Gritty in pink: Ithaca College welcomes new intramural sport

From left, junior Reeve Moir blocks a shot from junior Victoria Tran during a demonstration of pinkyball Sunday, Nov. 4, in the Fitness Center.
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From left, junior Reeve Moir blocks a shot from junior Victoria Tran during a demonstration of pinkyball Sunday, Nov. 4, in the Fitness Center.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

It started with a group of high school friends in Nahant, Mass., with a net built out of sticks and a 99-cent rubber ball. Twenty-eight years and 350 miles later, a schoolyard game called pinkyball has made its way to Ithaca.

Pinkyball, a combination of handball, lacrosse and soccer, has laid dormant for decades, being played only in a small high school in Massachusetts. This December, the sport  will be introduced on the collegiate level when the college hosts its first intramural pinkyball tournament.

Junior Reeve Moir, pinkyball’s local ambassador, stood in front of six students dressed in casual athletic clothes in October on the Mondo Gym Floor in the Fitness Center to facilitate the college’s inaugural game of pinkyball. The players formed into two teams, The Short Guys and The Kentucky Gentlemen, and Moir led a short informational session before the fast-paced game kicked into gear.

Moir described the basic move of pinkyball as a type of air juggle, where players try to keep the ball alive with a series of palm slaps while moving up the court. Players are allowed to slap the ball five times before they have to shoot or pass the ball to a teammate. The player can also kick the ball when they run out of palm slaps. Players can incorporate moves from other sports, like indoor soccer, to kick the ball off the walls and advance the ball forward.

“The goal of the game is to score points by hitting it into the net, just like soccer or lacrosse,” he said.

Shots on goal are directed at a goalie armed with only a baseball glove. Teams feverishly push the ball up and down the court attempting to score a goal. When a goalie makes a save on a high-speed slapshot, he or she can throw, slap, kick or roll the ball out to a teammate, and the play continues.

Junior Lucas Knapp participated in the college’s inaugural game of pinkyball. He said the sport was easy to get involved with because it doesn’t require special athletic gear or any type of specific athletic skill.

“You just need your hands, your body, some shorts and a t-shirt and you get to run around and have fun with your friends,” Knapp said. “It’s really not about who wins or loses, it’s just about playing pinkyball.”

Knapp identified the process of dribbling and kicking such a tiny ball as the most difficult parts of pinkyball to learn. Despite the learning curve the players faced, Moir said pinkyball’s simplicity got everyone engaged quickly.

“Everybody got the rules down really quickly, and then we just played for a while,” Moir said. “It was an awesome time. Tons of fun.”

Even with a wide range of athletic abilities present in the exhibition game, the game was evenly matched and ended with a close score. Moir attributed this to the even playing field

One of the 99-cent pink rubber balls used in the pinkyball game.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

created by lack of player experience.

“I want to stress to people the fact that since it has never been played here, nobody will have a distinct advantage in it,” he said.

Until this year, people only played pinkyball at the Waring School in Beverly, Mass., where it was first invented. As a sports management major, Moir created a project that would have a lasting impact on the office of recreational sports in his fieldwork assignment. Moir, a Waring alumnus, said he decided to pitch an old high school favorite as an intramural tournament at the beginning of the semester.

To adapt pinkyball to the collegiate level, rules had to be formalized and designed for the resources available to the college while maintaining the integrity of the original game. Goals once made of sticks have been replaced by nets of metal and nylon. Games that used to start with a toss off a chimney now begin with a simple jump ball reminiscent of basketball.

Because of its newness and unconventional set of rules, pinkyball is considered a non-traditional sport. Scott Flickinger, program coordinator of recreational sports, said, non-traditional sports create a relaxed in-game atmosphere and are open to a larger range of participants. The last intramural sport that was introduced to the college was Ultimate Frisbee during the spring of 2008.

“What we look at is something that may attract people who aren’t interested in more traditional sports,” he said. “There’s a lot more of the casual athlete, and these non-traditional sports appeal to them.”

Another factor that Flickinger considers when looking at new intramural sports is the cost. Pinkyball utilizes equipment already available, such as floor hockey goals and baseball gloves, and the pinkyballs themselves are inexpensive.

Flickinger said the challenge with running it as an intramural sport is getting people to show up. He said he is hoping the appeal of a brand new sport will draw in players.

“I always want to do something that’s new,” he said. “There are individuals looking for alternative activities to some of the more social aspects of Thursday and Friday night. We try to provide that outlet for individuals looking for a positive, fun release in terms of physical, mental and emotional safety.”

Flickinger researched what other colleges’ intramural programs have been doing and he found that non-traditional sports have been successful elsewhere. He said he also looked into handball at other colleges because of its strong similarities to pinkyball.

“[Handball] has been pretty popular in a lot of schools, and I thought, [pinkyball] is nothing we have ever seen before here, and it is nothing anyone else has really ever seen outside of Ithaca College, so why not be the pioneer?” he said.

Sign-ups for the tournament, set for the weekend of Dec. 1, were recently opened up to the campus community after the trial game Oct. 7 was deemed a success by the department.

Knapp said the people that were watching from the balcony in the fitness center during the first game looked a little confused, but also intrigued. Based on his experience, Knapp said pinkyball would fit in line with some of the campus’ other quirky activities.

“We play Quidditch and have Humans vs. Zombies,” he said. “It’s not much of a stretch to have pinkyball in there too.”

Time will tell as to whether pinkyball will be successful at the college, but Moir and Flickinger said they hope the game will be a staple in intramural programming in the future. Flickinger said there are even tentative plans to make a pinkyball league next fall, depending on the success of the tournament this December. He said the adoption of this unconventional sport is a major step ahead for intramurals at the college.

“The future is going to be with non-traditional sports,” Flickinger said. “Everybody and anybody can play the traditional sports. But, every once in awhile somebody will say, ‘I want to try something new.’”

FLEFF celebrates 15 years

From left, sophomore Gautam Singhani, an intern for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, stands with multimedia artist Art Jones in the Handwerker Gallery on Monday night.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan
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Organizers of the 2012 Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival are celebrating the event’s 15th year in Ithaca in a big way — with a focus on small utopias.

Each year FLEFF planners choose a new theme to unite all the films and incite discussion and discourse about a specific topic, which is one of the goals of the festival. This year an art installation made entirely of recyclable and sustainable materials that was created by interns represents the theme of the festival. This theme, microtopias — which means small utopias — is used to explore environmental issues without constraints or limitations.

From left, sophomore Gautam Singhani, an intern for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, stands with multimedia artist Art Jones in the Handwerker Gallery on Monday night.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

Sophomore Gautam Singhani, an intern for FLEFF, likes the idea because he links the theme to the festival itself.

“FLEFF is like a microtopia within a microtopia,” he said. “Both the festival and the college are microtopias that I feel are a great example of our current theme.”
Singhani is one of about 30 students currently interning for the festival. This is one of the ways that FLEFF organizers try to garner student participation.

“I love meeting all the new media artists and other guests,” he said. Art Jones, a multimedia artist, spoke during a master class Monday afternoon in the Park Auditorium about the state of the media industry.

Jones also led a multimedia performance Tuesday night in Hockett Hall that involved putting together approximately 70 minutes of footage the night before.

Jones also attended the opening event of the installation art Monday in the Handwerker Gallery. He said he enjoyed talking to students and being able to open a discussion about the breaking down of barriers between high culture and low culture, along with sharing his experiences with students.

Ann Michel, the president of Insights International, a business research and analytics company, is one of the coordinators of the internship program. She said this has been a successful year because of the returning team leaders and the signature live music events.

“These events stand out because of the live performance,” she said. “It makes it more theatrical. It makes it more special.”

Tanya Saunders, an executive producer of FLEFF and assistant provost for international studies and special projects, said part of the festival’s continued success is that students, faculty members and staff can get involved easily.
The festival has consistently become larger every year, attracting more and more guests. This year, more than 50 artists and filmmakers are in attendance.

The festival features events including new media performances with singers, films and artists, and the classic theater film. But, Patricia Zimmermann, professor in the Department of Cinema, Photography and Media Arts and co-director of FLEFF, said people should explore their own interests.

“Everyone needs to find their own path,” she said. “FLEFF asks nothing of people, except to ask questions.”

Chili festival keeps it local

Nate Marshall juggles firesticks during a performance outside Center Ithaca on the Commons.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan
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Amid a mild winter, thousands of locals and tourists flocked to The Commons on Saturday for the Great Chili Cook-off of 2012 to eat a seasonal favorite and support local businesses.

Attendees waited in long lines and participated in events such as the hot pepper-eating contest as part of the annual festival sponsored by the

Nate Marshall juggles firesticks during a performance outside Center Ithaca on the Commons.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

Downtown Ithaca Alliance. Thirty-eight different vendors, ranging from Cayuga Medical Center to Moosewood, presented their own special recipes in an effort to uniquely advertise their offerings. In all, about one thousands gallons of chili were on display for consumption.

Patty Clark, events manager for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, said the appeal of the event rests in its local connections.

“A lot of our vendors are local restaurants, and they have a very high concentration of using local products,” she said. “So we really enjoy supporting our local businesses.”

The Tompkins Trust Company held an inter-office competition earlier in the year to find the best chili within the company to present at the festival. Joe Cioachi, whose wife won that competition, said the warm weather helped draw the large crowds to the festival.

Sophomore Jeff Chilton said he found the weather to be one of the best parts of the festival.

“Chili-Fest this year is a lot stronger than Apple Fest was, but that is partly because of the weather,” he said. “It’s a different environment, and that’s because it’s the middle of the winter.”

As for the winners, Razorback BBQ won the “best meat chili” category with their smoked brisket chili. Collegetown Bagels won “best vegetarian chili” with their Roving Gypsy chili, and Life’s So Sweet Chocolate won “best other chili” with their chili chocolate. Mat’e Factor won “best presentation.”

City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, one of about 5,000 attendees at the festival, said the festival is an excellent way to showcase local businesses.

“I think it’s great for the city because it brings thousands of people into the downtown area,” Myrick said. “It shows them not just what’s happening on days when festivals are here, but also what The Commons have to offer all year-round.”

As for why he came out to the festival, well, that was a simpler answer.

“I love Chili-Fest because I love chili,” he said.