Dunkball with the brethren

February 16, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 2:45 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Life

Every Wednesday night is hoops night at the Johnston’s. Around 8:30 guys from the neighborhood/ward show up, we turn on the flood lights, lower the back yard hoop to 8’6″, and run 3-5 games of full contact 3-on-3 dunk ball. Court rules include maker takes, ones for all buckets (even though there is a three point line), goal tending allowed anywhere except through the cylinder, dribbling in on the inbound is allowed, and walls/trees are out of bounds. (Don’t worry if that means nothing to you – I trust some of y’all will understand.)

Let me tell you – it gets pretty gnarly out there. In the last three weeks we’ve had a bloody nose, a sprained elbow, a couple of rolled ankles, a minor black eye, a cut lip, and loads of less visible knots and bruises. But man is it a blast! There are enough thunderous jams, bone-jarring picks, and glass clearing blocks to make it a must-play every week (though we keep it to once a week to give time to recover between games…)

So I have been thinking about this rough and tumble highlight of my week as it might compare to a few things that have been discussed here in the ‘nacle lately. Here are a few loosely related thoughts.

1) Mormons are good people to be friends with

These guys never cease to impress me. We’ve been running this brutal game for months and I’ve yet to hear a single f-bomb or other non-biblical swear word out there. When someone gets whacked hard or gets a fat lip we invariably hold the ball to check to see if our brother and friend is ok. Every time so far he has been and has not held any grudge — we just play ball again. Sometimes when someone does get beat up or really frustrated we’ll lay off a little and give up a thunder jam or something (especially if we have a good lead). There is a sort of unspoken concern we maintain for each other. These are really good men. They are, to a man, very competitive and very tough – but they are at core compassionate and thoughtful and good men. Yep, Mormons generally make good friends and thus they make good dunkball buddies.

2) Guys like to roughhouse

I’m not sure what it is, but the blood and bruises and posterizing one another with thunderous alley-oop jams is cathartic. Maybe it is a guy thing. Or maybe it is mostly these guys. But banging around under the hoop and smashing into each other going for a loose ball is just fun. The guys seem to always stop before anyone really loses his temper. It is just one of those things we all seem to silently know how to do.

I’ve noticed that this male roughhousing thing happens in the ‘nacle and here at the Thang too. For instance when Jeffrey, Christian, Blake, (and sometimes Clark and others) and I start going at it in a debate verbal elbows can start flying; black eyes occasionally result; but when it’s over I still really like Christian, Jeffrey, Blake and the others and look forward to our next bruising debate. Now maybe that is a guy thing and maybe it isn’t… but here at the Thang it is just the dudes that are involved in such roughhousing. I see women snarl at each other at times in the ‘nacle, but it usually seems much more serious and personal than when Jeffrey and I imply the other is a slobbering idiot just for fun. Is it just me that senses this? Is it really just easier for men to roughhouse online and offline and let it roll off?

3) “Lurkers” or “spectators”?

I hate calling people who read posts/threads without commenting “lurkers” – sounds so sinister. Perhaps a better term would be “spectators”. Using my basketball analogy it would definitely fit. The mosh pit we call hoops every Wednesday night is not for everyone – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting to watch. I think a lot of Mormon blog threads are sort of like that. Some of us like to get into the mosh pit to mix it up and lots of others are much happier viewing from the sidelines. I can understand that.

So the good news is my sprained elbow should be better by next Wednesday, the knot on my right temple is already going down, and my eye doesn’t even look black anymore. (And even with my wounds I threw down 3-4 dunks last night!) My bloggernacle wounds are similarly healing quickly. I’m ready to mix it up again. So what about you? How are your ‘nacle bruises and shiners healing?


  1. A few years ago before we moved we had an extra large cemented driveway with basketball hoops at opposite sides. Every summer Sunday afternoon (we were farming then and that was the only work-free day available) my four sons, a few kids from the down the road, and the boy who was dating my daughter would play ball until it was too dark to see, and then some. I opened the windows so I could watch and hear the fun. I used that time to make dessert for after the game–brownies, cheesecake, ice cream, creampuffs…
    This may sound weird, but those Sunday evenings were like a little bit of heaven. I wanted to keep my boys at those ages, and home and safe and happy forever. We did manage to break the boyfriend’s nose once however.
    As for nacle damage, I just get frustrated and cry and then I feel better.

    Comment by C Jones — February 16, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

  2. C Jones,

    Thanks. That does sound like a little slice of heaven all around!

    Comment by Geoff J — February 16, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

  3. Good post. Reminds of Thursday night volleyball that I used to enjoy in Las Vegas, except for the part about blood. We recently moved and I haven’t found a suitable replacement/outlet/group of brethren.

    As for #3, as a lurker/spectator, I don’t post often for a few reasons. The main reason is that, when I do post, I feel like I never adequately convey my thoughts on a topic. The few times that I have posted on the nacle, my post didn’t quite work out and NedFlanders ended up so confused he actually repsonded to my post. I guess that’s what I get for trying to make jokes on Dave’s Mormon Inquiry (kidding).

    Anyway, I’d like to nominate Offspring as good background music for this one. A bunch of white boys giving each other black eyes makes me think of Keep em Separated.

    Comment by WaterCat — February 16, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

  4. Great call and the song, WaterCat. I’ll go get that right now. (And welcome to the Thang, btw)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 16, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

  5. “Animal Ball,” we called it. The hoop at my parents’ house is mounted above the garage door. The narrow driveway/court leading to this stand-alone garage is bound on one side by the garden (rhubarb plants) and on the other side by the the 4.5 ft high fence that goes from the house to the garage. There’s a crack in the driveway about 19 ft. from the hoop that serves as the three point line. In front of the garage, on the right side baseline my dad, being a pack rat, often had empty barrels, old lawnmowers and other machinery, transmissions, etc. piled up precariously (this obstacle could be used to one’s advantage). The court often had spots of motor oil/sawdust mix on it, which made things even more interesting. The gate latch protrudes a bit on the court side, which scraped up a few backs. The fence is old and splintery. The bottom pannel of the thin fiberglass garage door had cracks and holes from all the abuse it took, and every so often someone’s leg would break through and get all scratched up. What fun times! Most of our games actually started out as semi-clean street ball, but you get six or more guys in tight quarters playing aggressively and it doesn’t take long before animal ball breaks out. It really does sound like the ‘nacle.

    My ‘nacle behavior kind of mirrors my animal ball behavior. I was not usually the one to get in a scrap. And I wasn’t one to dive head first into my dad’s scrap heap after a loose ball. I left that to the guys who really cared (like my linebacker brother-in-law). I just kind of waited for the ball to come to me and put up a shot, hot potato-like, as fast as I could. Similarly, I tend to leave the heavy debate here to the more interested and more qualified. I try to be very careful to keep things genial.

    Comment by Tom — February 16, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

  6. I just got through playing basketball tonight with some guys from work. I do not live in the mountain time zone, so I am the only mormon in the bunch. We have played year around on Thursdays for several years now at a Nazarene Church. I call it the large and spacious building but it does have a nice gym. I am very amazed that these guys play pretty clean and rarely use foul language. There is something about humbling yourself in playing a game I think for most people. This may sound strage to many but chuch basketball is the thing I miss most about being in the ‘mission field’.

    As far as the Nacle goes, it sometimes seems to me like a pick-up game of basketball with a lot more willing participants than a five-on-five game can accomodate. There sometimes seem to be a few regulars that always get in the game, and if you’re new you better be asertive and speak up or you may end up going home without participating. And sometimes when you think you are in the game you look around and you are the only one on the court.

    Like pick up basketball games, it is sometimes difficult to break into the game, but once you do it’s a blast and you realize the people playing are great guys. Some may even volutarily sit out a while to let you in. Ultimately it is a team game, and while practicing by yourself may help you hone your skills, playing in the game is what most want to do. Playing fair, nice, clean, and passing the ball once in a while may help the games continue for years. Calling your fouls helps as well. Learning to play nice is one of the great lessons of sports and life.

    Comment by Eric — February 16, 2006 @ 6:57 pm

  7. Tom and Eric,

    Nice stories and extensions of the analogy/comparison. Participation in the ‘nacle oftne is a lot like a pick-up game of animal ball isn’t it?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 17, 2006 @ 8:27 am

  8. I loved hearing your stories about playing basketball. I think I could picture each place and the people playing.

    Comment by Kristen J — February 17, 2006 @ 11:59 am

  9. WaterCat– You can’t leave me hanging like that! Which post was it on DMI? I have to admit that I’m drawing a blank. (Which goes to show that I am easily confused.)

    Geoff– I wish everyone in the ‘nacle could meet up for a nice game of animal ball. I think it would release a lot of tension.

    Comment by NFlanders — February 17, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

  10. Hehe. I thought that is what we normally do Ned (at least figuratively).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 17, 2006 @ 11:25 pm

  11. wow. you guys play ball for a whole half hour once a week? ya’ll must be in primo shape.

    Comment by sara — March 20, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

  12. Hehe — well they show up between 8:30 and 9:00. We usually limp home at about 10:30.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 20, 2006 @ 9:42 pm

  13. that’s what i figured; just trying to be funny. 2 hours of abuse should suffice… and then i bet you spend the rest of the week healing!

    Comment by sara — March 21, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

  14. You have us pegged, Sara. A week is usually enough time for a black eye to heal up.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 21, 2006 @ 12:14 pm