Joe Lavin

June 27, 2006

Football of a Different Sort

Today, I would like to discuss a sport that is taking America by storm. It's a simple sport really, one in which participants kick a ball with their foot and do a lot of running. As more and more Americans start to play, it's slowly gaining in popularity here. I believe there's even a world championship game coming up very soon.

I'm talking, of course, about kickball. Yes, kickball. Apparently, this quaint sport that you might remember from grade school -- if, that is, you haven't completely blacked out all memory of PE class -- is making a comeback among adults. Well, then again, comeback might be a bit strong. Something can't really have a comeback unless it was "there" in the first place. Nevertheless, all sorts of adults are beginning to play. On a recent evening in Cambridge, I counted over 100 people who had come to play kickball on the Cambridge Common. And they say Americans don't have enough leisure time!

The rules of kickball are basically the same as baseball, except that you can also get an out by hitting a base runner with the ball. (There's one way to liven up a baseball game.) And as for that world championship of kickball -- cue up the Hank Williams Jr. "Are You Ready For Some Kickball?" music here -- it's called the Founder's Cup, and it takes place July 22nd in Miami. In fact, Harvard University is actually hosting the Northeast Regional Championship where the very best kickballers of the area will vie for a chance to go to Miami. (Have you filled out your brackets yet?)

Or at least Harvard was supposed to have hosted the Northeast Regional Championship last Saturday. I swear I saw an announcement for this last month, but now I'm doubting my sanity. Last week, when I looked at in order to make plans for my weekend -- yes, I know I need a life -- the only regionals were in Annapolis and Los Angeles. I couldn't have imagined it, could I? I know I have a pretty good imagination, but even I couldn't have imagined Harvard hosting a kickball tournament for the entire northeast. At this rate, I'll soon be imagining the Ivy League pick-up sticks championship too.

The Founders Cup is run by the World Adult Kickball Association -- or WAKA! WAKA also runs over 120 different kickball leagues across the country. The Cambridge league plays every Thursday night on Cambridge Common. When I stopped by last week, two kickball games were taking place simultaneously on opposite baseball diamonds, in the first of what would be a doubleheader on each diamond. It was like kickball heaven for the spectators. Or, um, spectator, as I seemed to be the only official spectator until a footballer's wife -- I mean, kickballer's girlfriend -- eventually showed up. Still, with 8 teams of at least 12 each in brightly colored kickball t-shirts on the Common, there was definite excitement in the air. Despite the mocking I've done, it actually looked like a lot of fun.

Kickball, of course, is not without controversy. In Sacramento, one kickball league lost its park permit recently, because rangers found that the kickballers were keeping cold beer in nearby garbage cans, even though drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden in public parks there. As Alan Tomiyama, a spokesperson for the Sacramento City Parks, told The Sacramento Bee, "An argument ensued, and, for lack of a better word, someone got into the face of our ranger." Soon, cops even arrived to quell the burgeoning kickball riot.

Luckily, the kickball hooligans were held back before they could do any real damage, but this is clearly a travesty. Who in their right mind would think to combine booze and kickball? When I played kickball, we would never have dreamt of playing it while drinking. We were nine. Back then, only the PE teacher was drunk.

©2006 Joe Lavin

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I have written for The Boston Globe Magazine, The Boston Herald, Salon, McSweeney's, The Boston Phoenix, The Globe and Mail, The Montreal Gazette, California Technology News, ComputorEdge, and many other publications. I write regularly for Boston Sports Review and am a Contributing Editor to Making Money Magazine. I'm also included in May Contain Nuts: A Very Loose Canon of American Humor, the third volume in the Mirth of a Nation series. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you enjoy my Internet column. -- Joe Lavin