Required equipment: A Frisbee, two barrel-shaped containers with horizontal slots cut into them.
Matches are played with two teams of two players, one teammate at each barrel, which are placed 50 feet apart. The object of the game is to get the Frisbee into the can, either having it thrown through the slot or in through the top opening by the thrower or by being tipped in by the teammate (“the deflector”).
Each partner makes one throw, then the other team gets possession of the disc and takes its two tosses.
All throws are from behind the thrower’s barrel. As the disc approaches the barrel at the other end of the course, the thrower’s teammate can redirect it by using any body part. Deflectors may not grab, catch or throw the disc.
Games are played to 21 points. The first team to win three games wins the match.
A team gets one point when the deflector deflects the disc and it hits the goal without going in. Two points are awarded if a throw hits the side of the container without the deflector’s help. If the deflector tips the disc into the barrel, it’s worth three points. A throw that goes into the slot without being deflected is an instant win.
KanJam is another of those lawn games that can be played one-handed. That’s not by accident.
“The best thing about KanJam is the can serves as a trash can, so while you’re drinking your beer you can toss your empties into the can,” Hays says.
The best part of summer isn’t the long, warm days, or the cookouts, or the opportunity to putter in the garden.
It’s the lawn games.
Why? Lawn games epitomize summer. And they are so superior to other sports. Socks and shoes are generally optional. Participants often play with a cold beverage in one hand.
And, truth be told, you don’t need to be the greatest athlete. If you brag that you can run the 100 in 10 seconds, your fellow competitors won’t be impressed; they’ll just put you in charge of the beer runs.
Granted, lawn games may lack the heated competition of toe wrestling or the crowd-pleasing pageantry of bog snorkeling, but these are sports nonetheless, sports that people love.
People like Brooks Butler Hays, who has written “Balls on the Lawn: Games to Live By” (Chronicle Books), in which he examines some of the most popular — and some of the more obscure — lawn diversions.
The former includes horseshoes, badminton and croquet. The latter, KanJam, stump and petanque (pronounced pay-tonk). For the uninitiated, KanJam is a Frisbee game. Stump — or “nails,” as it is called in some areas of the country — involves pounding nails into a tree stump. People take turns, they flip hammers, they get feisty. Welcome to the world of stump. Petanque is a popular European game making inroads here; it shares similarities to bocce.
These games, Hays says, are more about leisure and friendship than win-at-all-cost competition.
“I take them seriously, but you can bring a less active person into the fold,” he says. “That’s why they often accompany parties. You’re inviting people you like rather than people with athletic skills.
“The Frisbee games require some athletic skills, but the other ones — especially the ball-throwing games — anyone can play those and have fun.”
“Balls,” which is nicely illustrated by Jeremy Stein, presents a veritable decathlon of lawn sports.
Hays explains the history of each, the (mostly minimal) equipment, rules, terminology. And to enhance the experience — though, really, how can you make lawn bowling any better? Hays suggests drinks to accompany each sport. (His book is definitely skewed to adults.)
Some of these sports are centuries old. According to tradition, the ancient Greeks stuck a stake in the ground and threw horseshoes at it.
Others, though, are of a more recent vintage. Hays says he was introduced to some of the games when he attended the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and fellow students brought their regional sports to campus.
“A game like stump, no one has heard of outside the New Hampshire, Vermont area,” Hays explains. “Now it’s starting to spread. KanJam is getting popular. No one was playing it five years ago when I was in college. It was just coming out of upstate New York. I had a friend from Rochester who brought it to William & Mary.”
Although all these games are perfectly at home on any lawn, some can be made part of a larger event. Badminton or croquet, for example, can add a Victorian elegance to an event such as a wedding, Hays contends.
“A thing I like about croquet,” he says, “it’s got this stately appeal. A croquet mallet in your hand is a nice accouterment to summer wedding garb.”
Catching the KanJam craze
Some sports have storied traditions, with mythical tales of how they were born. An example is the now discredited fable that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Then there’s KanJam. It has no long history or time-honored traditions. It was invented by a gym teacher and some friends in the 1990s, and they turned it into a business to make some money.
As Charlie Sciandra, the game’s creator, tells it, KanJam started out as garbage can Frisbee — literally, tossing Frisbees into a garbage can.
“I was playing with a group of friends ... a guy’s day out on a Saturday,” Sciandra says. “And we said, ‘Everybody grab a partner.’ We played for eight hours. I knew there was something, but I wasn’t sure yet.”
A year later they tried it again. Two dozen guys between 20 and 30 showed up for a day of KanJam. He knew he had something. He refined the game — redesigning the cans with slots, formalizing rules, adding things like “tip-ins” — and now distributes his all-U.S.-made products across the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company also gives free games to schools.
“Last year we probably put games into 2,000 schools around the country,” he says. “Schools are struggling. We just give them to ’em, ‘Here, have fun.’”
He has also launched a KanJam mini version for indoors, KanJam Splash for pools, “and we have a table-top game coming out and another backyard game (in development).”
Brooks Butler Hays, author of “Balls on the Lawn: Games to Live By,” proclaims KanJam as his favorite.
“I’m a history major, and I like to buy vintage clothes and antiques and old books,” he admits, “so it kind of bothers me my favorite is the nouveau riche game of lawn games.”