Tom told me that “Ball Gazer” was a game he played with his friends in high school.  It was an ongoing game, and anyone could do it to anyone else at any time.  In order to perform the game, you would touch your index and thumb fingertips together to form a circle, with the other three fingers pointing up, much like the “okay” sign in modern American popular culture.  Then, you would put your hand below your waist.  The gesture looked like this:

If your friend glanced at your hand, you would have to say “Ball Gazer.”  After that, you had the authority to punch them as hard as you wanted.  If your friend looked at your hand and managed to put their finger through the hole formed by your finger and thumb before you said “Ball Gazer,” they would have the authority to punch you instead.

Tom said that he learned this from his friend one day at school.  He had no idea where his friend learned the game, but it most other people at his school knew about the game, too.  People would do it randomly, and the popularity of the game would fade in and out as time went on.  Some weeks people would play this game every day, and others nobody would play.  People got bored with the game quickly, according to Tom, but it always managed to come back at some point until he graduated from high school.

Tom said that he thinks the game is a funny way to bring attention to the fact that someone is staring at your crotch.  Sometimes people might unintentionally zone and appear to be looking at another person’s crotch area, and this is a way of calling that action out.  Plus, it’s an entertaining game that people could perform with their friends at school.

I think Tom’s right, but this game also represents a form of homophobia that exists with many young males throughout the country.  People usually perform this game in their younger teenage years, where they are just starting to come to terms with their sexuality.  Thus, it may be taboo to be looking at your fellow male friend’s crotch region.  This game demonstrates a way for men to display their identity as “men” (at least the stereotypical, “tough guy, heterosexual” version) by pummeling their friends if they appear to be performing a homosexual act.  It perpetuates this “tough guy” stereotype and demonstrates a form of homophobia that is prevalent in many young, high school communities.  However, I know plenty of females and homosexual people that have participated in this game, so it’s also a common funny form of entertainment.

A form of this game can also be found in the 2005 film Waiting starring Ryan Reynolds.  That movie is about a group of waiters at a restaurant that goof and slack off.  The waiters all play a game called “The Penis Showing Game.”  The basic objective of the game is to get someone to look at your genitalia.  The waiters have different positions with humorous names, and they each result in a different punishment for whoever gets caught looking.  After the person showing their genitalia catches another waiter looking, they get to call the other person a “faggot” and kick them in the behind.  This is basically a more extreme version of Tom’s “Ball Gazer” game, and the use of the word “faggot” in the film further demonstrates the games roots in homophobia.