In Response to: From the Archives

In our 1980-84 days of yore, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, springtime would bring back BasouBall, played with a single golf ball by facing each other, teams of two players, on up to 100 yards stretches of Princeton’s idiosyncratic-bounces-facilitating slate sidewalks. 

Official Basou playing garb was buttoned up to the top Lacoste short-sleeve shirts with the collars tucked in. 

A sidewalk crack was chosen as the midpoint separating the teams. One team player played closer to the midpoint and the other farther back on or near the sidewalk. 

Serves and further throws involved under- or overhand throwing the golf ball onto the sidewalk on the other side of the midpoint, and crossing the mid-point at at least 6’5”. Violation of that height was called out loudly as a “Donat Von Mueller!” which was named after our German ’84 classmate and varsity oarsman classmate who was of that height. Much joy was taken by players and spectators when Donat would walk by. He was not amused and sadly always declined standing next to the mid-point. Overhand bullet serves or throws thrown hard and far were called “hot potatoes.” 

Scoring was by volleyball rules, where you only scored after serving, with championship Basou games going to 21 points. 

The serve and all other throws would have to hit on the sidewalk on the other side of the 6’5” height midpoint, otherwise the serve or point was lost. Players could not move until after the first bounce up until a second bounce or catch, and part of advanced Basou strategy was the non-catching/attempting to catch team member adjusting position to the most advantageous spot for further play. 

A ball could be caught before a first bounce so long as no one moved. Failing to hit the sidewalk on the first bounce after serve or further throws, or failure to catch before or after the first bounce and before a second, scored a point or traded service. Tree limbs, spectators, animals, and sidewalk-using passers-by were always in play.

Post facto discussion was made about the missed opportunity for Nude Basou, which would have made a nice complement to winter’s annual highlight of Nude Olympics, which actually did happen on the first day of snow back then in the days when Princeton wasn’t a nanny state and some reasonable level of drunkenness, pranks, petty vandalism, danger, howling at the moon, minimal academic achievement, and hormones were not only begrudgingly allowed but daresay even expected.

Historians trace an early Basou variant to YMCA Boys Camp Dudley in the Adirondacks.

Reed Benet ’84
Birmingham, Mich.