I miss sports. I’ve been spending a significant amount of my free time watching tennis highlights, such as Novak Djokovik’s epic victory over Roger Federer in the 2019 Men’s Wimbledon final. I can feel the energy through the screen of my iPhone, almost as if it’s happening right now… and then I realize there are no sports and life is boring and it makes me utterly sad.
Fortunately, the gap in live television programming has paved the way for a new game, a glorious activity that will replace the monotony in your life in a heartbeat. It’s a sport you can play while grilling steak and drinking beer. It’s a sport you can play—and WIN—from your own backyard, anytime. Without further ado, introducing Exotic Backyard Tennis Bowling.
- Six tennis balls, preferably well-worn
- A backyard (if you don’t have a backyard, see “ALTERNATIVE GAME PLAY OPTIONS” section)
- A dog (optional)
- Several large holes your dog has dug in the backyard, which act as sand traps (optional)
- A shed with an 24-inch slab of concrete at the bottom (See photo):
- While throwing six tennis balls, one at a time, win the game by getting at least ten (10) points total before tennis ball hits concrete slab of shed
- Player must stand thirty-six feet from shed (forty-four if playing European rules)
- Balls must be thrown one at a time and must be thrown underhand
- One bounce equals one point; player can earn up to three (3) points for each throw
- If the ball bounces four (4) or more times before hitting the concrete slab, the player earns zero (0) points for that ball
- If the ball does not reach the concrete slab, that ball is worth a negative point
- If the ball hits any surface above the concrete slab, the player automatically loses the game
In case the rules are not 100% crystal clear and you need to visualize how this game might be played, here are three game-play scenarios:
Player A, who will be called Tom Brady for the purposes of this example, decides to give Exotic Backyard Tennis Bowling a try. He takes his first ball and chucks it overhand. It is determined that Tom is incapable of playing by the rules, and he loses immediately. A later study shows the ball was underinflated. The Exotic Backyard Tennis Bowling Commission gives Tom a lifetime ban from the game and fines him $10,000,000. The proceeds are split evenly to both fight COVID-19 and improve ethics training in our nation’s middle schools.
Player B, who we’ll call Charles Barkley, is a skilled Exotic Backyard Tennis Bowler. He throws his first ball, which bounces three times before hitting the concrete. Barkley has three points. He throws his second ball, which bounces twice before hitting the concrete. He now has five points. His third ball bounces five times, so he receives zero points. His fourth and fifth balls get him two bounces each before finding the concrete, giving him nine points with one ball to go. Barkley shanks the ball off the vinyl siding above the concrete, narrowly loses the game, and never goes on to win any games. It’s a very sad story.
Player C, who will be assigned the name LeBron James based upon random name generation, is perhaps the most gifted Exotic Backyard Tennis bowler the world has ever known. LeBron’s first three balls are perfect three-bouncers, netting him a total of nine points. His next two shots earn him zero points, because hey, you can’t win them all. His final shot is a majestic two-bounce shot that lands smack in the middle of the concrete slab. LeBron finishes with eleven points and a win. He then goes on to start a school for children from his hometown, provide hundreds of college scholarships, ignite conversation around racial justice, and star in the movie Trainwreck. He is immediately enshrined in the Exotic Backyard Tennis Bowling Hall of Fame, becoming the second member after Matt Cambridge, whose four-shot, twelve-point masterpiece still lives in infamy in St. Louis.
ALTERNATIVE GAME PLAY OPTIONS
- Substitute tennis balls for Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or other circular cereal; players attempt to throw onto coffee table from seated position on couch. Player must get at least three out of six pieces to stay on coffee table to win.
- Bring tennis balls inside and place short, empty trash can on other side of the room. Tennis ball must bounce twice before finally landing in trash can. If trash can falls over, player forfeits the game and must stick own head in trash can for twenty (20) seconds.
- Instead of throwing tennis balls, throw all of your plans for the next month out your second story window. Replace with Zoom calls, alcoholic beverage of your choice, and videos of people clapping for health care workers. If you experience a combination of boredom, fear, tears, tipsiness, and disgust, you’re doing OK, you’re normal, and you win.
Matt Cambridge (’12) is a new dad to Chloe, husband to the beautiful Kendahl, and a human resources professional at Boeing. He lives in St. Louis and enjoys eating Hershey’s kisses, riding roller coasters, and watching the latest stand-up specials on Netflix. You can read more of his work at laughcrythink.com.