Seriously. A big-ass balloon. I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever be able to inflate it, but I think it’s more the symbolism that I care about, rather than the thin layer of latex stretched around my own private chunk of Earth’s atmosphere. You see today was the last day of the Dublin Juggling Convention, the day of the games.
Aside for the uninitiated: Gladiators is a game played by jugglers which involves doing foo for as long as possible while trying to stop everyone else doing foo. So three-ball galdiators involves juggling three balls while pushing other jugglers, lunging wildly at them, or just plain knocking their balls out of their hands or the air. The last person still doing foo after everyone else is knocked out is the winner.
I had hoped to make a good showing in the three-ball competition, since I’ve generally done reasonably well in the games we’ve played in Trinity. It’s a combination of what I wouldn’t stretch to calling "skill" but is at least competence, combined with tactics. Unfortunately I got knocked out by a nasty kamikazee attack, leaving my hopes of glory shattered.
After a stint on the sidelines watching the five-ball endurance and club chin-balancing endurance competitions I was back in the game for a curious club-based hat game. Each competitor makes a sort of three-pointed crown out of three precariously-balanced clubs and wears it while trying to make others drop theirs. I think I had the best balanced crown but I was knocked out soon after we switched the game to gladiator format to speed things up.
Back to the sidelines I watched the long-distance club-passing, diabolo skipping, and devil-stick propellor endurance competitions. At some point someone devised a three coin gladiators game where all the dropped coins went into a hat and the winner got them as his prize. I figured the best jugglability-to-denomination ratio was possessed by the 20 cent coin. I was wrong.
Finally the violent bloodbath of the games was announced. The three-club gladiators. I lasted into the last five or six in the first game. It was decided (passive voice–don’t you hate it?) that a second game would be a good idea. It came down to two of us, and a tie when we both dropped. After a quick re-start, mano-a-mano, I lost the tie-break round. A third game saw me on the sidelines after a shamefully short run. The final pitted the top two from each heat in a five-man (yes, I know; someone messed up somewhere) battle royal, thereby making my defeat in round two utterly pointless. I took fourth place, my luck having finally run out. Fortunately there was a prize available for each of us. I got a balloon.
I admit it’s not the best prize ever. I admit that fourth place isn’t particularly impressive, even if some of my competitors were proffessionals. But you have to start somewhere. I know that the ball gladiators is within my reach for next time.