What is a chollaball?

What is a chollaball?

People have asked me this over the years its been my email address and domain name.

The simple answer: a segment of the stems of a family of cactus that detaches easily, is covered in barbed spines, and holds on tight to whatever it contacts. Its a wonderful adaptation for defense and propagation.

The long answer unfolds less directly, like a good story. For example, years ago my sister-in-law Deb had a tape of a song called “Talkin Seattle Grunge Rock Blues” that was one of the funniest songs I’ve ever heard. It was about a band that capitalizes on the alt craze by being “the band that won’t play their instruments”.

well they made us do a video but that wasn’t tough
‘cuz we just filmed ourselves smashin’ stuff
it was kinda weird ‘cuz there was no music
but mtv said they’d love to use it.
The kids went wild, the kids went nuts
rolling stone gave us a five-star review said we played with guts
we’re scorin’ chicks, takin’ drugs
then we got asked to play mtv unplugged
you should have seen it
we went right out there and refused to do acoustical versions of the
electrical songs we had refused to record in the first place
then we smashed our shit

I could never remember the name of the singer, and this being before allmusic.com, and Deb also forgot the singer. Years went by where I sang some of the lyrics to myself, wanted to get a copy of this song but had not a clue where to begin looking. I met other people who were like “YES! i love that song! who sang that?!??!?

And on the 8th Day, god made the internet, and web-surfing when you’re wasted or can’t dl porn at work. i dl’d a torrent with this guy’s whole collection in it, and became completely hooked on Todd Snider. My favorite album is “Near Truths and Hotel Rooms Live.” Besides the above tune, it has a host of other great songs including “Lonely Girl,” “D.B. Cooper, “The Story of the Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern,” and “The Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern”. Its also got the instant-classic “Beer Run“.

B-double E double R U-N beer run
B-double E double R U-N beer run
all we need is a ten and five-er,
a car and key and a sober driver.
B-double E double R U-N beer run

Not long after I got this album, in Spring 2007 during my last season playing League, it was maybe the 3rd game of the season and we were getting the absolute and total shit kicked out of us, after getting the shit kicked out of us the prior 2 weeks. During that game the whole team realized just how irretrievably awful we were, and accepted there was no white knight riding in to save the season. The scoreboard for the next two months was a foregone conclusion; 1-8 that season, beating only an 0-8 team. I gave Jim Tolar $20 and talked him into running to the nearest convenience store to buy a case of beer for us and something for himself, and before the game was even over while we huddled during a timeout, I sang “Beer Run” for my team and presented them with our frosty case of beer. We still sucked horribly, but it saved our season to the point where we had fun playing and drinking beer each week after getting waxed, and sometimes before and during. I still played my ass off, for nothing and no one, cause on the field I was who I was, which made me realize it was time to quit.

When i was in my prime, and first getting an ISP, it was a good addy for a biker, hiker, sometimes-gardener and full-tilt Ultimate player in Arizona. It started as “cholla5@something.net“, cause #5 was my jersey, best and longest number i ever kept. #10 was when i was young and wanted to be Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa, #11 was when i played in college and loved NY Rangers Mark Messier, but #5 was all mine. It just fit, and there were five of us: Beckie, me, Jo, Tsaina and Kyler.

chollaball evolved into a better addy.

And It definitely fit with the tenacious, aggressive, kinda nasty way I played Ultimate. When I had two knees, I was a damn good defensive player. I specialized in covering little squirrelly small-ballers who always seemed to get open for a quick reset or outlet passes that chugged their offenses along. I’d get my shoulder into a space just before they did, lean my hips into the angle they wanted to run through, hold my chest strong and not give up the plane i was defending. They would make a turn and find my elbows suddenly latching onto the space they thought was free, then mark quick and tight cause i could win 2-yard battles. I didn’t cover the graceful and sleek 6-foot guys galloping downfield and leaping for discs high above the crowds. I fought tight battles in small spaces with guys used to dominating small spaces, beating them to spots 3 feet away before they could beat me to spots 10 yards away. I usually did pretty well, and often pissed them off in the process with my thorny, up-close way of mirroring them. I didn’t shove or hack or take cheap shots, and Byron will attest that i did not call fouls for incidentals on either side of the disc. I just made spaces small, myself big, and painful to brush up against. I got on them and stuck on them and wouldn’t let them shake me without flat-out running faster, and in my day i had a very very fast first step. i was beatable, but you had to haul ass 30 yards to do it.

In his toast at our wedding, Byron talked about how the first real impression i made on him was in the finals of Cat in the Hat in Tucson in 2000, where I frustrated him so much he lost his cool, which forced him to find out who i was. I had two really salient memories of Byron before that: once when he ran up my back trying to D a score i brought down on him, and another time when he leveled me popping the zone at SouthWest Regionals in ’97. Tit for tat. And somehow we became very very close friends.

The prickly part, my edge about the game, kinda translated to life in general. It was a good metaphor for how i approached things, how i carried myself, what someone could expect from me. Sports provide a unique perspective on someone’s personality – a fun-house mirror, but accurate just the same. The finality of the situations, the grace under pressure, the unmitigated interpersonal dynamics prevent too many affectations.

Over-aggrandizement? Self-indulgent? Hopelessly melodramatic? No one who knows me will ever mistake me for warm-and-fuzzy. I have a skill for getting under one’s skin, and sometimes not easily shaking loose. Its just my adaptation, trying to survive like anything else.


  1. Hay Jason, really enjoyed this post, I’m impressed with your creativity; how come you did not display this side of you, when we first meet 15 years ago, back in Va., when as a precurser to Mike Rowe, cleaning our mash-tun.

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