By Jeremy Frye; photos by Hillery Terenzi
Another stellar year of growth for Ticket Alternative is coming to a close, which means it’s time for our annual holiday party. For the second year in a row, it was held in Roswell, Ga., on the hallowed ground of Whirlyball Atlanta. While Whirlyball sounds like one of the noisy games partaken by the fun-loving Whos that drove the Grinch to steal an entire Christmas from them, the unholy mash-up of bumper cars, basketball, jai alai, and lacrosse is, in fact, very real. At 5:30 p.m. on Friday, December 10, we closed up the office, and Ticket Alternative employees and their guests made the journey up 400 for an epic inter-office grudge match.
I don’t want to get too bogged down with specifics, but here’s a quick break down of Whrilyball. You’ve got a 50-feet-by-80-feet enclosed court with 10 bumper cars called “Whirlybugs” (five yellow, five red). The teams are five on five, divided by color. Each player has a jai alai style plastic scoop. There is one whiffle ball, which players cannot touch with their hands, only their scoops. There are backboards at either end of the court (one yellow, one red) with a 20-inch hole in the center and an electronic sensor behind that hole. You’ve got your scoop in one hand while attempting to drive your Whirlybug (with its somewhat tricky crank steering) with the other. The object of the game is to whip the whiffle ball into the hole on your team’s backboard, all the while dodging the bumper car attacks of the other team. The games are 13 minutes long, and each time you score, you get two points. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect setting for a holiday party to you, then you just aren’t cut out for the Ticket Alternative team.
Everyone had a lot of fun out there, but it did get ugly from time-to-time on the court. Alliances were formed and hard feelings left over from last year’s defeats rose to the surface. Once again, our star player was Michael Driscoll, the hands-down all-time top scorer in Ticket Alternative Whirlyball history. And once again, his right-hand man, the king of assists, was Noel Wurst. If these two were on your team, chances are, you were on the winning team. There was some nice aggressive play from Pooja Berrong, and a questionably legal standing-up-to-shoot technique from Angela Scarola. We had a lot of newbies out there this year, and for those people, a lot of time was spent getting the hang of the steering. Most of us fumbled around out there, feeling lucky just to get our chance to shoot. Picking the right car was very important. If you got Yellow #11, you were in the fastest car on the court, giving you a big advantage on getting to the ball. On the other hand, Red #4 meant you were in the slowest car, severely crippling your game. The biggest hazard was the dreaded “dead zone,” an area of the front right of the court with seemingly no electricity in the floor. Without enough momentum in that area, your car would stall, requiring a shove from the referee to get you out.
Being that this was a holiday party, there was more to the night than Whirlyball, though not much more. A delicious dinner of fajitas and barbecue was provided, and near the end of the night we all exchanged our Secret Santa gifts. Our $20 limit was spent in a variety of ways: a Michigan Hockey T-shirt, a Miami Dolphins organizer, a coffee mug you can write on, a Beatles biography, lottery tickets, a game with magnetic acrobatic monkeys, just to name a few. Lots of thought were put into these, and it was pretty evident how much we all care about each another, even though just a few minutes prior, we were violently attacking one other on the court. After that bit of sentimentality, it was back to our Whirlybugs for one more round, a shortened eight minute round. As we went home to tend to the still forming bruises on our shins, we vowed to get ‘em next year.