It was a normal, though slightly bleak, Sunday afternoon in April and caregivers came from across the metro area to leave our situations, challenges, and stresses behind us and focus on one thing: Who had the biggest WhirlyBalls of them all?
The quick answer: Bob.
But as with most things, it is the journey -- not the destination. So, join me in a little bit of stopping-to-smell-the-proverbial-flowers. (Which I might add, if it hadn’t been so cold all month there might have been a few more of in the ground.)
With a rare exception, none of the gathered caregivers had heard of WhirlyBalls and frankly did not start in the mood of competitive spirit. After signing waivers which none of us could really have completely read, we were provided a quick overview of this sport which was described to us as the long-lost love-child of bumper cars, lacrosse, and basketball.
Honestly, we knew that coming in; but it was something different to be next to the court and see the bumper cars, the two digital backboards with targets which would (presumably) light up when hit by a whiffle ball propelled by a plastic racket. Each time the backboard lit up like a hockey scoreboard a point was scored. One point: one whirlyball.
So, the team that had the biggest score of whirlyballs would win. You can see how this got out of hand?
I mean, seriously: Thirteen guys letting off stress and steam on a Sunday afternoon with no football on the TV or distracting honey-do lists; only a whiffle ball to hurl at digital backboards with targets while turning every which direction in a bumper car -- what did you expect?
Remember bumper cars?
My body had a vague memory of the last time my 48-year old self sat in one. It was with my daughter 6 years earlier. She was on my lap; it was the only way the height guard would let her on the kiddie bumper cars at the State Fair. Bless their hearts, my neck hurt for a week. Remember the super-logical steering? All the way to the right to go forward and then 360 around to go backward, and when you are going forward left is left, and right is right but when you are going backward right is left and left is right-oh-lord-how-does-this-work?
For an hour we were all laughing and living just at that moment
Well, that is how we “moved” around the court. Up and forward, down and back. Red cars shooting at the red digital backboard with a target. Yellow cars at the yellow. Scooping up the whiffle balls, trying to throw passes, dropping them, smashing the ball into a pancake and throwing it, hurling it, slamming it against the digital backboard. Blocking cars from turning, trapping them in corners, or just slamming into folks just for the heck of it. It was awesome. Seriously, this was fun. None of us knew what we were doing, except Todd and Chris for some unexplainable reason, but for an hour we were all laughing and living just at that moment.
The only problem was that there didn’t seem to be a huge correlation between when you threw the ball against the backboard target and when the lights and buzzer went off and a Whirlyball was added to the scoreboard. Seriously, sometimes it went off and sometimes -- yeah, nothing.
Andy gets the ball at the post
Like a master Lucas set up the brackets and kept the competition honest. Team 1 blanked Team 2, and then Team 1 crushed Team 3. Then they went and drank some congratulatory beers as Team 2 and 3 played to determine who wasn’t the biggest loser. It was close, something which might have been called strategy started emerging. Players started playing positions. Attempts at fancy passes bouncing off the wall were made. Heck Team 2 even had a “play” -- it was simple: get the ball to Andy at the post -- and let him score. He seemed to throw the whiffle hard enough to make the thing light up. At the end that was enough, and Team 2 squeaked by Team 3 so that the final standings were 1-2-3 for teams 1-2-3.
I am sure Kyle will post the members of each of the teams so you can cross-reference. It will prove that Alan is not the curse he thought he was. Even though I’m super competitive I will admit, I’m not sure anyone really cared -- it truly was the journey.
A moment stolen
Our journey ended sharing a family meal at Buca di’Beppo under the watchful eye of Sophia Loren -- and the Pope. A stolen moment for friends who share a unique bond, an implicit understanding and desire to support each other.
And if you were wondering, the spaghetti and meatballs were really like Spaghetti and Meatball -- no “s”. And Bob got the biggest ball. The rest of us had to be happy with thoughtful certificates ranking our relative Whirlyball size. I have the second biggest WhirlyBalls.
Darnit Bob. Rematch?
Author: Joseph Barisonzi
We're a non-profit on a mission to improve the way men think, feel, and act in their role as a cancer caregiver. Our hospitality brings these men together, and together they improve.
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