Playing With Balls: Open Palms

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I just remembered, I'm going to be on The Price is Right tomorrow, October 5th. Robin and I spent twelve fucking hours on line during our trip to Cali. We'll just be in the audience. My shirt is yellow and says, "Beauty in Training". I made it myself.

Check out what came in the mail for me today:

That baby’s from Elk’s Run 3, a present from Josh. Best part is when you blow up the bottom left panel you can see Sarah’s original dialog, observe:


In Brooklyn, handball was king. If you were good at handball you had a free pass throughout childhood. Everyone wanted to play doubles with you, no-one would allow a thug to threaten that golden arm and the ladies hung on you like you were Corey Haim of the ghetto. You can be the dorkiest kid imaginable but if you had a decent backhand and a good slice to your chop you were going to run the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, I was never that good.

99% of fights between kids took place on the handball court. It was dangerous business playing a sport in which there were three rules that, when invoked, could start a fucking riot like you’ve never seen. An explosion of violence so unwieldy that even Rodney King would say, “You crazy mother fuckers can go fuck yourselves.”

The first of the deadly rules was the most basic one, “out”. Like tennis, if the handball goes over the line or faults on the serve the ball is considered “out”, play is dead and points are awarded or the serve is loss. Unlike tennis, there is no line judge calling balls out. When the ball fell on that line or close to it, or the person who needs to volley swings at an out-of-bounds ball and just misses, people start to slowly walk away from the handball court before guns start coming out.


“Out? What the fuck out! It hit the line!”

“Hit the fucking line, get out of here! That ball was fucking out! Look, right here. That gum wrapper. That right there is where the fucking ball landed.”

“If it landed there it was because you tipped it when you swung for that shit!”

They get into each other’s face, minor shoving follows. If both parties don’t agree on the do-over within the first ten seconds the fight will break out. Luckily the power house had two handball walls so a new game can get started while these guys duked it out. When the ball goes out players will look to you on the sideline and ask you your opinion – it’s a fucking trap. Just say you were playing your Tiger Electronics Masters of the Universe game because the last thing you want to do is pick sides in this battle.

Blocking was another one. If somebody was standing between you and the ball so that you couldn’t get to it, that’s blocking. The problem is, if someone can’t feasibly get to the ball they would fake lunge for it and hit you on purpose, then call “blocking”.

There are several really fucked up things about this situation. For starters, someone just clocked you in the lower back in an attempt to fake a block. Then there’s the fact that he’s obviously trying to cheat. But what can you do? He called blocking. You can’t say, “I wasn’t blocking” because you just got hit in the back, all evidence points to the fact that you were in the way. He just gives you this look. “You were obviously blocking. Why else would I hit you?” The only way to combat a blocking call was to get the kid to take it back. The only way to get him to take it back was to beat him up.

Faking a block was a dangerous move. However, if you’re a big dude, no-one is going to challenge your blocking call. If some six-foot-two linebacker-looking cat calls blocking you apologize for getting in his way.

Then there was the rule that should have never been invented. Before this rule handball was “good enough” and it should have been left that way. I know how it started too. I don’t have documented evidence but there’s no other explanation as to how a rule so evil can sneak into a game as innocent as handball. Some kid went to hit the ball and missed. While people start laughing at the big whiff he points to a crack in the ground around where the ball bounced and said, “Hindu”. It was the first word that came to mind. Everyone stops laughing and ask him what he’s talking about. “Hindu. The ball hit the crack and bounced unnaturally. Do-over.” No-one argued, the kid sold the foul so well that everyone felt stupid that they didn’t know what a Hindu was and just like that the Hindu rule became an official handball rule.

Now, I can understand if there was a big ass crack or a fucking pothole that caused the ball to go crazy. But I’ve seen people call Hindu on tiny pieces of rocks, slightly wet surfaces and gusts of wind. The Hindu call is the ultimate excuse for missing a ball. Only you have your eyes fixated on the ball, everyone else is staring at the wall waiting for the volley. From behind them they hear “Hindu” and just like that it’s on.

“Hindu off what, bitch?”

“Off what? You see that fucking piece of glass!”

“This? THIS? That’s not even a piece. That’s a fucking sliver!”

“Yeah, well, the ball hit it and went to the left. Hindu.”

Usually this exchange goes straight to the fist fight without any do-over calls or initial shoving.

The worst part about Hindu is that the good players had a crazy slice to their ball. I’ve seen dude’s hit it and the ball comes off the wall at an extra 45 degrees. These slices where much worse than any curve you can get from a pebble. And they always got called for Hindu. And fights always broke out because of it.

Handball also had a warm-up game called boxes. At the Power House there were two walls and there would be a lot of people waiting for the courts. So, while you’re waiting you play boxes. Boxes is a game were everyone stand in their own street-square, adjacent to the other players. You know how street concrete is sectioned off into squares? That’s what I’m talking about, that’s a street square.

You’d stand in your own street-square and lightly tap the ball into an opponent’s square. It would need to bounce inside the square and the owner of the square would need to hit it back into your square. No-ones’ feet can leave their square. It might sound like a moronic game but it was tough, a lot harder than handball. If someone hits it hard you’d have to basically reach behind you to hit it back inside their tiny square – it required precision and quick reflexes.

Not as many fights broke out when playing boxes, the smallness of the playing field made the players more aware of where the ball is at all times and harder to call shit like Hindu or erroneous outs.

Plus, no-one got their dicks sucked for being a good boxes player.


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jason rodriguez is an eisner and harvey-nominated editor and writer. email him. or become his digital BFF below:

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