So, after a lengthy argument with my secretary Lucy about the most engaging number of candidates for a list (she argued five, while your Pundit valiantly made the case for ten), I have decided that every week, the list will be as short or as long as I damn please. If I come up with a list that has multiple worthy candidates, the list will be long. If, however, the list has a few candidates that stand above and beyond the rest, the list will be more concise. No longer will I be constrained by society’s need for a fixed list limit; I refuse to live by the whims of dominant culture. I have made my stand, and I shall not waver (Editor’s note: For Chrissakes, just shut the hell up already and get to the list).
Frisbee – The difficulty with frisbee is that, while it is an essential item to any picnic, it is normally not an essential picnic game. You’re more likely to see a couple of people lazily flicking the frisbee back and forth to one another. But you’re less likely to see Uncle Frank, who hasn’t run since Vietnam and seems to be hiding a small child in his stomach, out in the field playing Ultimate Frisbee. See trampoline and slip-and-slide.
Sack-0 – Aka bean bag toss, tailgate toss, baggo, sacks and holes (Editor’s note: heh), cornhole (Editor’s note: heh heh), and tea bagging (Editor’s note: Ahahahahahahahaha). Seriously, these are all of the different names Wikipedia has for what I know to be Sack-O. This game is essential for several reasons: anybody can play, it is cheap and easy, and it involves minimal effort. Some may be more likely to include this as a tailgating game, but I think it definitely falls under picnic game status as well.
Wiffle Ball – Everyone has played themselves a little wiffle ball. It is a frustrating game, as that darn ball can fly all over the place, but wiffle ball is the closest, and safest (Editor’s note: At least for Mom’s windows) alternative to baseball. The great part about picnic wiffle ball is that, while the men will bring their beers and act casually in the beginning of the game to allow the younger kids to shine, by the end of the game, they’re swinging hard and wipping the wiffle ball all over the place. Cheap, and you can play as long as you have a couple of people.
Bocce Ball – This Italian game has seemed to increase in popularity in the past few years. Bocce ball is great, because you only need some balls, an open field, and a few people (Editor’s note: Um, maybe he could have worded that differently). I have to be honest here – I’ve never played. It looks fun, but it was never really played in my family, so I’m not sure if this ranking would be higher were I more experienced in the game. That being said, Bocce Ball is certainly a riser in the picnic world, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it crack the top three in the next couple of years (Editor’s note: Oh brother).
Quoits – Prounounced quates, quoits is a classic game that apparently has its roots in ancient Greece. I got that from Wikipedia, so you know its written in stone (Editor’s note: I understand that this phrase probably dates back to Moses and The Ten Commandments being etched in stone, I get that. But, if we were to update the implication of this saying, the only time we now write in stone is for gravestones. So, essentially, the modern translation of this phrase means not that something is sacred and irrefutable, but rather that it is dead. Who wants to ride in my new soapbox?). Check out the bottom of the article on quoits, it says that nowadays, it is most widely played in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Booyah! Quoits is simple, relaxing, anybody can play, and its often hours of fun. It drops to four because its cousin, horseshoes, is just a bit more popular.
Kickball – Is there a game on this list more fun than kickball? Obviously up for debate, but I love kickball. You can play with a large group of people, or with a few scattered all over the field. It can be played casually, or can become a serious battle. It’s fun seeing the older folks get out there, especially when they realize that every kick could be their last. Simple enough for supplies, and nature will often supply the bases, though for kickball aficionados, the ball itself must be just right (Editor’s note: By the way, if you are a kickball aficionado, it may be time to do a bit of soul-searching). Every child, at some point or another, has played kickball. From recess and right on to this list on essential picnic games, kickball is as American as baseball, apple pie and the addictive reliance on oil.
Horseshoes – You can always tell the difference between someone who is a regular picnic host, and someone who just throw one now and again. Check out the size of the grill – that’s always a hint (Editor’s note: It’s not the size of the grill that matters…its the BBQ sauce you use). Do they have a pool? How about tiki torches? And do they have a horseshoe pit? Without a doubt, horseshoes is an essential picnic game. Though many will argue that quoits, or even Sack-O, are acceptable replacements for Horseshoes, I firmly believe that most will first think horseshoes if you ask them to think of a picnic game that involves object-throwing. That, and like quoits, it goes back to ancient Greece, though it is less likely they played it at picnics, and more likely that they played it during grown men/young boy mixers. (Editor’s note: Oh, that’s just messed up). Who doesn’t have fond memories of uncles and grandpa’s and fathers out throwing horseshoes, drinking beer and smoking cigars and making jokes the women and children weren’t supposed to hear, all while somehow making sure lil’ Tommy didn’t run into the middle of the game and take a horseshoe to the eye? Two stakes, some sand, a couple of horseshoes, a few beers and a hot afternoon – does life get better?
Drum roll please. Without further ado, here’s……….
Volleyball – I knew that horseshoes and volleyball were going to wage war for the top spot, and it was an extremely difficult decision. While horseshoes have a more distinct picnic game feel to them, volleyball involves more people and is just a bit more fun. What makes picnic volleyball great is the dynamic between the people who enjoy playing seriously and the people who either aren’t very good or who are lazy and/or old. In my family, games end up becoming mildly competitive affairs where anybody making a mistake will quickly fall prey to an entire picnic of hecklers. Seriously, at our last family picnic, everybody not playing pulled up their chairs and made fun of everyone after they made a mistake. I felt like I was at a friggin’ Eagles game. The games always end up being a mix of younger kids and older folks, with breaks for beer replenishment and the occasional run to the slip-and-slide. In my opinion, more than any other game on this list, volleyball is a must for any gathering that dares to call itself a picnic.
Obviously, the list is up for debate. Feel free to send your thoughts, everybody picnics a bit differently, I’m interested to hear how you roll.