By Jimi Jo Story
Arizona Daily Wildcat April 3, 1996
It could hardly be called a beautiful day.
Instead, the wind was whipping around the palm trees on the mall, blowing bits and pieces of grass and dirt everywhere.
And there they were: the UA Jugglers.
Nine University of Arizona students were the representatives of a self-proclaimed juggling club Friday afternoon, whirling clubs in the air, twisting devil sticks and tossing what looked like a multitude of balls.
Many would think that the UA jugglers are best friends who choose to practice their hobby on the mall, but in reality, they are simply fellow juggle-lovers.
"We just saw each other juggling and started working together," says Mike Dym, philosophy senior, who has been juggling at the UA for three years.
"If I broke up with my girlfriend, these aren't the people I'd come crying to," Dym says.
However, the eight men and one woman admit that they spend the majority of their time together, and when Mike Karlovich, an ecology and evolutionary biology senior, said that he often misses classes to juggle, each of the group members looked sheepish.
The members tell stories of learning to juggle when they were younger and how they stopped practicing their skills because they were not being challenged.
Graham Irvine, a geography engineering junior, says, "If you don't have people better than you to influence and challenge you ..."
"... You're stagnant," Dym says finishing his thought.
In the midst of good natured teasing, the jugglers revealed that they occasionally had "brushes with the law" because of their hobby.
Torches seem to be a touchy point for the jugglers.
"I was suspended for three days in high school for juggling nine torches and doing a fireball in the auditorium," Karlovich says.
Nate Williams, a civil engineering senior, and Adam Smith, a hydrology senior, remember a time when they were juggling at the same time another group was playing a game of croquet.
"We asked if they would mind if we set a wicket on fire while they played and they said no," Smith says.
"But right as we were about to light it up, UAPD drove up and told us we couldn't," Williams says. They were cited for the incident.
The jugglers say they consider juggling a hobby, but that on their world wide web page (http://www.taponline.com) juggling is classified as an "extreme sport."
"It's a hobby, but I treat it like a sport," Williams says.
"We all have different styles," Smith says. "It's a mind set."
There are hazards to the hobby, however.
"We get callouses and bruises from catching the clubs," Smith says. "Dry and cracked skin..."
"But we won't go into that," Dym says.
The jugglers practice sometimes to the exclusion of everything else in their lives and joke that they started to learn the art to impress girls.
"It's not to impress the girlfriend anymore, it replaces the girlfriend," Williams says with a smile.
Williams even has a tattoo of a design from Renegade Juggling Equipment which covers most of the right side of his midriff.
It is a full color illustration of a juggler, at his waist, tossing various objects including a flaming chain saw.
The arch of the objects circles Williams' shoulder. He says that, including the color touch up last year, he spent almost 20 hours getting the tattoo.
Renegade Juggling Equipment is the supplier for the UA jugglers, who go through about two sets of clubs a year. One set can contain from three to six clubs and cost $25.
The jugglers say one of their biggest peeves is when people call the clubs "pins".
"They also always want to know if you can juggle one more than what you're doing € and if you can do anything with a chainsaw," Dym says.
Jugglers share a common bond which might be explained by the high visibility of the hobby.
"Jugglers form an international tribe, anywhere you go you have a friend," Karlovich says.
"Yeah, I went to Barcelona and saw a guy juggling on the street," Irvine says. "I went up to him and said, 'Hey, I can juggle' and we started working together."
The jugglers are constantly working on new "tricks" and ways to work together.
Most recently, they worked out a pattern using 13 clubs, an accomplishment they know of no one else in the world doing.
Over all, the jugglers feel the hobby is compelling.
"I never wanted to learn to do anything but balls," says Scott Fiore, an electrical engineering freshman. "Then I wanted to learn clubs. It's kind of an addiction."
Each of the UA jugglers became involved with the group by just coming up and asking to learn to juggle.
"I'll teach any person how to juggle," Williams says. "There's no such thing as a bad juggler."
Karlovich agreed with Williams and says that all of his friends are jugglers.
Karlovich says, "If they didn't juggle when I met them, I taught them how."
Though they have occasionally been given money for their efforts, the jugglers say that they juggle for their "own pleasure, not others."
"Juggling is a mood," Smith says.
"Like a jazz improvisation," Karlovich added.
Williams says, "It's like my religion - we just don't preach it."