Monkeyball Featured in Lansing’s NOISE Magazine

Originally published on July 30, 2009 in Lansing, MI’s NOISE Magazine.

By Andi Osters

Last year, NOISE Magazine ran an expose on a popular game called “Cornhole,” involving beanbags, two target boards, and (hopefully) plentiful sunshine.  I read that column and immediately thought, I know of a game more fun, more organized, and more legitimate than this, and I can prove it.

You may know it as Polish Horseshoes, Hillbilly Golf, Ladder Toss, Dingle Ball, along with some other vulgar monikers which we can’t print here.  You’ve seen it at every tailgate across the nation, many backyard barbeques, and numerous family reunions.  It’s not a southern thing or a northern thing, and has nothing to do with coasts.  I mean, Menard’s even tries to sell a cheap knock-off replica of the real thing.

I don’t want to confuse anyone here and tell you that I’m writing this article as an informative one.  This is blatant propaganda for a game … a culture … a movement … called Monkeyball.

Forget all those other names you call this mystical magical game played with golf balls on rope and PVC pipe.  There is now, and will forever be, only one thing to call it: Monkeyball.  There are two main reasons why Monkeyball is better than any other backyard wanna-be: it’s legit, and it’s cult cool.

Monkeyball is the name given by Commissioner Andy Frushour, a Lansing resident who hails from Mason and has a brain for exactly this kind of thing.  The Monkeyball Nation consists of over 300 individually ranked players, all catalogued in a massive game-by-game database and displayed on what has become a very impressive, very slick website:

The website for Monkeyball does more than rank players.  One of the main gripes about knock-offs of Monkeyball is the lack of rules consistency — until now, there hasn’t been any uniform way to regulate how the game itself is played.  There is a comprehensive and exhaustive Monkeyball Officials Tournament Rule Book which fixes this issue.  It’s available for public view and download on the website, and can be replicated for sanctioned events.

In addition, the website offers printable tournament brackets for any size event: if you have 8 players and a Monkeyball set, you’re good to go.  Simply email your results to the Commissioner and bam – your event shows up on the front page of the site.  This is serious, folks.

The Monkeyball season is, admittedly, very dependent on seasonal climes.  That being said, there have been tournaments held in December (in fresh snow), at night (with Christmas lights around the ladders), and indoors (in a Michigan basement).  This leisure sport is dangerously addictive – it’s not a new game, but it’s a new idea.  Compiling all of the player bios, victories and losses, venue specifics, event photos and full synopses of all tournaments, Monkeyball has the look and feel of a professional league.

This year alone, there were 23 sanctioned tournaments, 14 of which were held out of state.  Since Monkeyball began in 2005, there have been 57 events.  In those events, nearly 400 players have tried their hand at claiming a tourney title, and 31 have been successful.  The format and design of Monkeyball as a sport lends itself to parity amongst the ranks.  That is not to say that there aren’t ranked players who dominate the competition.

The third-ranked player in the world, according the Monkeyball rankings, has won the last three World Championships, and looks to hoist his fourth trophy next week.  I can barely speak his name, let alone type it, sufficed to say that my ranking of #17 has a lot to do with losses at his hands.

The season culminates with the World Championships, held locally in Dimondale.  This year, “MB5” (it’s the 5th annual World Championships) is hosting 144 players, some ranked and some not, and has drawn corporate sponsorships from businesses like Biggby, Casey’s Head (graphic design firm), and the Spartan Hall of Fame in East Lansing.  (For details on this year’s event, see the box to the right.)

I suppose the point here is that sometimes, you’re a part of something that you really enjoy bragging about.  For some people, it’s their line of work; for others, it’s an active church group or softball league.  For me, it’s Monkeyball.  What other leisure sport gives you the feel and reality of staunch competition coupled with a cold beer?  There’s an attitude of camaraderie and fun built in for those who’ve experienced this phenomenon, and I think that should be shared.

Ditch that rickety wooden doppelganger set from Meijer in your garage and come try out the real deal – this is the next big thing.

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