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Sports on the Island of Dr. Moreau: Ever heard of something called Whirlyball? 

Trip to the Midwest finds Mike Bookey playing unusual, but fun, game.

click to enlarge whirlyball.jpg
"It's like a mix of bumper cars, lacrosse, basketball and beer."

This is how a good friend described a game called Whirlyball in an email announcing that I, along with the rest of a sizable wedding party that had arrived in Chicago, would be engaging in said game the day before the nuptials. He was right in his summation of this activity. Well, almost.

More accurately, he should have said, "It's like a mix of bumper cars, lacrosse, basketball, beer and car accidents."

Here's how it works. There are two teams of five, not unlike basketball, who strive to, again not unlike basketball, to put a ball in a net. But the ball is a whiffle ball and the net is a roughly two-foot-wide hole in the middle of a backboard situated at each end of a court. As for the lacrosse comparison, the only similarity is that you use a stick to toss the ball around. And by a stick, I mean one of those plastic web things that kids in the '90s played with for a couple years before moving on to some other inane time occupier. It's like a jai alai xistera, but you have no idea what that is.

The game seems simple, right? Well, you forgot about the bumper cars, didn't you? Or, perhaps, you're reading this and saying, "Dude, I know what Whirlyball is. I'm from (insert city or region where people actually play this game), so shut up and get back to making fun of Tom Brady like you usually do in the column." OK, hypothetical guy, calm down, you're ruining it for everyone else.

Anyway, the bumper cars are inordinately difficult to drive (there's a crank rather than a steering wheel), but these machines - powered through the metal floor through what I can only assume is witchcraft - go fast. Fast enough, in fact, that as I chased the whiffle ball into the corner and was rammed from behind, a lightning-like pain surged from my lower back into the top of my skull. A fellow groomsman walked out with a brutal seatbelt bruise across his stomach.

That collision hurt. And it hurt even more the next morning. But I couldn't help but want to play this game again... despite the fact that as time ticked away in the final game, I caught a pass in the open floor and ran, um, I mean, drove toward the basket, only to savagely brick what would have been a game-winning shot. It stung for a bit, almost as bad as that collision.

That said, I would like to throw my full weight behind this Island of Dr. Moreau approach to sports. Just cut the arm off of one sport, sew it to the torso of another and maybe toss in the brain of football and you've got some ungodly monster, the powers of which can only be explained by the fact that drinking while competing (actually, after or before, you can't have a frosty Bronson on the court with you) is all but required.

These Midwesterners (who seem to love this game) might be onto something. Now, if they could just combine two of my other favorite sports, basketball and competitive hotdog eating, I'd be in heaven.


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