Summer Games: Thermal Ball

Now that summer is here, it's time to get that itchy shirt off and get outside. This is doubly true in times of Cub woe that we're currently experiencing - we need something to pass the time and dull the pain. Summer Games will examine some classic outside games, carefully choosing ones that lend themselves to shirtless participation and the coexistence of your favorite summer beverage.


Thermal Ball. The "game" is fairly simple. Take a tennis ball and douse it in a flammable liquid. Gasoline is preferred as it burns longer than lighter fluid, although substitutes such as Everclear or napalm will also work. Light the tennis ball on fire. Kick or throw the flaming tennis ball around. That's about it. It is one of the few summer games that can be played at night, nay, must be played at night.

History: While it would be lying to say we invented the game (YouTube shows many versions), our version was born from a bunch of friends bored one night with nothing to do. Not yet having realized the potential of boozing it up, smoking a fatty, or boning down, our weekend nights usually involved lighting fireworks at the local elementary school until the cops showed up and then running and hiding from them. This night, however, we were out of fireworks, and being the pyromaniacs that we were, found the next best thing. And Thermal Ball was born.

Location: The location is fairly important in Thermal Ball. While we used to use the street in front of our friend's house as teenagers, the inherent danger and legality of the game might make you want you to chose a safer place to play this game. Some recommended locations include: parking lots, corn fields, abandoned warehouses, and the like. The more room the better, and the darker the better, as the coolness of a ball flying through the air on fire is increased with less outside light.

Places not recommended to play Thermal Ball include: inside your house, your neighbors backyard (while they are sleeping inside), a California National Forest, and unfortunately where I live in the Arizona desert. Please note that the tennis ball will leave puddles of flaming gasoline where it bounces or rolls, so keep flammable objects and babies as far away as possible.

Rules: There are three rules to Thermal Ball- 1st RULE: You do not talk about Thermal Ball. 2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about Thermal Ball. 3rd RULE: There are no rules. A little like Calvinball, the best way to play is using your imagination and make it up as you go along. It is usually more fun with the more people involved, as the risk of serious injury increases. Basically you just kick the flaming ball around, or if brave enough, try to catch it and throw it without experiencing 2nd to 3rd degree burns. Tricks are encouraged, again increasing the risk of injury makes the game more fun.

Don't tase me, bro!

The game is usually ended when the police show up and you run away. If you get caught, refer to the first 2 rules of Thermal Ball. If you are lucky enough to be in a location that the cops will not show up at, the game may continue until the fire has burnt a hole in the tennis ball, causing it to no longer bounce, or until someone is injured enough to take them to the hospital (1st degree burns don't count, suck it up pussy).

Scoring: Much like my personal life, there is no scoring.

Ease of Playing Drunk/Shirt Wearing: Most often this game is played after consuming heavy amounts of alcohol and can often be influenced by flaming shots or drinks, such as the Flaming Cocaine or Flaming Moe, although as an official disclaimer, TMS does NOT endorse mixing drinking with fire. That being said, if you have someone sober enough to make sure your totally trashed friend doesn't try to catch the flaming tennis ball with his mouth, you should be okay.

This game can be played with or without a shirt, although for the more hairy men in the group, you might want to keep a shirt on if you don't want to end up looking like Michael Jackson shooting a Pepsi commercial.

All in all, Thermal Ball is a fun game, and it's ease of play and the chance of going out in a flame of glory (literally) make it a notch higher on the excitement level when compared to other summer games such as cornhole and horeshoes. Just make sure to remember the three magic words when playing with fire, "It wasn't me."

Go Cubs!

Comments