© 2010 Lynsey

315 – The nature of the observer


A couple of times lately I’ve rushed into our lunch room early in the morning to grab a jump-start coffee only to find myself in the sacred and hushed atmosphere of fans watching football. The World Cup – who knew? Sorry, sports fans across the spectrum, I really couldn’t care a whole lot less. I’ve never been able raise enough interest in sport to pay more than a cursory moment of attention.

Except for Nunga. Now there’s a sport that totally engages me. You’ve probably never heard of it much less played it and even less seen it being played. Don’t feel bad, it’s not available on the sports channel. Hopefully never will be. Nunga is a game we made up a few years back. At a family reunion. We were bored to the point of paralysis and there was nothing to see or do, and nowhere to run to. Nunga to the rescue.

Nunga is a solo sport you play with other people. You need a team of two or more people. Probably five is optimal, more than that they should split off into a separate team so you’ve got somewhere to defect to. Defecting to other teams is an important, if not essential, component. You’ll need a branch/pole/broken broomstick/peg, and at least one ring of some kind. Initially we used an axle off a pushchair and a couple of the broken/rusted out wheels – just the decaying rubber and rusty rims left. Sink the branch/axle in the ground deep enough so about 30 cm/ 1 foot remains above ground.

The object of the game is to throw the ring over the branch. Just like throwing quoits. Horseshoes. Here is where the sport differs. It’s over to the thrower to decide where they’ll stand to throw. Most people start right up close, and then move further back as their confidence and competence grows. They make it just difficult enough. Nunga is a sport that most anyone of any age can compete in with an equal opportunity to win at – physicality is not a requirement – in fact being a stunning athlete in the traditional form is a disadvantage.

Merely getting the ring over the peg doesn’t really win the points. There are no points. The other people on the team are there to boost you onwards to ever bolder moves. How you score is by ever moving out of your comfort zone and still hooping the ring over the peg. The best players are those who can call like a rooster, scurry up clucking like a chicken, run past the peg, and throw the ring without looking, have in bounce off a car, knock (but not spill) Aunty Joy’s gin and tonic, spin on its axis and then descend gracefully around the peg; to the wild screams and applause of the other participants – each of whom are determined to outdo the theatrical splendor, grace, and riskiness standard so recently set. The frailer or younger participants have the advantage that any flamboyance exhibited will be more valued than mere physical expertise. Singing, dancing, chanting, flames, hop, skip, and jump. Spin, twist, and yahoo to your heart’s content. Giggle like a loony-thing. The most important thing is to engage and enjoy as raucously as possible.

Don’t watch the game. BE the game.

PS – When the winning match was scored, my colleagues politely applauded and quietly returned to their desks. Not a lot of Nunga there.

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