Humbled by ‘Dangly Balls’ |

Humbled by ‘Dangly Balls’

For some reason, no one seems to call the game by its obvious name — Dangly Balls.

Everyone seems to refer to it as “Norwegian Golf” or “Ladder Ball.” Come on — we’re talking about two golf balls connected by a string that you try to throw onto one of three rungs for various points. I think most people are too embarrassed to describe the game in its most accurate terms.

Anyway, that’s beside the story. The point is that my girlfriend and I get ridiculously competitive at Dangly Balls. Sometimes we even argue over who gets which color (I hate it when I get the blue balls — they’re unlucky).

The game simply gets much too serious at times, complete with angry cursing and taunting. Mandi and I both have German heritage, so that doesn’t help. Nonetheless, I’ve learned some important things about myself, thanks to silly games like this.

One — I take any form of competition very seriously. You may count on me giving 100 percent whenever I participate in anything, even if it’s a fart-noise contest.

As we made sketches around the art table our freshman year of high school, my friend Jenny told me, “You’re so competitive.” I didn’t realize I had a problem, however, until my junior year of college.

My roommate, Charlie, and I lived together for three years at school in Boulder. We’re still like brothers, but we nearly fought each other to death our junior year. The situation evolved slowly and peaked about mid-February.

It seemed each of us was convinced he was the alpha of the apartment. We often played chess, backgammon, darts, dice games and Xbox games, especially Halo, which is a video game in which players stalk and kill each other. Separately, those games were all in good fun, and it’s difficult to differentiate when it became a little crazy and passive-aggressive.

Charlie and I got in a heated argument over food in the fridge or something like that one day, and we realized we had both been very angry at each other for quite a while, and for no readily apparent reason. Upon further analysis, we noticed that we averaged seven fierce contests a day. We even competed with throwing knives at a stump in the backyard.

After one game, the loser would immediately challenge the other to a game of darts, then dice and so on. The score-keeping was endless — no wonder we were so angry.

As soon as we saw what was happening, we were laughing about it. Yet we were also careful to forget any previous point-tallies from then on.

When my stepsister’s fiancé slaughtered me on the billiards table last year, he thought he had a bright idea.

“Since this is the first time we’ve ever played each other, wouldn’t it be fun to keep score for the rest of our lives, keep track of how many games each has won?” he suggested.

“No,” I said. “That would not help our relationship.”

I’ve gotten wiser since college, but I’m still learning things from these little games.

Last month, Mandi pointed out that she wasn’t having much fun playing Dangly Balls with me. I couldn’t understand why — she was winning all the time.

Meanwhile, I was frustrated because I just couldn’t get those balls to hang from the plastic rungs while she dangled them at will. I felt so incapable. I was not feeling successful at work, nor in much of anything — I couldn’t even win a simple game!

“I suck!” I cursed at myself, which is why I was no fun to play with.

Then I noticed that I was also intensely competitive on the morning drive to work. I was filled with road rage, probably because I felt like such a loser at everything I did. If I couldn’t be better than anyone, at least I could be faster in the car.

There is something wrong when you get upset over goofy games that are generally paired with alcohol, or when you flip off another driver just because he passed you before you could change lanes to get around the RFTA bus.

If you find yourself in this situation, my advice is to take a breath and give yourself a pat on the back — give yourself a little credit for a change. If you’re still here, you’re still in the game that matters.

So what? I suck at Dangly Balls. I’d rather have fun, which is one of the main objectives in this whacky growth experience called life. That, and learning all we can until the day we die.

Wisdom is everywhere, even in Dangly Balls.

— “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User