Everybody knows it, everybody’s played it, and everybody has argued with a white man in a backward hat and salmon shorts about it. The game: spikeball, The objective: to slap a yellow ball at the ground without looking like an idiot. Since my time at UVM, I have played upwards of 200 games of spikeball. And I have yet to win a single one. So buckle up for a completely biased and entirely cynical review of America’s most fratty pastime.
Spikeball, by nature, is a fool’s game. It has very few rules and only requires a baseline level of hand-eye coordination. Usually played on a beach with a brewski in hand, this game is not designed with the world’s most serious athletes in mind. But tell me why, every time someone pulls out one of those collapsible yellow nets, my heart drops. Something about this glorified game of whack-a-mole brings out the most competitive side of my being, a side that often remains hidden. The game is typically played in teams of two, and when it comes time for pairing off, I’m transported back to being picked last for dodgeball in middle school. And it hurts.
On the off chance I end up a part of the gameplay, that’s when the real trouble begins. Despite the limited amount of skill required, the standards for what is considered fair game are taken VERY seriously. Any minor slip-up is a sin in the church of beach-related recreational activities, and I am, by that logic, a heretic. A usual game for someone as confused as me goes something like this: after fumbling on the serve about 12 times in a row, I am ready to throw in the towel. The north beach sun is beaming down on me and the taste of a warm, flat, Twea is lingering on my tongue. I’m falling into a spike-ball-induced psychosis. The only thing that brings me back to it is the delusional hope of beating the smug, shirtless man who is taunting me with the immense ease at which he destroys me. And so, I crack my knuckles and prepare to annihilate. The world goes dark. I taste sand and algal blooms. Somehow, amid the rally, I miss the little rubber ball and end up tits down in the sand. It’s game over and another loss for me.
Clearly, this game of slap-the-ball is not my strong suit, and I often walk away ashamed and embarrassed. My personal vendetta against spikeball is something I may never get over, but as the summer season comes to a close, I hope all of my spikeball-related shame and rage can be put to rest. Until next summer, I wish all of you mediocre white boys with mustaches and forest tattoos a happy spiking.