Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Who was the first human to look at a wide, pristine expanse of grass
and think â€œThis looks like a good spot for a game?â€ The answer is lost
to time, but modern Americans definitely owe a debt of gratitude to
that long-forgotten ancestor. He or she was the unwitting inventor of
the yard game, the ultimate summer pastime.
So what elevates a simple game to the level of â€œgreat American yard game?â€
To qualify, a game must be:
* Multiplayer game played on grass
* Involve fun, challenging physical activity;
* Be appealing for both children and adults.
Here are five great American yard games, in no particular order:
1. Horseshoes - Horseshoe historians are pretty sure the game traces its origins to ancient Greece. Poor people, who could not afford a discus like the ones used in the Olympic games of the era, collected discarded horseshoes and began tossing them at a stake in the ground.
Fun factor: High. Practically anyone can play and you can adapt the game to be simple and easy or challenging, depending on the age and skill level of the players.
2. Ladder Golf - The newest addition to the pantheon of beloved American yard games, Ladder Golf originated in California. Two teams toss bolas - two colorful balls connected by nylon rope - at a three-rung ladder. Hooking your bola on the top rung will score you three points, two for the middle and one for the bottom. The first team to score 21 wins. The game has become popular enough to rate its own tournament, held annually in California.
Fun factor: Very high. Although often played as a yard game, Ladder Golf can also be played on sand, pavement, bare ground or even indoors. A new twist adds a bag toss to the existing game.
3. Badminton - Another game that traces its origins to the ancient Greeks, Badminton involves using light racquets to bat a shuttlecock (feathered projectile) back and forth over a net. No net, no problem.
Fun factor: Strong, since you can play as casually or as cut-throat as you prefer. Younger children, however, may find the racquets and fine motor skills required a bit too challenging.
4. Washer Toss - A uniquely North American derivative of horseshoes, washer toss pits two teams of two against each other pitching round washers into wooden boxes. Legend has it that the game originated in Ontario in 1988, when there werenâ€™t enough horseshoe pits for all the players who entered a tournament. Now itâ€™s played for its own merits.
Fun factor: High. Like horseshoes, the game can easily be adapted to casual or serious play for all ages. Young children may find the round shape of the washers easier to manage than horseshoes.
5. Croquet - Although mention of the game may conjure images of Victorian-garbed Brits using wooden mallets to gently tap balls through wire hoops set in the ground, itâ€™s believed croquet actually originated in France.
Fun factor: Medium to high. Unlike some other yard games, croquet isnâ€™t easily adaptable to surfaces other than grass. While young kids may have difficulty maneuvering balls through the wickets, theyâ€™ll probably have loads of fun trying.
Yard games will likely be around, played and loved for as long as Americans have yards. Theyâ€™re a great - and timeless - way to enjoy the outdoors in warm weather, providing fun and exercise for participants of all ages.