Friday, October 29, 2004
Q: What would happen if you combined soccer with tennis, hockey and basketball, and maybe lacrosse, with a bit of football thrown in and around?
More questions? Read the Toccer Times, a weblog that chronicles the development of the game and even more important, the spirit and energy of Ron Bronson, Jr., its inventor, wherein Ron explains:
"I love hockey, because at any given time the puck could be down the ice and two players could combine for a one-timer or one players will break away for a goal.
I love football, because of the physical play and the awesome feeling of scoring a touchdown - or intercepting a player and running it back for a score.
I love baseball, because chicks dig the longball.
I love basketball, because the skill it takes to make no-look passes or the confidence that your shot halfway down the court is going in, keeps us tuning it for more.
I love soccer, because nothing is more awesome than seeing a player get stuffed on an awesome save by the keeper.
I love lacrosse, because its physical - yet requires amazing skill to control the ball and to score.
I love tennis, because of hard serves and the years it takes to learn how to place the ball right where you want it to go.
But most of all, I love TOCCER because it COMBINES ALL OF THEM but has a style and a feeling of its own."
The rules? Well, they're evolving, as is probably everybody who gets to play the game. Here's part of the most recent version
: "The ball can be dribbled on the racquet or kicked. Generally, players are not allowed to pick up the ball out of the air. Instead, they may only pick the ball up when it is dead or they make the ball dead by placing their racquet on top of the ball while it is on the ground to make it dead. The exceptions to this rule are players known as the rover and sweeper. Each team has one of these players apiece. Sweepers are defensive specialists, who may use their hands at will - but may not carry the ball for more than three seconds at a time. Sweepers are also prohibited from crossing the line that divides the field down the middle. (Called the mid line) Rovers are subject to the same rules, except they are not restricted to just the defensive end of the field."
However it evolves - how complex or elegant the rules become - as long as there are sports to be combined, and rules to be invented, and its inventor is around to share his energy and delight, Toccer is a unique invitation to play and grace, and a vivid manifestation of the art of junkyard sportscraft, and all therein implied.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Guest Article: "Inventions - a game"
A few years ago I helped evolve a game that's a natural for anyone with a mismatched bunch of stuff lying around the house – certainly a snap for most American households. I began by wandering all over my own mismatched home, garden and garage earlier in the day, collecting a pile of both ordinary and not-so-ordinary household items; i.e., light bulbs, clothes hangers, unused electrical and plumbing supplies, yard décor, odd clothing, shoes, plastic bags, intriguing looking kitchen utensils (colanders and wire whisks are especially useful), assorted odd containers, various pieces of cords, ropes, hoses and other household items, basically anything that looks like it might be worthy subject for what’s to follow.
I then divide the objects into various piles of approximately the same size – one pile for maybe every 5 or 6 people you're expecting – and put each pile into a bag. When it’s time for the activity, I find a creative way to get folks into groups of the approximate size and give each group one of the bags of stuff. I tell them their mission is to get together with their collection of junk and figure out how to use all of it for a new invention which solves a basic need of humanity or whatever. Only rule, if it is one, is they have to use everything. Or I suppose they could throw what they don’t want out a window when I'm not looking. I give them 30 to 60 minutes to work out their challenge - depending on how much fun they’re having doing it - and provide them with pens, tape, string and anything else they want that I can locate.
I also invite them to devise a skit showing off their invention to the rest of the group .. this may take the form of an “infomercial” or trade show display or street huckster or whatever scenario they want. I suggest leaving it as open as possible to allow the creativity and humor to flow. It's always amazing what ideas the group devises and the humor that comes especially through their sales efforts. Oh, and the “audience” can vote unofficially for their favorite skit with their applause and other sounds of support or criticism – which pretty much happens naturally. This is always a hit with all age groups – usually a highlight of gatherings.
I do find it's more fun for me collecting the stuff and visualizing how it may be used than it is putting it all away the next day, but it's worth it all the while. Shows you how much junk you have lying around the place, too. Maybe the next logical step is the nearest donation drop – except you may want it again next time. I've even been known to keep the stuff in its own boxes in the garage awaiting the next party.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Tree Stumps, Manhole Covers and Rubbish Bins
I found this image accompanying a short article called "Sliding Games (Marbles)." It shows a game of marbles played by Cree women. I had not seen this article before, even though I described a game very much like it in my "A Million Ways to Play Marbles, at Least." Given my current junkish passions, I was struck by how a snow-covered hill became the inspiration and foundation for a marbles game. Then I found my e-way to "TREE STUMPS, MANHOLE COVERS AND RUBBISH TINS - The invisible play-lines of a primary school playground" - a paper by June Factor, of the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne. She writes:
"The physical features of a primary school playground - dimensions, textures, furnishings, etc. - are incorporated and adapted for their own purposes by children in their free play. Youngsters create an intricate network of usage, play-lines invisible but known to every child at the school. Unfortunately, the general adult indifference to children's playlore often results in a lack of consultation with the playground's users when well-meaning but ignorant 'landscaping' of a school playground is undertaken."
Aside from the various implications about playground design and supervision, I was once more reasssured to be reminded how, given opportunity and necessity, inspringly junkish kids' play can get.
"Although she [Dorothy Howard] noted that ‘adult supervision of school playgrounds had increased’in the 1950s (Howard, 1960a: 166), it is clear from Howard’s research and from the accounts of those who were children at the time that youngsters were permitted considerable freedom to play as they chose, within certain minimal limits of order and safety. Playground equipment was almost non-existent, but children made use of trees, benches, the corners of shelter-sheds and the hard asphalt – the latter advantageous for knucklebones, ball games, skipping, hopping and endless varieties of chasing and hiding games."
Thursday, October 21, 2004
They call themselves Cyclecide. On first glance, they're a bunch of clowns riding around on tricked-up bicycles. On second glance, yup, they're still a bunch of clowns.
"The Bike Rodeo is a touring, punk rock bicycle amusement park and showcase of modified bicycles, such as the tall bike (two bicycle frames welded together), the bicycle chopper, the fire breathing Chupacabra, the bottle rocket armed Homeland Security bike and many more..."Too dumb to die!" is the motto of these heavy pedal maniacs."
Quote from Laughing Squid
Amusement park? Take a look at this clip of their human-powered bicycle merry-go-round thing.
Their goal in life? Spreading the "...message of the Reconstituted Bike with freakish 'alter-cycles', messy klown makeup, and beer. Lots of beer."
Things are not always fun or easy for the Cycleciders. A blog from Summer Burkes shares both the nitty and the gritty. Sometimes, grittier than you'd think, like "...this little thing where a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and we got rear-ended by a semi and it put the brakes on everything. Everyone's mostly OK so don't worry. OK?"
OK. Not worried. But appreciating. Definitely appreciating.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Probably one of the clearest, earliest, and most obvious manifestations of the playful human mind can be found wherever you find the unnecessary - the unnecessarily beautiful quilt or the unnecessarily intricately carved knife handle or the unnecessarily multifunctional can opener. It's as if we're not really giving in to necessity, but rather going it one better. As if we're saying "OK, if I have to do it, I'll do it, but I'll do it better than I have to, I'll make it more beautiful than it needs to be. I'll make an art of it. I'll add needless functionality.
Hence my fascination with this collection of shoe lacing methods." Shoe lacing. I mean, how many ways are there to tie shoes, really? There's the one you're taught. And then there are the 22 described on Ian's Shoelace Site. And then there are, "As an example, take a shoe with 6 pairs of eyelets. Feed through the top left eyelet from either top or bottom (2 ways), then through one of 10 remaining eyelets from either top or bottom (x 20 more ways), then 9 remaining eyelets (x 18 more ways), and so on until the top right eyelet (x 2 more ways). This results in 2 x 20 x 18 x 16 x 14 x 12 x 10 x 8 x 6 x 4 x 2 x 2 ways, a staggering total of almost 15 BILLION ways of running the lace!"
And then there are the six ways to tie shoelace knots.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Drinking games, and more drinking games
Alas, I cannot hide myself from the allure of drinking games. It's not the drink, don't you know, that drawns me ever thither. It's the silliness. And the repeatedly delightful discovery that much fun and insobriety is to be had from these games, even (and perhaps especially) when sober. Thus my joy at having discovered The Webtender Index of drinking games.
I link my way over to "collections" to the first site, apparently called "Beer Drinking Games, and from thence to the game of Beirut, as depicted herein, is a case in significant point. At first blush, the rules are deceptively simple. Until you read them or someone tries to explain them to you. This seems to be a common and much-beloved characteristic of drinking games. Here are a few exemplary:
BOUNCE RULE - You can bounce a ball into the other teams cup, however once it bounces they can swat it away. If the ball lands in the cup it counts as 2 cups. Possession goes to the receiving team.
GOAL TENDING - Swatting the ball. If you swat the ball away before it hits the table or a cup the other team gets another shot or a cup is taken away, depending on how close the shot is. Usually decided by both teams at the time of the foul.
RICOCHET - If a ball bounces off an object other then the table (i.e. a player from the other team) while trying to swat at it AND goes into a cup, it counts. Sucks when this happens!
And the deleriously sexist, unabashedly adolescent:
BLOW RULE - ONLY WOMEN CAN BLOW! If a ball lands in a cup and is spinning around, a girl can try to blow the ball out of the cup and it won't count if it comes out. Yeah!
Scoff you may. But fun it is. Fun of what one might even call a junkyardly sort.
For a significant collection of the aforementioned, see also Drinkity
Thursday, October 14, 2004
One could argue that much of the joy of junk comes not from the junk itself, but from the shift of perspective that comes with seeing the junk as something more or even other. "In a way," one's argument might go, "it is the essence of playfulness, this ability to undefine a piece of junk and see not the just reality of it, but also the illusion." Hence, one's fascination with a weblog called "Parking Spots" wherein one can plainly see one's perspective playfully shifted.
This is one of those extremely laconic websites, assembled by a person of few words, and one, single, surprisingly clever idea. The cleverness is reflected in the rules:
1 Shoot a toy car next to a real one
2 Make the toy car look like a real car by having it seem to be the same size
3 look at the pictures in the gallery to get the idea
4 Take the picture.
5 Have your method of holding the small car in place be visible. In other words let the people see your hand, tripod or a rail.
There, in the making the method of holding the small car in place be visible, lies the elegance of it all. Some illusions, for them to work their illusory wonders, must be made apparent. Or they're just not funny enough to be fun.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Urban Golf, revisited
Now that we've awakened to the depth and reach of Junkyard Golf, we are now a bit more prepared to consider Urban Golf
The message on the home page: "everybody sucks. The worse you play, the more fun you have. And that's what this game is all about. Having fun, not winning."
An excerpt from their blog takes us deeper into the bizarre, and clearly fun-like reality of the Urban Golf Course Developer:
"So, finally, Big Mike and I scoped out a course near him on the decommissioned naval base in Alameda. Yesterday was our first official outing on the new course. It went well and the course is varied enough to be interesting, but it looks like this will be a daytime-only course due to the lack of sufficient lighting. It's quiet with very little traffic and hopefully not too toxic... "
One final moment of hard-won, Urban Golf-like wisdom, as explicated in the rules section of the website: "There is no one person in charge. You are not the leader of the group. Get over yourself. All decisions and adjustments to the game should be agreed upon by the golfers present. If you have a god complex, move to the mountains, start a cult, and stay the hell out of the way."
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
So much fun was had. So easily and generously. Kids. Parents. Anyone who wanted to play. It was my second ever Junkyard Golf Tournament, and I'm telling you I could devote the rest of my life to being a Junkyard Golf Pro, if you know what I mean, and putting on Junkyard Golf Tournaments everywhere, really.
It was in Palo Alto, in a public park. It was a group of families who are part of an admittedly privileged "Leaping Lizards" community (a pre- and post-school program where kids get to go on nature excursions every time they meet). And it was exactly the kind of fun I like to think of as "Loving" - the kind of playfulness, responsiveness, adaptability, creativity, sensitivity, spontaneity that comes out of the very spirit of fun and the joy of sharing it.
It wasn't just fun. It was fun for a reason. It was deeply instructive fun, about things like communication and community and the junkyards in which we live and work, and the Junkyard Golf holes we could construct, old and young, able and labeled, novice and professional, together. It was moving.
And it was remarkably like the kind of fun I experienced when I played the same thing, only with silly putty, with social workers and their bosses, on table tops.
And I pronounce it: "Junkyard Golf."
Monday, October 11, 2004
Fortunately for all of us who like to make up new sports, the flying disc (a.k.a. Frisbee) continues to prove itself as an inspiring invitation to grace and contest. Witness Double Disc Court, a game played between two pairs of players, with two discs. In brief: "The courts are 13 meters square and 17 meters apart. You get one point for a throw that lands and stays in the opponents' court. Your opponents get one point if your throw touches outside their court. If you can arrange it so that the other team is touching both discs at the same time, you get two points. That is called "doubling" your opponents."
Here, from Robbie Robinson, an insight into the strategic depths: "As the two discs approach their court they must decide how to escape the double attempt. They can either catch and throw the first disc quickly before the other disc arrives or they can TIP a disc up in the air giving their partner enough time to catch and quickly throw the other disc. Then the tipped disc can be caught and thrown back at the opponent in a double attempt."
But, as they say on TV, wait, there's more. There's, for example, Durango Boot where players try to hit "score cones" with their discs - kinda like Disc Golf and Guts combined.
O, the possibilities are endless. May they continue to be explored.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Junkyard Sports Rationale #27(a)
In this article Ed Clendaniel of the San Jose Mercury News writes:
"...I'm having difficulty accepting the growing notion...that one of the chief goals of youth sports is to create mini-professionals...This push for perfection can be seen in the rapid growth of ultra-competitive club sports and travel teams for children at increasingly younger ages. A generation ago, most youth sports leagues had defined seasons and made an effort to balance winning with the need to let every child play...Today's club teams...use rec programs...to identify the most talented athletes, who then try out for and play on increasingly competitive and elite teams. Some teams play year-round; many travel statewide and nationwide in search of the most competitive games. Sometimes the athletes are as young as 8...The message couldn't be clearer: If you want to get to the Olympics -- or increasingly just to play your favorite sport in high school -- you have to start training single-mindedly when you begin elementary school...Parents now pay an estimated $4.1 billion annually on private sports instruction for their children, and they are increasingly expected to dole out thousands of dollars a year for coaching and weekend jaunts to games and tournaments...Only one Little Leaguer in about 3,000 ever makes it to the major leagues. Basketball is no better. Only one out of every 10,000 youth basketball players makes it to the NBA."
One more good reason for Junkyard Sports, eh what?
Monday, October 04, 2004
Healing with Sports
In developing the concepts of Junkyard Sports, I found myself part of a variety of sports-based initiatives for creating a healthier world. Today, I'd like to share two such efforts with you - one that uses sports to reach children who would otherwise become unhealthily obese, and another that uses soccer to teach children about AIDS.
The purpose and inspiration for the The Joy of Sports Foundation begins with the following observation: "Most physical education (PE) and youth sports programs are enjoyable for the youngsters who are naturally athletic. However, we recognize that many kids have negative first experiences with sports and get discouraged by being picked last for a team, or told to sit on the bench, and are criticized for not having skills equal to other kids. Their self-esteem is badly damaged and they often form a life-long habit of physical inactivity. We particularly try to reach out to these kids to make sports a fun, integral, healthy part of their lives." Precisely the motivation behind the creation of Junkyard Sports. Here's another, perhaps even more revealing quote from Jumanne Jahmi, a Joy of Sports coach: "I meet each student where they are at. Sometimes they can be a challenge to get moving on the court, but then walking back to the classroom, they tell me about a personal problem happening in their lives. I see they are opening up to me and I’m there to help them any way that I can. It’s my job to give them positive alternatives and hope. Anyone can learn a forehand. We’re here to do much more than that."
Then there's Grass Roots Soccer: "In our first year we established ourselves as a well-recognized community organization in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. We trained fourteen professional soccer players to act as peer educators who, in turn, reached over 1,500 young people during our first year by organizing and running two-week sessions as after-school programs...In most places around the world simply arriving at a field with a soccer ball will gain you instant friendships and immediate access into a local culture. By using role soccer role models to get the message out about healthy behavior and the risks of HIV/AIDS, we believe that we can dramatically increase awareness, change behaviors, and turn the tide against AIDS."
I am not sure what place Junkyard Sports will take relative to these powerful, health-restoring sports programs. But I am delighted to discover myself in such good company.