Grown assed men throwing junk and each other's junk.
It is rare that I am reluctant to make public a post that I’ve spent any time working on. Writing serves as an inexpensive (and non-wine related) form of therapy for me. It’s an easy way for me to squeeze out what ever emotional toxins have built up around the walls of my paper thin psyche — and you all get to come along for the ride. Lucky you! I figure that as long as I have to tackle my own neurosis, it would be nice to have some company. I ordinarily write without any shame on my part. Normally, I don’t concern myself with the social implications of anything that I share. What your opinions are of me is really none of my business. (I am, however, working with the reasonable assumption that all of you adore and think about me for several hours a day) The act of writing should leave the writer feeling a bit exposed and vulnerable — and it’s safe to say that is exactly how I felt while working on this particular piece. I am fairly certain that it may change the way you think about me or my decision making. Hell, just typing it out has made me question how well I really know myself.
Fair warning, there is going to be a lot of talk of male anatomy coming your way. You may find the content a bit graphic, but at least you didn’t have to live it. At least you didn’t voluntarily sit in a chair allows somebody to chuck weighted object at your genitals. At the end of the day we are all the product of all of the decisions we have made. In order to actualize as a human we must claim ownership of our own story — no matter how perverse of a tale it may be.
Hello, my name is John Roedel and I am a survivor of over 100 games of Penis Ball and I am a serial flincher.
You’ve never heard of Penis Ball before? That’s probably because you are a good person who has never given your life over to a depravity.
Act One: Planet Cobra Kai
One of the earliest myths that I was ever exposed to about what it meant to be born and live as a dude in the mid-eighties came from the classic film Stand By Me. In that movie, Teddy repeatedly fake-punches his fellow pre-pubescent buddy, Vern, which causes him to naturally flinch and recoil in anticipation for being hit. Doing so instantly invoked the "Two For Flinching" clause for Vern. He would have to take two unabated slugs to the arm from Teddy as punishment for his sin of flinching.
Two For Flinching!
Really the whole thing is just an example of a standard boyhood rule that has been in existence for centuries. You don't show weakness at any moment because that imperfection can be turned against you. If you got hurt playing football with your buddies, you better sure as hell not cry because you may end with a nickname like “Johnny Sissypants” or “Little Roedel Cry Baby” or “Whiney Soggybritches” or something far more vulgar than any of those. There was only one cardinal rule to being a boy: You took your medicine like a man. Stand By Me reminded me that if you have a penis there was no room for flinching in our world. You were called to stare down danger and suffering with a steely gaze -which by was not a trait that I was born with. My is was more of a Quilted Northern quality. My innate reaction to even a micro gram of minor discomfort is to retreat into a pitch dark room and listen to Tori Amos — it certainly wasn't to act like nothing bothered me. I am a natural born flincher who can be reduced to blubber by a Peanuts comic strip. I came to find early on in my life that I was a Care Bare who was living on a Cobra Kai Planet. In order to survive I would have to learn to play the game of not flinching. Little did I know that wouldn't just be a metaphor. I would literally have to learn not to flinch — the sperm that one day would help create the very lives of my future children would depend on it.
Act Two: Every Testicle For Themselves
While “*attending” college (*I defined attending as paying tuition for a classes I may or may not go due to my pretty hectic social calendar) at The University of Wyoming, I had a group of really good buddies who I had come to meet through various functions that took place at a Catholic Church that served our campus. Although, the foundation of our friendship was formed based on our similar faith beliefs, we were not what you would consider "Holy Rollers" — if anything we were just your typical collection of college sleeze ball guys who sat around drinking beer in never vacuumed apartments while coming up with new ways to mock each others mother, grandmother, or other long dead family matriarchs. On Sunday we would all gather for the holy mass as a community — but the rest of the week was spent in your standard college debauchery where we all tried to earn our way into an hour long confessional box experience. We spent our days in bible study and our evenings playing a drinking game that typically involved a deck of cards and a $3 box of wine. Some may argue that we were living hypocritically. I would simply say we were embracing the Yin and Yang lifestyle that is the birthright of any decent college student. It was a fantastic time for me. I am absolutely certain that I laughed more during those 4-5 years of college life than I will during the rest of my life. It was a blast to be so close to a bunch of other young men who were just starting to understand how to balance being an adult with the need for consuming super cheap (and urine flavored) beer. I have zero regrets about the time I spent with my friends in college — sans one:
Penis Ball (or P-Ball as it became known in our peer group in Laramie, Wyoming) is a "game" that for the life of me I cannot recall how it came about. It just showed up. One day we weren't playing it and then the next day it was part of our group's fixed agenda. It makes no sense to me that I can't remember where the origin of this game came from. I can't believe we didn't have long deliberations about the moral or physiological implications that would inherently come with a game that involved us all trying to get each other violent impact vasectomy's. It is almost as if somebody had traveled in time at some point and screwed with things to a point where this game was as much part of our reality as Monopoly or Uno would be. How we could allow ourselves to do this to each other without a whole lot of thought behind it is beyond me. Penis Ball came out of nowhere and without warning. It was a terrifying game, but constantly reminded me of the important lesson that flinching would not be tolerated.
Here are the basic rules to P-Ball:
A playing space that was shaped like a support group meeting or living room.
Four to eight stupid 20-23 year old men (hereafter known as “Players”) that would sit in a circle — there should be approximately two feet of space between each players.
These men would not be allowed to wear baggy pants or shorts. Tight jeans were encouraged.
A hackey sack or any other object of similar weight and size — hereby known as the official "Penis Ball"
A couple of gawking female onlookers who try and talk the players out of playing such a juvenile and idiotic game.
The players form a circle and must ensure that their genitals are not being covered by anything like a jacket, book, or a drink. Usually it is recommended that these players be mostly drunk before game starts.
Going clockwise the players would take turns throwing The Penis Ball at the junk/member/penis/jimmy/macho/longfellow/general private/one-eyed-pirate/sleepy badger/who-who-hay-nanny/turtleman/wedding tackle/etc at any other player that they chose. Typically a player will select another player to be their target by pointing at their crotch and grinning psychotically.
While throwing the Penis Ball at another player the thrower must huck it at their chosen target with only using "Serious Arc". Serious Arc means that the Penis Ball must travel across the circle like a pop fly ball. It may not be thrown at a downward angle toward another players soldier with any kind of pitching motion. Breaking this rule will open up a list of severe consequences that could lead the offender to being re-circumsized. The thrower usually only gets one throw per turn — unless, of course, A Flinch has taken place. We will get to that next.
The person who is the target of the thrower must keep his hands either behind his head or motionless on his lap for the entirety of the turn. This means that once the thrower has selected them as their target they cannot move. If, while the P-Ball is flying through the air the target has to stay absolutely still. Once the ball lands the target may move and react according to what their body tells them to do. Points are scored through the following system:
1) If The Penis Ball misses it's target completely than there is not points given to the thrower. Missing the target is defined as The P-Ball landing on the ground or anywhere else on the targeted player that is far removed away from their Senior Schwarz. Logic will be the arbiter here. For example if the ball hits the target player's face than there should be no discussion of points being given. The thrower’s turn is now over.
2) If the ball lands near or on the targeted players Old Boy than an honest conversation must follow. The targeted player will have to honorable and admit to it hitting them in The Little Elvis — and then depending on the severity of that hit points will be allocated:
a) The Penis Ball hit the targeted player's Dudezilla in a manner that causes minor discomfort. Usually this means that there was not a direct hit, but rather, The Penis Ball caught a surrounding neighborhood. The targeted player, because he is obviously an upright kind of person, must then admit that the impact of the ball has indeed caused some level of pain. If this happens the thrower is then given 1 Penis Ball point.
Additionally, if after a few moments the targeted player reveals that he is now afflicted with a growing nausea or gut pain this will cause the thrower to be granted an extra Penis Ball point. This is much like an “and one” situation in basketball. If there is going to be this kind of abdominal development it will typically begin no later than sixty seconds after the PB has found it’s purchase.
Sometimes you may play with some macho cowboys who refuse to admit to any pain has been caused. Despite their sweating and rocking back in forth in their chair they don’t confess to any type of suffering. These men are swallowing their pain These men are heroes and should be celebrated — you are lucky to be playing with them. We call these men Penis Ball Cowboys. Honor them.
b) The Penis Ball slams perfectly (like the one that took down The Death Star) into the target players Dandy that it inflicts severe pain and agony. This kind of suffering is easy to identify because it carries with it the following symptoms: shrieking, writhing on the floor, abandonment of any belief in God, ear bleeds, dry heaving, regret for playing, unconsciousness, and complete inner death — usually in this exact order. While the targeted player is curled up on the ground reflecting on his life this is a good time for the other players to cackle and high-five like the true assholes that they are. I mean, come on, is there nothing better for men than watching other men have their testicles caved in?
Personal Note: It is rare that any player can withstand a shot like this and show outward signs of distress. The guy who accomplished this feat did so repeatedly. You could tell that he was dying on the inside but he would never admit it. His eyes would roll back in his head and his skin would turn purple — but he would just smile and tell everybody that the Penis Ball did not hit the target. I have no doubt that after each of those games he went home and threw up blood for two hours.
These are the basic rules that come with a game of Penis Ball. A game would conclude when one player earned a point total of greater than 7 or if emergency services would need to be called to help one of the players have his nuts untangled. It’s game that can be played literally anywhere. Sometimes if a hackey sack (or it’s dimensional equivalent) cannot be acquired for a game a substitute ball can be selected. We have played Penis Ball with the following items:
The Heavy Metal Wheels From A Rolling Office Chair
Did I mention that we were idiots? We were.
Oh, there was one more rule that I should explain:
THE FLINCH RULE
If the targeted players move at all it during or right before the throw it will be considered "A flinch" and that is, my friends, an intolerable offense. In fact, a player who flinches is considered a far bigger scumbag than a person who violates the “Serious Arc” rule. (Think about that. The player who is afraid of taking a shot to his Winkie Dink is lower on the honor chart than a player who just violently throws the Penis Ball as hard as they want. ) If the targeted player flinches before the ball either reaches or misses it's target the following penalty is enforced:
The Thrower gets another turn to throw where now The Flicher must close their eyes and keep their hands behind their back. This leads The Flincher to being in an absolute vulnerable position where he has no idea to as to the when or the velocity that Penis Ball will be arriving at his Man Station. If enforced properly it should leave The Flicher feeling like one of the characters from Mortal Kombat who is staggering around helpless just before his head is ripped off by his opponets super violent finishing move. There is only one way to avoid this fate: DO NOT FLINCH. TAKE YOUR MEDICINE LIKE A MAN!!
Enjoy your game of Penis Ball!
The problem is I was born a flincher, I live as a flincher and someday I’m going to die as a flincher. I couldn’t play a game of Penis Ball without shaking or jiving in my chair. I flinched when other people were getting thrown at. Whenever I was a targeted player I lurched like I was being slain with an invisible spirit. This meant that I was constantly being forced to take a blindfolded shot to my Carrot N Cranberries all the time. I just couldn’t handle the anticipation what was about to come without balking and blanching at it. Why did I play? I have no idea. I was terrified every time we played.. It’s not like I’m a person who enjoys living on the edge. I hate edges. I like to live on a soft pillow eating Reese's Pieces in the middle- far removed from an sort of edge. I played Penis Ball because I wanted to hang with my buddies — despite the fact that I was putting the possibility of ever having children in peril.
The fact that I have had the scrotal capabilities to be part of a process that helped create three boys should be considered by The Vatican as a full fledged miracle. I’ve taken more low blows than Nickelback. I’m twenty years removed from my last real game of Penis Ball but I can still get butterflies and a tinge of nausea whenever I sit down in furniture that has been arranged in a semicircle. If you were to invite me to come over for coffee in your home I would probably wear an athletic cup just in case you decided to pick up a letter opener/stapler/cat/antique glass ashtray and hurl it (hopefully with serious arc) at my USS Clawhammer. I’ve been conditioned through all of the impact trauma that my balls have received to always expect that somebody is always sizing up my groin for attack. I live my life like a jumpy cat. I was always a flincher — but now I’ve taken it to a whole new level. I’m more of convulsor these days. Thanks a lot Penis Ball.
Act Three: Once A Flincher....
A couple years after our last sanctioned league P-Ball game I was riding in dingy elevator at midnight up to the third floor of our hospital in Cheyenne to be with my dying father for what was going to be the last time. This elevator was absolutely something out of a horror movie. The lights were flickering and the machinery was grinding in a way that made me wonder if I was being taken down to Freddy Krueger’s boiler room. I can’t remember too many specific memories of my father’s final days in his war against cancer. The last week of his life is all a blur to me — the grand total of my recollections are just a series of images that flash through my minds eye from time to time. That entire experience feels like it was just an evening of Nightime Robitussien induced lucid dreams. I can’t remember much — but I can recall everything about my ride in that fucking elevator -from the layer of filth on each of the buttons to the smell the of cheap industrial bleach that the janitorial staff must have recently hosed it down with. My entire ride is chiseled in my memory. It was the longest forty second elevator ascension in the history of man.
I spent the entirety of that ride hyperventilating because I knew I was too late.
I was sweating and slumped against the wall while my carriage labored upwards. I had never felt this exhausted in my life. About twenty earlier I had just fallen asleep when my mom called me to tell me that the the nurses had just informed that my dad was about to pass. His heart was failing and it looked like he only had a couple minutes left on Earth. I sped to the hospital as fast as my super-shitty Ford Taurus would allow me to. I didn’t want to miss my dads final bow. I had been sitting bedside with him for a week with my hand in his. I wanted one more of those sacred moment before he left me. I wanted to feel our pulses thump against each other one last time. I needed to make it there in time. I had to. I broke every speed limit I encountered. I ran all the flashing red lights. I was going to make it. I was going to make it. Then all of the sudden it didn’t matter anymore.
When I was a about a block away from the hospital I had the strangest feeling wash over me. It was the closest thing I’ve ever felt in my life to anything that could be considered beyond natural explanation. It was a sensation that didn’t originate inside of me — but, rather, came from outside source that I was absorbing. It the uncanny knowledge that I was already too late. My dad’s spirit had left his body. It wasn’t so much of a cliche’d ghosty goodbye experience that you might see in a movie, as it was the inexpiable realization that I was not going to make it in time. How could I possible know this? I have no idea — but it felt like the absolute truth to me at the time.
There was no need to speed to the hospital anymore. I slowed down my driving to a near-crawl and spent a couple extra minutes looking for a place to park, although the parking at that time of night was ample. My dad was gone and now I knew the heartbreak and grief was on its way. There was no stopping it now. Too late to say goodbye. Too late to share the words that I had been withholding because I had been certain that there as going to be more time to offer them.
In that rattling elevator up to the third floor I couldn’t catch my breath. With the weight of my body against the wall and my hands coiled around my chest I tried to find my air — but couldn’t. I knew when that door opened I was going to be physically face to face with the truth that my dad was gone. My life was now never going to be the same again. His death was going to create a chasm in it that my timeline that would signify the beginning of a new and more terrifying age. I was leaving the time in my life when I had a father and entering the days when I wouldn’t. It was like watching a season change with the understanding that it would never come back. Winter is coming. Winter is here. By the time the elevator reached the third floor I was lurching and trembling. It hadn’t been the elevator that had been shaking -it had been me the whole time.
I was flinching.
Ding. The door opened. The tears came. I had never cried like that before. It was like a pipe had broken behind my eyes. Water just poured out. My hands were vibrating. I stumbled out into the hallway. My dad’s room was right across from the elevator doors and I could see that the rest of my family had already gathered around his room. They were all hugging each other. Whatever feeling that had engulfed me on my drive over turned out to be true. I was too late — he had died before I had gotten there. I stood there in the hallway unable to move. My brain either refused or couldn’t send the proper signals to my legs to get them to march forward.
One of the last things I can remember that evening is one of my well-meaning relatives walking up to me in the hallway outside my dads room where I had planted myself. This particular gentleman is a stoic sort of men (another one of those Penis Ball Cowboys) put both his hands on my swaying shoulders and looked at me dead in my red puffed out eyes.
“Come on, John. It’s time to go in. No time for tears. Those can come later. Right now is the time for strength and courage. No falling apart right now,” he said. He was offering me a coded message to take my medicine.
I looked at him and simply said “Too late.”
I wasn’t mad or outraged at him for telling me how to feel. He was probably trying to help me maintain my composure because he didn’t want me to later regret being a mess in front of so many other people. I appreciated the sentiment — but I never had a problem with wearing my heart on my sleeve.
He nodded and gave my shoulders one of those good manly squeezes that I have always assumed men in war give each other right before the bullets start to fly. I could tell by his expression that he was rightfully concerned about me. I hadn’t even walked in the room yet and I was already quivering — what would happen when I actually went into the room where my father’s empty vessel was residing. I was already shaking and I hadn’t even felt the full impact yet.
I shuffled inside the room. I could feel my old life ending and a new one beginning as I crossed the threshold. Everything in my life had changed -except the flinching. That would always remain.
Once a flincher always a flincher.