John Hilsen talks with Adam Kunkel, a man who has been Johnballin’ almost since the game’s conception. Adam also currently heads the Johnball league at the College of St. Benedict/ St. John’s Univeristy (CSB/SJU), one of the first colleges to ever play the game.
JH: In your humble opinion, what separates Johnball from other recreational sports?
AK: I’ll give you three things: inclusivity, character, fun times.
JH: I’d love it if you elaborated a bit.
AK: I’m getting there, jeez. Number one: inclusivity. Each and every person can play and excel at Johnball. It warms my heart to see little kids, older parents, and high school athletes playing the same game at the same time. I have a brother with disabilities; we can’t share sports very often. But he loves Johnball and can play just like everyone else. Being able to share that is really neato.
JH: Johnball is now an official school club at CSB/SJU. Was it much of a process getting it there?
AK: Unfortunately yes, but that’s simply due to colleges’ formalities regarding the creation of school clubs. Because clubs receive school funding, they have to be strict. However, paperwork has nothing to do with The Johnball Club at CSB/SJU. Getting together the guys and girls who want to play each and every week, hold the spirit deep in their hearts, and support our club unconditionally — it was actually almost effortless. The game recruits itself.
JH: I know the other official Johnball school clubs also had to put up with their share of formalities and a bit of tedium, which is too bad. Was writing the club’s constitution the hardest part?
AK: Yes, by far. Everything else was smooth sailing, but we had to go through at least 2-3 revision drafts with members of the administration. I spent quite a bit of time on it…instead of learning or doing my homework. But it was definitely worth it.
(Author’s Note: If you’re interested in started a Johnball club at your school, you can save yourself all of this trouble by checking out either the SJU Johnball Club Constitution or the UND Johnball Club Constitution. Please feel free to use them as models and directly snag any content you need. )
JH: Well, tell me a bit more about the Johnball club at your school.
AK: I get it. You’re press and you want to hear ALL ABOUT how we won Club of the Year for 2011-2012. Every reporter wants to get a hand on our trophy. Well, joke’s on you, because we have a really nice framed certificate instead.
However, I can say that winning the club of the year was no small feat and gives me residual joy every day. It just shows how much people love the game here.
JH: I’m happy for you and your residual joy.
AK: It feels good for all of us.
JH: How did you introduce an obscure sport like Johnball to a school where it had never been heard of before?
AK: The majority of my friends had heard about it, either from my Facebook pictures or my constant references. I couldn’t have brought it to CSB/SJU without completely open minds of my friends, who quite frankly thought the game sounded lame when I explained it to them. I waited until the spring of my freshman year, got some of my buddies to help chip in on the bats and balls, and then we just went for it. We started slow, but a college campus is an easy place to bring people together to play a game. Pretty soon, we had a great following. And in the meantime, when it was just a few of us guys, it was still a lot of fun.
JH: Who are some some Johnballers from your league that you admire?
AK: I admire Drake Osterhout. We weren’t even friends with him — I didn’t even know him when we started playing — and he just joined and loved it. Now we’re great friends, and due to his constant honesty, courage, and heart, he’s one of the highest ranking officers in the club: The Senior Director of Fun and Good Times. That position is actually stipulated in our constitution endorsed by the school.
Another would have to be Emilie Johnson. As far as I know, she’s the first girl ever to win a Free-For-All match of Johnball — there were about twenty-five people playing. She’s proof of the remarkable inclusivity of Johnball.
Of course I admire Dan Cahill. He’s an animal out there. He breaks the world record for Nouns almost every time we play. I think he’s up to 25-30.
And as a league, we admire Carson Mack [from Illinois], as every good Johnballer should.
JH: I’m also a fan of all those guys. If you could play Johnball with any historical or fictional figure, who would you choose?
AK: Michael Cera. Always.
JH: There’s always money in the banana stand.
AK:Every time he got hit, he would give one of his sheepish looks and they would play the soundtrack that plays whenever he gets embarrassed around Maeby in the first season.
And every time he got eliminated, he would do this.
JH: If irrefutable scientific proof conclusively proved that the world was going to end tomorrow, what gametype would you choose for your final game of Johnball?
AK: You see, my favorite is probably Zombies, but I would get my fill of that the next day.
JH: Indeed, we all would. They just had the Zombie Pub Crawl back in Minneapolis- everyone certainly loves the undead. Got any hot tips for surviving the inevitable zombie apocalypse?
AK: Get out of the city. People have survived on sustenance farming before, why hang around in a death trap?
JH: If you encountered a sickly space creature that only communicated in alliteration, how would you challenge the ailing alien to a game of Johnball?
AK: Almost, alien adversary, almost. Try to trick this terrestrial traveller through such sniffling slobbering sympathy? I rarely relax, my myopic mutant. Be better or best me never. Slant rhymes work too.
JH: Could you enlighten us on your dearest Johnball memory?
AK: It was the fall opener for CSB/SJU, 2011. This was before we were a school club. My RA friend Dan Cahill had said he would bring the residents on his floor –my previous floor– and sure enough, I look around the corner, and fifteen to twenty freshmen whom I had never met come striding up with Dan, all chanting “Johnball! Johnball!” So cool.
JH: I’m a big fan of how the SJU/CSB Johnball league just about always plays with a boombox blasting music in the background. Specifically, what song really gets your warrior spirit ablaze? I know for me it’s gotta be anything from The Lord of the Rings.
AK: Aaron’s Party by Aaron Carter. It makes me smile and laugh and be goofy and play Johnball with that much more heart. We start every tournament on that song, after the Johnball theme song.
I was gonna embed the music video to Aaron’s Party, but it was just too much to handle. Trust me. So here’s a CSB/SJU highlight video that these guys made, which features the song anyways. Fun watch- check it out.
JH: Do you think I look good in orange? I mean, I really like the color but I’m just not sure how it looks on me. Be honest.
AK: I can’t think of an orange shirt you wear. That’s not a good sign, John.
JH: Just use your imagination then.
AK: It would bring out the green and red in your eyes.
JH: Just recently, I read about a study that showed most demographics are unhappy with a lot of Hollywood movies primarily because they tend not to feature any Johnball. Could you share with us the last movie you saw and then describe, in detail, a scene in that movie where the characters engage in some Johnballin’?
AK: The last movie I saw was “Pokémon the First Movie.” It’s so clear in my head, I’m shocked Johnball wasn’t included. Probably because it wasn’t invented yet. In the movie, Mewtwo is created, and he starts talking using his physic abilities, and everyone is treating him like a machine that will just do their bidding. Then he starts blowing everything up and it all goes downhill from there.
-REWIND!- Here’s what should have happened. Mewtwo wakes up. “Blahblahblah I can talk because I’m physic,” whatever. The scientist offers him a bat, and tells him he’s been created to play Johnball, the greatest sport in the Milky Way. Mewtwo turns bright red with joy. He uses his superior abilities to destroy Kentucky and rid the world of evil once and for all. Ash and Misty finally get married, and Brock marries Onix. Johnball everyday in the Safari Zone. The end.
JH: Absolutely riveting. Speaking of the Safari Zone, I just have to ask: what’s the best way to raise an elephant?
AK: Brush the tusks twice a day to prevent cavities.
JH: If you were given a pogo stick, lip stick, and a bag of Ruffles, how would you use them to defeat the evil Shredder once and for all?
AK: Put the lipstick on myself and present myself to him. We get married. My love breaks the curse. The end.
JH: And the pogo stick and bag of Ruffles?
AK: John, I already defeated Shredder. I don’t need them.
JH: Haha alright, back to Johnball before we wrap it up. It was once said “Honesty is the cheese of the cheese sandwich we call Johnball.” So what are some other ingredients that are vital to a well-cooked Johnball experience?
AK: Courage. Heart. Sportsmanship. Friendship. Documentation. Proper sleep and nutrition.
JH: Tell me about your guys’ experience with The Minneapolis Chapter of Johnball coming to CSB/SJU. That happened just recently.
AK: Funny you should ask. During the beginning of the school year I organized a day for the MCoJ to come up to SJU to play Johnball with us. I didn’t tell anyone, it was all a surprise. They came bursting in during a game of Free-For-All and freaked everyone out. I think there were nine of them who were able to make it from Minneapolis, which was great. They taught us something about the intensity that one should bring to Johnball and life. Having other Johnball squads to play against your Johnball squad is always a great thing.
JH: So then, any tentative plans for further integration with other Johnball groups?
AK: We really want to rent a bus through the school and drive to UND or Eau Claire, but it’s expensive. If we do, it would only be once during a particularly prosperous year. Otherwise it’ll have to be individual carpools, which is what MCoJ did — a big van. Totally doable.
JH: Certainly an exciting prospect.
JH:Well, my friend, this has been nice. Thank you for your time.
AK: Drive safe, Dragonscales.
Get a further taste of what the St. John’s Johnball League is all about by checking out their videos here.