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"Sandlot Summer"

This image from the Streetplay photo library captures the spirit of Sandlot Baseball even better than pictures of kids in uniforms playing on a baseball diamond. What prompted me to share this photo was an email from a friend quoting this article in Sunday's New York Times Magazine (free registration is required if you want to view this article).

And so, I quote:
The baseball clinic last summer resembled, by design, the casual off-hours scrimmaging of Lee and his pals, combined with favorite drills and exercises from their own childhood sports clinics and Little League. Hooked into the pure fun of the game -- throwing and catching a ball, swinging a bat and loping across a green field yelling ''Mine, mine, mine'' -- they pulled the younger players in after them.

What the little kids did care about was not striking out. So no one ever struck out. The rule was, You swing until you hit something. You could fly out; you could get tagged out. But there is no humiliation in flying out or getting tagged out. At the end of one game, I heard a boy yelling all the way up the hill as he ran to meet his dad, ''I hit a home run!'' Had he? I thought. It didn't ring a bell. Then I realized, He had. He had swung at so many pitches I had lost interest and was reading my book, but he finally connected with the ball. I watched him join his dad and head for the car, with the trace of a swagger.

I Googled my way to this article, where, by chance, I found the following:
The contrast between today’s suffocated, cocooned pre-teens and children of that long gone day is enormous. Today’s kids are micromanaged by parents, by schools, by youth coaches, scout leaders, tutors. The children of that earlier time were allowed an unbelievable amount of personal freedom including freedom of association (choosing friends and making enemies), freedom to play without adult supervision, freedom to be alone, and freedom to entertain oneself turning any everyday object into a toy.

You know, no matter how many times I write and talk about those disappearing things like recess and unsupervised play, it's still hard for me to accept how much things have changed for kids. And even harder to believe that stories like these, about adults letting kids play their own way to their own personal truths, have become so poignant and so rare.

Fantasy Flicking

I just can't stop thinking about Subbuteo. Subbuteo. Subbuteo. With these cool accurate miniature punching baglike players that you flick, that's correct, flick. Into the ball and/or into the opposing accurately-rendered, punching-baglike players. I mean, it's so cool. It kinda concentrates all your athleticism into your finger tip. And, boy, can you get good at it! And I don't mean just physically. But just like a real soccer player, you can get strategic, if you know what I mean, because, unlike the games it mirrors, we each get our own turn, unhindered. As if we were playing some sort of billiards. Billiards, you say? Indeed.

Do you have a Subbuteo set? Is there at least one Subbuteo-bound person on your Ch(anuka)/(ristmus) list? If not, it's not too late for a gift certificate from perhaps Subbuteo World.

The origins of Subbuteo? According to the Worthing Fivestar Table football league: "In the 1920s a Liverpudlian called William Keeling invented a game aimed at young boys called 'New Footy'. This consisted of flat, cut out cardboard figures which were mounted in hemispherical bases. The aim of the game was to use these players to flick a plastic ball into a goal. The game rolled along for many years, without any serious competitors - until shortly after World War 2.

"Subbuteo Table Soccer game was launched in 1947 by Peter Adolph to compete with New Footy - it was an instant success. In 1947 materials of all kinds were were in short supply and the original 'Assembly' set consisted of two cardboard teams, one celluloid ball and metal framed goals with paper netting. You will, no doubt, have realised that a playing pitch was not included. The instructions, however, advised the recipient of this early subbuteo game to '.....mark your pitch (chalk provided) on an ex-army blanket'..... and thousands did just that.

"But why Subbuteo? Hardly a name that was easy on the tongue, or relevant to football. Originally, the intention was to call the game 'The Hobby' but this could not get registered. However, the Latin for the bird of that name is Falco Subbuteo ..... hence 'Subbuteo'."

And hence, indeed, Subbuteo. Imagine going back to those days of paper netting and cardboard teams. Imagine your very own Subbuteo set - with milk bottle top bases. It is Junkyard Soccer at its finest. At your very fingertips.

The Rolled-Up Blueprint in a Panty Hose with Sock and Water Bottle Golf Club

During the now infamous "Leaping Lizards Family Fun Fest," someone created the golf club depicted above. To date, it is the most elaborate and successful Junkyard Golf club ever manufactured. The near horizontal water bottle is close to perfectly positioned. It is strong enough to deliver a significant motivational force. And hitting a golf ball of any manufacture (paper or plastic) results in such a soul satisfying sound (something like "plock," I believe), that one almost doesn't care where one's ball goes. It is clearly a foreshadowing of golf-like clubs and miniature-golf-obstacle-like apparatus yet to be built. A guantlet, as it were, thrown in the conceptual face of future Junkyard Golf inventors and players. From its vantage point, the destiny of Junkyard Golf is vivid. "Fore," I say. "Fore, indeed!"

The Sack Circle

Insofar as it is a ring made out of a plastic grocery sack, we're calling it the Sack Circle. Invented by field researcher Elyon, my son the doctor, DeKoven, the grocery store plastic Sack Ring brings a new source of games for junkyard sporting. Granted, ring-based sports are a bit, shall we say, obscure. Yet, for the Quoits fanatics amongst us, the Sack Circle is a veritable boon.

We anticipate that the Sack Circle will find equal if not more enthusiastic welcome by those who enjoy the occasional Ring Toss, at home or at county fairs or in the local, traditional, 18th century English pub. Not to mention Ultimate Scooter owners, hoping someday to experience a game of Ultimate Ring Toss.

Elyon and I, in exploring yet further implications of the entire Sack Circle phenomenon-to-be, fell into something like a chasm of joy upon discovering how easy it was to pass the Sack Circle from hand to hand, no matter who's hand we were passing to. It reminded me a bit of the Victorian child's holiday game of Hunt the Ring, don't you know. But what made us laugh so hard was imagining what it'd be like playing this in a crowd - you know, people milling around, shaking hands, passing the ring. The very stuff of another totally pointless game!

Waterball, Danceball, Bimboball and Junklust

"The Waterball is easy to use, just blow it up , open up the zipper, the rider enters inside, close the zipper and re-inflate the "WATERBALL again to full capacity. And your off water walking !"

See, there's this other, not often discussed, and not necessarily environmentally-correct form of junk collection, called "buying."

You read about the Waterball, Danceball, Bimboball, and you can barely restrain yourself from envisioning a game of giant, floating, human controlled marbles, for example, in which each player is Waterball encased. Played in the ocean, maybe, in, of course, 15 minute intervals so players can unzip and breathe.

It's not your fault, you know. The lust for playworthy junk is a financially debilitating response common to all Junkmasters.

The only solution I can think of is to: 1) acknowledge the futility of resistance, 2) form a Junkmasters Cooperative, 3) collect dues, 4) go ahead and order that giant inflatable banana.


The following is an idea from the folks at the Halfbakery, "a communal database of original, fictitious inventions, edited by its users. It was created by people who like to speculate, both as a form of satire and as a form of creative expression." So, this should give you some idea about what to expect - creativity combined with unfettered wackiness and irreverence.

Someone called "ldischler" came up with this half-baked idea: "Stringball resembles soccer, except the ball is one meter in diameter, and is very heavy, being solid string. One end is tied to a peg, and as the game progresses, the stringball unwinds. As it slowly shrinks, the game goes faster and faster until no more ball."

And here are the first three contributions from a virtual plethora of playful personae:

Perhaps there could be an additional player for each team whose job it is to 'peg down' the string. One player per side; the new peg can only be added between the ball itself and the last peg to be placed. Obviously, either "pegger" would be vulnerable to body-checking when not in the act of pegging the string. Suddenly, this game begins to sound like Quidditch.
Trout, Nov 08 2004

Count me in, I wanna play too.....do we have to kick the ball, or could we have a hockey-style stick with a razor blade on it? When the string is cut, you are penalized, the string is restaked at that point and play begins anew. I think shin guards might be a good idea too.....
normzone, Nov 08 2004

"...and certain lengths of the string could be elastic for added boingy."
"If the string breaks while in play the team having had possession at the time of the break loses points or" an eye....
Cubical_View, Nov 09 2004

Enough said. Add large balls of string, yarn, and rubber bands to your Junkmasters' toolkit. And then read the entire halfbaked sports collection.

Homemade Percussion

Homemade percussion tells you, for example, how to make musical instruments from, for example, a colander, and other miscellaneous household bowls, or perhaps water jugs. Seriously. Instruments, made out of those water-fountain-size water bottles, that you can make music with. Really. Real music. As evidenced by Water Ritual 6" (see this for more.)

It's only after you've had all the fun of inventing a junkyard sport that you're ready for the fun of playing it. Really ready. Because it's your game, don't you know. And I think it's the same thing with homemade instruments. You make them. And what you play on them is somehow in some way uniquely and entirely yours. So you want to make them better. Same thing with a junkyard sport. The more fun it proves to be, the more time and care people take in creating it again. After a while, it all tends to get very, well, exotic. Like the Ceramic/fishskin Hibachi drum, for example, and the group Boomwhacker.

Homemade percussion is but a section of the Rhythmweb. Stu explains: "From the Mid-East to Australia, and from South Africa to Europe to New Orleans to Brazil to Papua, New Guinea, musicians are connecting. Truly, rhythm is a universal language, love of music a universal love...Our mission is to further the use of rhythm, music, and percussion & related arts as a healing tool." The result: a resonantly rich resource.

thanks J-Walk

Hopscotch revisited

Hopscotch. The game. You remember. But how far back? On this fascinating, historically accurate, folklorishly relevant webpage, Dagonell the Juggler informs us that "Hopscotch began in ancient Britain during the early Roman Empire. The original hopscotch courts were over 100 feet long and used for military training exercises. Roman foot-soldiers ran the course in full armor and field packs to improve their footwork, much the same way modern football players run through rows of truck tires today." Hopscotch? That girls' game?

John Cech tells us that at one time hopscotch "ultimately reflected the journey of the human soul from the world into heaven -- heaven (or as it is sometimes called, Sky Blue) literally being that final resting place that you get to at the end of all the hopping. Interestingly enough, it's that place where you get to turn around before coming back down to earth again."

Studying the different designs for hopscotch courts is almost as fascinating as trying to determine its origins. For yet more, in addition to those depicted on Dagonell's site. See Hopscotch from Around the World.

And for Hopscotch being for girls, Alex Johnson in his excellent Village Games notes that even in the early 20th Century boys and girls both played hopscotch. So it never was really a girls' game. And it still isn't. So there.

Premium Quality, Beautiful Junk

What's in the "Junkyard" of Junkyard Sports?

Here are two things that aren't junk: garbage and trash. Though you can find good junk in both.

Junk is all that stuff you have around you that you haven't used in the last three years but you keep around anyway, just in case.

And all the junk stored in garages and attics, in warehouses and even junkyards - these are all junk.

Sports junk. Toy junk. Fun junk. Car junk. Useful junk. Silly junk. Junk you should be throwing away already. But you don't, because it's good junk. Quality junk. In fact, premium quality junk.

I found this on a kids' site called "Build it Yourself. And I liked the idea of "Premium Quality Junk" so much that I had to share it with you. Because it comes so close to defining just the kind of junk one would hope to find in the junkyard of Junkyard Sports. Of course, this junkyard is for projects - you know, things to make. And it's for kids. And it's an educational program, full of lessons and activities and things to think about so that "students (can) use technology to resolve or better understand important social issues in a playful way." And they're for-profit, which, considering the kinds of money one finds in the world of education, admirable, at least; and they have an after-school robot-building program that looks like the very exact thing I'd want my grand kids to experience, and they seem to have some connection to MIT.

Junk can be beautiful, too. See the appropriately described and correspondingly educational "Beautiful Junk."

Of toys and junk

Making toys from junk is a genuinely joy-prone activity, and though it may not classify as a sport or even a game, it is a junkly activity of the highest order - recycling fun if ever there was such a thing. The Mechanical Toys Page describes 15 different toys, each of which is crafted out of found materials (though some may be a little challenging to find), and each of which results in an action toy exhibiting some minor marvel of movement. Like, for example, the Water Rocket, which proves maybe not so easy to build, but the payoff is dramatic and crowd-pleasing.

For those of us seeking more immediate mechanical toy-induced spectacle, there's the match rocket. To build it, all you need is two wooden matches and some aluminum foil. Granted, you don't want young kids actually playing with matches. But what a rite of passage, so to speak.

The site hasn't been updated in a while (maybe 5 years), and the author's email as well as many of the links don't work. But it provides some excellent descriptions of junk-built joys, and is as powerful an invitation to play as it was when it was first launched.

Searching for similar, I came across this significantly similar page of Folk Toys as well as this significantly dissimilar page of images of simple, mechanical, art-like, toys. Though there's no instructions, the images are clear enough to inspire reinvention.

"...and I am a spreader of gum."

This work of art is composed entirely of gum. Yes, chewing gum. GumArtist Jamie Marraccini explains: "...I've created 23 works totaling more than 30,000 pieces of gum. I've now come to the realization that the gum justifies the art. The fun is in the chewing and the art is an expression of the fun. Just remember, gum is not chewed for health or sustenance. People chew gum for pleasure. It is in that spirit that GumArt exists, and I am a spreader of gum."

And here, Mr. Marraccini explicates further: "Gumology is the science of gum chewability, spreadability, and bubblibility. I've been studying gumology for as long as I can remember. In fact, at the age of 10 I wrote my first scientific paper on gum titled, 'The Making of a Great Gum.' The world has yet to embrace the ideas of yeast in gum or talking-gum which were detailed in that article; however, it was this curiosity and quest to find the limits of gum that lead to the creation of GumArt."

His online GumArt Gallery chronicles a decade in the evolution of his art from, 1989 to 1999.

For more gummy reflections, see this.

Thanks for this chewy find go to in4mador

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