praise and support successful actions on both teams. It is a normal thing to introduce yourself to the opponent at the beginning of every point and to wish him a good game. And after the game both teams stand in a circle talking about the game and singing a song for the opponent team. So it is a lot more than just a short handshake after a game."[11]

• The Spirit of the Game comes into play "before the game has even begun."[12]

• "Soccer is unique among sports in that the official's job is first and foremost to maintain the spirit of the game as well as the safety of all concerned; this concern outweighs all other laws of the game."[13]

• The Spirit of the Game of soccer has been traced back to the early to mid nineteenth century, when the game developed from its folk roots into its modern form.[14]

• The Spirit of the Game of curling "demands good sportsmanship, kindly feeling, and honourable conduct."[15]

• The Fighting Spirit of the Game of American football is persistently aggressive in nature: "Throughout the history of football, the violent spirit of the game has endured, even as other elements of the game have changed."[16]

• The Spirit of the Game of lacrosse "is a feeling of honor and dignity."[17]

• The Spirit of the Game reminds players that not everything is a matter of life and death, that consequences are temporary, and that results are not critical.[6]

• The Spirit of the Game teaches players to "accept success with grace and failure with restraint."[18]

• The Spirit of the Game of golf is characterized by disciplined conduct, courtesy, and sportsmanship at all times.[19]

[1] Allan C. Hutchinson, It's All in the Game, 2000, p. 195.
[2] Lincoln Allison, Amateurism in Sport, 2001, p. 161.
[3] The Quest of the Golden Girl, 1897, p. 35.
[4] William John Morgan, Ethics in Sport, 2007, p. 126.
[5] Richard Carlson, The Don't Sweat Guide to Golf, 2002, p. 205.
[6] Division for Girls' and Women's Sports, Sports Programs for College Women, June 21-27, 1969, p. 23.
[7] The Winning Trainer, 2001, p. 142.
[8] "Anthony Hope's 'Sophy of Kravonia,'" The Bookman, 1907, p. 381.
[9] Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring, 2000, p. 124.
[10] Belinda Wheaton, ed., Understanding Lifestyle Sport, 2004, p. 187.
[11] Jorg Bahl, Ultimate Frisbee, 2007, p. 4.
[12] John Byl, Co-Ed Recreational Games, 2002, p. 205.
[13] Andy Caruso, Soccer Coaching, 1996, p. 29.
[14] Sharon Colwell, "The 'Letter' and the 'Spirit': Football Laws and Refereeing in the Twenty-First Century," The Future of Football, 2000, p. 201.
[15] Gary Belsky & Neil Fine, 23 Ways to Get to First Base, 2007, p. 209.
[16] William D. Dean, The American Spiritual Culture, 2002, p. 148.
[17] Steve Bristol, quoted in Our Game: The Character and Culture of Lacrosse by John M. Yeager, 2005, p. 79.
[18] Hubert Vogelsinger, The Challenge of Soccer, 1973, p. 274.
[19] United States Golf Association, Golf Rules Illustrated, 2004, p. 4.

About the author:

Craig Conley is an independent scholar and author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins) and Magic Words: A Dictionary (Red Wheel). His website is http://www.oneletterwords.com/ His Zen version of Rock-Paper-Scissors can be found at http://www.moonfishocean.com/

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Mystic Ball - the movie

When I first wrote about the Myanmar game of Chinlone, I really only had minor intimations of how important that game was to become to me. It wasn't until I watched Greg Hamilton's movie, Mystic Ball, that I understood not only his profound passion for Chinlone, but my passion for The Well-Played Game.

When I wrote The Well-Played Game, I described a pivotal experience I had, during a game of Ping Pong. Later, I found a wonderful story by Bill Russell, in which he describes an experience of genuine transcendence, similar to mine, but in the highly competitive game of professional basketball. But in all these years of teaching, Mystic Ball, the movie, was the first time I've found the Well-Played game expressed so purely, understood so deeply, documented so thoroughly - in a game totally devoted to sharing that particular experience.

The film opens with the following Myanmar proverb: "The spirit of give and take that breeds happiness is the foundation on which the game of Chinlone rests." We are then transported into an astonishingly ornate building, festooned with bare electric bulbs and intricate carvings covered in gold paint. On the inside, we see a kind of theater-in-the-round. On stage, 6 people playing with a rattan ball. Hamilton comments: "Getting to play with this team that I just played with is like playing with Michael Jordan and Baryshnikov and Fred Astaire and Bruce Lee and Muhammed Ali and all the most beautiful movement people and sports people I could ever imagine...It's surely the most fun, beautiful, mystical feeling...This is like my religion and my love and my heart. Chinlone is just all about love and happiness."

The film progresses from scene to scene of beauty, passion, grace and skill. We observe the art of making a Chinlone ball. We see the game played everywhere throughout Myanmar, by men and women, children and elders, on the street, in practice courts, in dedicated arenas. We follow the highest practitioners of the art. Director and author Greg Hamilton explains what he has discovered in the game of Chinlone with a clarity and intensity that characterizes every scene of this remarkable film.

"The most amazing thing about Chinlone, Hamilton comments, "is that it's not competitive. There's no opposing team, no scoring, and no winners or losers. The team tries to keep the ball up as long as possible. But that's not enough. The real goal is to do the most difficult and beautiful moves they can."

"Watching them play was a revelation. What really stuck out was just how playful they were. They weren't arguing or fighting, like always happens in competitive sports. These guys were just having...a good time. It really made me think about how most sports are not playful."

His background is in martial arts. He says: "I used to think of myself as a warrior. But deep down, I never really liked hurting people." In Chinlone, however, he discovered that he could "do something as if my life depended on it, but without having to defeat anyone."

Near the end of the film, he takes us to his favorite Chinlone practice court. He comments: "There's so much beauty inside this circle - the flow of the ball between us, and the 'tic toc' sound the ball makes as we support each other."

I was fortunate enough to get to talk to Greg about this beautiful film, and to get a personal experience of his deep passion for the game. Basically, I just wanted to convey my excitement and gratitude for what he has brought to us - and to me, especially, in his being able to capture and convey what I have devoted my life to teaching. Greg commented: "I didn't really want to be in the film in the first place." He just wanted to show us the game itself. But he was as much a part of the story as the game was, and he couldn't avoid it. What he wanted most to share with us was that: "Something as serious as Chinlone could be so playful." What he most wanted us to perceive was that "above all, Chinlone is a way of loving."

Later, I sent Greg a draft of this post, asking for further comment. Here's part of his reply:
The interaction between the ball and the players and the players with each other is sensuous, I can't think of a better way to put it. In my opinion, and I've asked some of men players about this and they agree - Chinlone it is strangely similar to making love. Because of a certain modesty with the the women in Myanmar, I've not been able to ask women players some of these kind of questions. It's like the essence of what making love is - not the rubbing together of body parts, but the intense, immediate connection and playing together of spirits. It really is play isn't it? This is one of the unique and breathtaking things I've found in Chinlone. And you can do it for hours at time with 1,2,3,4,5, or even more other people! When I see dogs playing and frolicking together - it's making love through play, and that is the feeling I've always wanted my life to be full of. There is always love and the sensual inside real play.

So many things that I didn't say or bring up in the film, for various reasons. One being that I didn't want to come across preachy, and of course there is only so much you can fit into 83 minutes. There are lots and lots of other things to share about Chinlone.

I think Chinlone is a feminine sport. One is nurtured and embraced in this game. It's not about power or dominance. There is a gentleness, an inclusiveness and a loving feeling that is always there – even between the audience and the players. Men and women play together, old folks and young ones play together. At the first Chinlone festival I saw, there was a team that had a 72 year old (in fact it was Wei Za Than, the one with the beautiful wife!) and a 9 year old on the same team - I was blown away!

All of the play in Chinlone is an end in itself. There are no arbitrary rules, just a certain etiquette and a lot of intuition inside the circle. I love that. There is a struggle with gravity, that as skill develops, becomes an elemental dance of pure flow.

So many things that I love about Chinlone - it is so hard that everyone, even the greatest players end up looking foolish fairly often - nothing to do but laugh about it, and 5 or 10 minutes into a game everyone is laughing for sure. You didn't see a lot of this in the film because I focused on the festival plays and because there is an audience, the players are a little more serious than usual. It's a very, very funny game.

Here we are on this giant spinning ball - in orbit. I feel a connection between the way Chinlone is played and the orbiting of planets. I'm still working on this one and trying to find clear ways of talking about it.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Chinlone and nine other Ways to Play Soccer

The ever-resourceful Neatorama points us to this article describing "10 Strange Football Mods." So I clicked. And I read. OK, so it's not about what I, American that I am, think of as football. It's about what the world thinks of as soccer. But that's neither here nor there. Or both. And, speaking of soccer, it does in fact point us to 10 different, highly soccer-like, but arguably non-soccer games, which is something in which I, as your local Junkmaster, seeker of the sport-variant, have significant and public interest.

What I wasn't prepared for, however, was the very first soccer-like game I read about - a game called "Chinlone" or "Mystic Ball" - a soccer variant that is so beautiful and so beyond soccer that it is the subject of a most lovely-looking movie.

"Chinlone," the movie site explains, "is a combination of sport and dance, a team sport with no opposing team. In essence chinlone is non-competitive, yet it’s as demanding as the most competitive ball games. The focus is not on winning or losing, but how beautifully one plays the game. A team of six players pass the ball back and forth with their feet and knees as they walk around a circle. One player goes into the center to solo, creating a dance of various moves strung together. The soloist is supported by the other players who try to pass the ball back with one kick. When the ball drops to the ground it’s dead, and the play starts again."

"...a team sport with no opposing team." "...the focus is not on winning or losing, but how beautifully one playes the game"! How inspiring, how Well-Played Game-like is that?!

There are nine other soccerish games described, including the afore-described Bossaball, the yet-to-be-sufficiently-delved-into Jorkyball and several many clearly playworthy, probably innovative soccer-like sports. But this chinlone game touched my veritable spirit, engaged my actual faith in what play can lead us into.

via Neatorama
from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


A Competitor's Perspective on New Games and Ultimate Frisbee

Joey Grey, my Ultimate Frisbee friend of many years now, sent me this link to an article titled: "The Origins of Ultimate Frisbee's 'Spirit' - Is THIS What You Signed Up For?"

I've not encountered such a deeply researched and passionately negative perspective on New Games and Ultimate Frisbee before. The main argument: that the "Spirit of the Game has nothing to do with good sportsmanship and everything to do with survival of the weakest" is, on the one hand, oddly distorted, and on the other, remarkably perceptive.

Ultimately, if you excuse the expression, this article is a real contribution to the evolution of everything that we tried to do with New Games. He has included some valuable links to scholarly and historic documents about the New Games "movement," and provides us with some major insights about why our ideas are still as revolutionary today as they were 40 years ago.

Perhaps, before you read his article, it might help to understand who the author is, and why:
"Frank Huguenard began playing Frisbee in the late 1960’s and being from a large chaotic family in Indiana, grew up fiercely competitive. By the late seventies, Frank had become fairly proficient with a disc and being athletically inclined, when he heard that there was a Frisbee-centric team sport on the Purdue campus, he immediately took to it and became involved with the sport called Ultimate. Being a square peg stuffed into a round hole (a competitive jock amongst a culture designed specifically to accommodate neither), Frank has spent decades ostensibly miserable in a environment (ironically created to emphasize fun and inclusion) that he consistently experienced as hostile and unaccepting towards him, his out of the box thinking and his unconventional throws & moves."
He correctly concludes: "you can't have a competitive sport based on the kind of ideology that creates a level playing field for the weakest player to have a fair shot at winning." Creating a level playing field for the weakest player to have a fair shot at winning - that's exactly what we did with our New Games, over and over again. We did it by not taking competition seriously. By demonstrating alternatives, by creating opportunities for people to experience "loving competition." Were we, as the author charges, "excluding ultra-competitive personalities from competition?" Why should we? Our culture has produced endless opportunities for ultra-competitive personalities to compete, like, for example, war. What we were creating were alternatives to "win at all costs" competition at a time when there were very, very few, not even skateboarding or bungee jumping.

The author has gone on to create what he considers to be a solution - a truly competitive version of Ultimate Frisbee that he calls Disc Hoops. It's not the kind of game I'd be able to play, or even want to. Me, I'm still creating alternatives of the "anybody can win" type. Not to compete with him, heaven forfend, but because, as he so clearly points out, the need for more and newer games doesn't seem to have diminished at all, at all.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Table Frisbee

"You need a table, lubricated with washing-up liquid and water, and a disc."

And thus we learn about yet another Junkyard Sport-like event: Tabletop Frisbee-spinning. True in all its dimensions to the nature of sportish events, it involves timing and grace, agility and focus, and has the potential to astound.

via Grow-a-Brain

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Best Homemade Mini Golf Course Ever

It is always gratifying to see evidence of the spirit of Junkyard Golf manifesting itself on the edges of the Internet.

Here, from YouTube, The Best Homemade Mini Golf Course Ever

Note how the designer keeps to the "assemblage" spirit of Junkyard Golf - not really securing anything to anything or ataching anything - just putting things together.

Not also the devotion, dedication, degree to which this whole silly thing is taken seriously.

  • Hole #1 - " up the hornby railway track , around the hotwheels bend & fired into the hole"
  • Hole #2 - " up and around the three loops and then fired into the hole"
  • Hole #3 - " up the hornby track down the videos and fired into the hole"
  • Hole #4 - " along the piano, some how. oh yeah, then fired in...
  • Hole #5 - " up the hornby track and fired up the tube and into the hole"
  • Hole #6 - " up and then down the hornby track, then fired into the tube and then in the hole"
  • Hole #7 - " up the hornby track and fired off the sofa into the hole"
  • Hole #8 - " up the tube and then fired back down the tube into then hole"
  • Hole #9 - " up the hornby track then fired against the tube, the tube falls over and the ball rolls along the piano into the hole"

see also: The Best Homemade Domino Golf Course Ever

via Junkyard Sports

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Skunneling - milking joy out of concrete

In case you missed it, Bill Donahue, in his February 1999 column in MetropolisMag, first reported on the sport of Skunneling - a brand of extreme sport then very much in vogue in Ventura (California). I was as impressed by the sport as by Donahue's reporting. He wrote:
(Greg) Small reaches a weedy culvert and hops in. Then, as a large dog hails him, barking and bashing against a high cyclone fence, he sinks into the ground. He disappears within a tubular storm drain, lies down feet-first on a makeshift long skateboard, and starts to roll. The sound of his wheels roars in the pipe, and ahead of him, way beyond the puny range of his headlamp, there is human noise--the haunting, echoey laughter and shouts of a friend careening along at 20 miles per hour.

Ah, skunneling! The very word--a mutation of "skateboarding in tunnels" and a phonic cousin of the slur "scum"-- captures the ancient punk heritage of America's newest way to shatter your collarbone. Skunneling, which has been flourishing in Ventura for the past couple years, is one more pastime invented by scrappy malcontents determined to milk joy out of concrete.

In case you didn't quite understand how anyone can skateboard in a storm drain, this source elucidates:
"It's a form of either laying with your back on the skateboard and pushing with your feet or by lying down on the board and using your hands to pull yourself through the drains."
Ah, of course, lying down. So very lovely.

via Bryan Alexander and Meine Kleine Fabrik

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Whiffle Hurling

Clive Thompson of Wired writes about an MFA grad student at Rutgers, Tom Russotti, who invented a game he eventually called "Whiffle Hurling" - apparently a version of the Irish game of hurling played with whiffle bats and ball.

In addition to the apparent playworthiness of this game, what struck me was Thompson's perspective on the whole thing, as a games columnist for Wired. He writes:
"After all, we live in a golden age of play. The video-game industry is bristling with innovation: You've got haptic controllers on the Wii, titles like Eye of Judgment merging card-games with computers, and the increasingly strange economic activity in online worlds. Our culture is clearly hungry for new forms of play.

"Yet how many new major physical sports have you played in recent years? Zero, I'll bet. The pantheon of major team-sports -- football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey -- hasn't significantly altered in decades.

"So Russotti decided to expand the field a bit. By creating a new sport, he decided, he could level the playing field between athletes. When you join a pickup game of basketball or football, it's always slightly marred by the fact that some of the players will be totally experienced -- making it slightly more dull for the less-expert folks. A new sport wouldn't have that problem."
We, of course, are aware that people are continually inventing new sports as reported so faithfully in the Junkyard Sports News. But Tompson, typical of so many of those who have come to define games as things that happen on a computer, saw Russotti's accomplishment as groundbreaking. Well, for Thompson, and Russotti, it is true enough, groundbreaking enough. And perhaps the same will be true for those computer game players who read this article. I hope so. I hope they pay special attention to Russotti's comment:
"Essentially, were figuring out how to play. And this is, counter intuitively, a big part of what makes a new game so great: You get to explore the intriguing and unpredictable ways that the rules interact."
Yup. That's what it's all about, the fun of new game and sports and Web 2.0 even. Not just the newness, but more the getting to invent them together.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Ladder Golf

Ladder GolfIf you've already read about the game of Washers, and you happened to come across the story about Laundry Balls, you should most definitely be reading the very article you are reading now, because this is yet another throwing, backyard-type game you can make out of junk, or buy commercially, and propogate great fun.

Many are the varieties and approaches to ladder golf. You might begin reading about how you can make your own, traditional version of Ladder Golf. Top Toss

Or, you might consider the immediate satisfaction gained from purchasing this ready-made version, called Top Toss, which has the added benefit of a less-than-traditional trapezoidal design for that "I really deserved that score" feeling.

Or, perhaps you might consider reading the Wikipedia article to find out all about the rules and origins and stuff.

Spin It You might even consider something like the "Spin-It " version of the game, which, as you can so clearly see from the thoughtfully attached illustration, has 4 different goals (each a different color), on a wheel-like apparatus which turns as soon as a bolo attaches itself, thus, giving rise to a different goal of a different color and scoring value, or not, depending on how many bolos therefrom append.

How potentially fun is that?

From Junkyard Sports

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