Zoom Ball

Chairs, masking or duct tape, and a space large enough to hold your chairs in a circle.

Minimum is about 6, with maximum at 30. Fifteen to 20 is optimal. I’ve played with everyone from fifth grade to adult.

Everyone needs to be sitting with their feet on the floor, and everyone needs to be able to make eye contact with everyone else in the tight circle.

The object of the game is to not have any tape on your body by games end. Play can go on for hours if the group wants it. The usual ending of the game results in a play-off, where a penalty results in being removed from the game until there are two or three players left. You cannot play zoom ball with just two people, and three is a little squishy.

The leader of the group begins each round by saying “customary whistle” and holding his fingers to his lips in an imaginary blowing-whistle fashion, “customary white hat” grabbing the bill of his invisible white hat, and “ball’s in play” whereafter he zooms someone.

Moving the ball:
There are three ways to move the invisible ball around the circle: Zooming: You zoom someone by grabbing the back of your neck with your right hand, pointing your elbow at a player, and most importantly looking at that player. A zoom is completed by the eyes, not the elbow. The elbow is an aid. When you have zoomed someone, they have the ball and need to do one of three things: they can either zoom or Shrug: When you shrug your shoulders, the ball immediately goes back to the person who just passed it to you. The other alternative is to Slap: This is the usual method of passing the ball. You pass the ball by slapping the side of your legs in one of four ways:

Right hand to outside of right leg passes the ball to the player to your immediate right.
Right hand to inside of left leg passes the ball to the player to your immediate left.
Left hand to outside of left leg passes the ball to the player to your immediate left.
Left hand to inside of right leg passes the ball to the player to your immediate right.

The ball moves until someone commits a penalty. At the beginning of the game, this will take 10 seconds. When you’re cooking into your fourth hour, the points could last 10 minutes.

Play ceases when one of three things happen:
Someone makes a noise with their mouth. No talking, laughing or verbal noises of any kind are permitted. Asthmatics are allowed. The penalty for making a noise is tape over the mouth. Multiples of making a noise my be putting tape all the way around the neck. Careful of those short hairs!
You go out of turn. Either going when the ball is not passed to you, or not going when the ball is passed to you. The penalties for going when the ball is not passed to you is to tape the part of your body that you slapped out to turn. For example, if the person to your right slapped his right leg (and faked you out by looking at you) and you slap your right leg, your hand will be taped to your leg (tape around the whole leg, especially if shorts are worn!) If you zoom out of turn, your arm is taped in the zooming position (tape around both forearm and muscle, especially if short sleeved shirts are worn). Multiple zooms can be penalized by first taping both arms, and then allowing the person to zoom with his or her leg. When the legs are both taped (around the neck, of course) a) it’s picture time and b) it’s time for some grace. If a person shrugs out of turn, tape around the whole shoulder blade area. If a person doesn’t go in orderly time, the wrist is taped. Multiple time penalties have tape creep up the arm.
The rule of three is broken. In the course of play, the person who zooms or shrugs on the third time in a row is penalized. In other words, if the leader zooms Brian, Brian zooms Maddy and Maddy zooms Pat, Maddy is penalized. Note: If Brian zooms Maddy and Maddy shrugs Brian who zooms Pat who shrugs Brian who zooms Zippy, Brian is not penalized. One person is not penalized for zooming three times, the person who zooms the third time is penalized. The penalty for zooming three times and shrugging three times is the same as for above.

With first time players and the prospect of at least a half hour of play ahead of you, three graces (non-taping penalties) are not uncommon. With folks who have played before, one grace is good before the tape flies. In mixed games (which is the norm), you may give more graces to novices. After about 20 rounds, if you so desire, the leader may decide to remove tape from players.

The Leader:
The leader of this game really determines how fun this game will be. As in good parenting, an authoritative demeanor is helpful. If one is too authoritarian — allowing no graces, playing strictly by the rules and in general a pain — that takes the life out of it. If one is too passive — allowing to be talked out of penalties by their friends — the people who are taped will resent those that weren’t. Often what will happen with the younger players is they will see being taped as a desirable thing, and try to get penalized. This is no fun at all, and must be nipped in the bud. Often, the first person to be taped will be embarrassed to the point of not wanting to play if they have to be taped. You can model good taping behavior by offering to tape yourself in sympathy. If someone is clearly upset at the amount of tape they have accrued, you can start removing the tape. Make sure asthmatics have a hole by which to breath through. Also, it is extremely good form for the leader to accept being taped for his or her infractions. If you aren’t able to tape others, you can assign that joy to someone else. You will have many volunteers.

The hardest part of being a leader is following the ball. Your concentration must be on the ball and where it’s going. But you can’t look everywhere at once, and often others will see infractions you’ve missed. At the beginning of the game, you must stress that they should make the time-out sign if they wish to speak in the middle of a point. You are the judge and jury of penalties. If someone says “he talked” and you didn’t hear it, you can go either way.