Oregon Invented Hacky Sack. Should It Be Our State Sport?

Meanwhile, “Oregon Ball,” aka “The Oregon Game,” is a descendant of handball invented at the University of Oregon in the 1920s that within two decades became the most popular intramural game on campus.

I heard Washington recently named pickleball its state sport. I see Oregon doesn’t have a state sport named; if we were to have one, what would it be? —Ralphie

Most people who write me letters are unhinged (the folks trying to collect my student loans are particularly delusional). Thus, I naturally assumed that you too, Ralphie, were full of shit—but you’re not! (I mean, you probably are, but not about this.) The badmintonlike game created on Bainbridge Island in the 1960s really did become Washington’s official sport a few weeks back.

So what about a sport for Oregon? This is where I’d normally toss off a few snide wheezes about the Pre-Dawn Cookie Toss or the 40-Yard Bong Rip and we’d all have a lighthearted, minimally researched chuckle. Unfortunately for my happy-hour plans, it turns out there are actually a few legitimate contenders.

The first is “Oregon Ball,” aka “The Oregon Game,” a descendant of handball invented at the University of Oregon in the 1920s that within two decades became the most popular intramural game on campus. As a name for the state sport, you have to admit Oregon Ball is hard to beat. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, no one’s actually played Oregon Ball in at least 50 years, so…well, it may not be a total slam dunk.

How about jogging? Sure, running has been around since the invention of bears, but the halfhearted dogtrot to nowhere we call jogging can actually be traced to a public health pamphlet written in 1963 by UO track coach William Bowerman. The four-page “Jogger’s Manual” explained this new form of exercise, ending with “Good jogging to you!” which is just one of the reasons I want to punch it in the face.

Finally, modern Hacky Sack was devised in Oregon City in 1972. I was reluctant to bring this up because, in many ways, Hacky Sack fits the bill—like pickleball, it’s a local invention with a stupid name—but I feel strongly that we shouldn’t use it.

Oregon has spent the past 30 years overcoming the stereotype that we’re a bunch of slack-jawed hippies. Ensconcing the hack as our official pastime would set us back 29—you might as well make Phish the official state band. No, thanks—I’ll stick with Oregon Ball. It has a nice ring, and no one will ever ask me to actually play it.

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com.