SI Vault
David Noland
May 14, 1990
The lithe, well-muscled young men leap and run across the grass, tossing the ball in the brilliant Cape Cod sunshine. The spectators cheer. The team in white, down 30 points only a few minutes earlier, has mounted a brilliant scoring burst and closed the gap to 97-95. "It's a whole new ball game!" shouts an onlooker.
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May 14, 1990

If You're Looking For A Whole New Ball Game, Try Zoneball

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As the game begins, Rogovin's strategy works beautifully. Jackson and Crook launch a blizzard of two-and three-pointers, and the Blue twin towers in the bull's-eye zones effortlessly grab them above the outmanned White defenders. White, meanwhile, seems to have no particular strategy in mind and is paying dearly for errant shots. Blue races to a 19-3 lead and is up 68-43 as the first of the three 20-minute periods ends.

But midway through the second period, White starts to come alive. Passing sharply, its players whip the ball around the perimeter to four-point gunner Rob Taylor, who has started to find the range. Taylor, a former college lacrosse star, repeatedly threads bombs between the Blue skyscrapers to his own sure-handed men. A Taylor four-pointer cuts the margin to two points amid much White fist pumping and high-fiving.

But Blue continues to hammer away with the two-point chip shots, and White inexplicably stops feeding Taylor. Blue also cashes in with numerous penalty shots, the result of White's overaggressiveness ("Take his face off!" one White player is heard to exhort a teammate, although he fails to make clear how this is to be accomplished in a noncontact game).

The players are not above chicanery. They are well aware that the five referees can't sight down curved lines for zone violations. And it's not until well into the second period that the refs remember that a point player must have both feet in his zone to make a legal catch.

Blue continues to pile up the two-point chip shots, and it eventually cruises to a convincing 191-165 victory, a high score by zoneball standards. "Yeah, we played like the Lakers today," says Rogovin.

King admits that zoneball is still in its formative, peach-basket phase and may need further tinkering. Some players feel the scores are too high, but King sees that as a plus. "Everybody gets to score a lot of points," he says. "For the person who's not very athletic, that's a real thrill. Who wants to play soccer for 90 minutes and see one or two goals?" Nevertheless, King is mulling over reducing the value of an inner-ring shot from two points to one, much to Rogovin's chagrin. Other players suggest that the penalty shot—an uncontested gimme lob to a point in the bull's-eye from the outer ring, worth one point—is too easy.

King admits to fantasizing about his invention's becoming an Olympic sport, and he even dares to dream of the day when Bo knows zoneball. "But if I got off a plane in Columbus or somewhere, and I was driving down Elm Street and I saw a bunch of kids playing zoneball in a vacant lot, that's all the gratification I'd need. That would be a real kick."

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David King 1 0 0
Andy Rogovin 1 0 0
Rob Taylor 2 0 0
Cape Cod 42 0 0
Lincoln Crook 0 0 0