Sunday, November 27, 2005

My Fifteen Minutes Of Game

(the following column can also be viewed at, where a new column from yours truly appears each Sunday or Monday. They will also appear here for your reading pleasure. For archives of my columns there, go to and click on "Columnists")

Somewhere, surely, kids are getting together a good game of Kickball...right? Or a rousing session of Bombardment? Or maybe a spirited round of Smear The Queer?

If they are, let me know about it. I'll be happy to give the lads some pointers. In fact, if there's an Oldtimers game being planned, make sure I get an invite. I'll even bring my own red rubber gym ball.

I may not have been the grandest student there ever was, but I sure was good at Recess. They still have Recess in school, right? Those 15 minute breaks outside, or in the gymnasium, which may have been just as much for the teachers, if not more so, than for the kids. Actually, I wonder if they do. Our daughter's in middle school now, but while she was in elementary, I think Recess was changed to recess, and it was merely held once, at lunchtime. No wonder the teachers have all these "in service" days.

All I know is, when I was doing the K-6 thing, that bell rang at 10:00 every morning and 2:00 every afternoon (or thereabouts), and out the doors we would bolt, headed for the playground to pick up where we left off from the previous Recess. It's funny how time efficient we were back then. For we were able to form ourselves into the Flavor of the Month, game-wise, like a college marching band at halftime gathers itself into formation. If the government moved like we did at Recess, they'd have all the country's problems solved and would have time for, well, Recess.

We were also very creative, too. All we needed were some of those red rubber gym balls, 15 minutes, and -- voila! -- instant game. And looking back on it, we were violent little rugrats.

Take something we played called Rough-It-Fumble (I swear I'm not making this, or any of which that follows, up). How the Livonia Public Schools allowed this mayhem to occur on its playgrounds, I'll never know, but today you'd have an investigation launched and hidden cameras around if someone ever found out about this tomfoolery. Basically, there was a stretch of field, and at one end was a "goal line" -- usually an imaginary one determined by something like a trash can or a pole in the ground. We used a football, although it probably could have been a loaf of bread or a Barbie doll for all that it mattered. Anyhow, the game would start when someone would throw the ball high into the air (not TOO high -- these are 10 year-old arms we're talking about here), and whomever grabbed it -- why they'd want to, once you see what happens next, is beyond me -- had to somehow negotiate through the throng and past the goal line. If it sounds like Smear the Queer, it is -- but a bastardized version.

In Rough-It-Fumble, there were teams, of sorts. Mainly that meant kids would choose sides by saying something like, "You're on my side," or, "I'm on your side." Hey, we only had 15 minutes -- there was no time for drafts or free agent signings. So the game would begin and the poor dude with the ball would run as far as he could, which was usually somewhere around three feet, because he was being chased by a gang of other kids who were already practically on top of him to begin with when he caught the ball. Included in the chasing gang, by the way, were any kids who said, "I'm on you're side," because, well, kids are liars, basically. But in theory, there were "teams," which meant the kid with the ball could pitch it to anyone on his "team," with the goal being to move the ball toward the goal line, along with the other goal -- that being to get the gang from chasing you. This is because of the "Rough-It" part of the game's name. You see, the rules of Rough-It-Fumble -- I probably lost the loose-leaf binder in which they were written -- call for the unmitigated brutalization of the ball carrier, the borders of which lie somewhere between death and the tearing of said ball carrier limb-from-limb. That's probably why there was a lot of pitching of the ball, whether if it was to a "teammate" or not.

Kickball, Bombardment, Rough-It-Fumble -- these were REAL games, not this namby-pamby stuff kids play nowadays, such as Playstation 2.
Getting much less violent, there was always Kickball, which was baseball meets soccer. The pitcher would roll one of those ubiquitous red rubber balls to the batter, who would run up to it and kick it with all of his or her might. If it was caught in the air by a fielder, it was an out, like regular baseball. But if it wasn't, the batter would run the bases until he either: a) stopped at a base; or b) was hit by the ball while not on a base. Yes, folks, in Kickball fielders could simply take the ball and throw it at the batter/baserunner. Whammo! And the head wasn't off limits, either. Girls played Kickball, too, so naturally that meant that....the head wasn't off limits, either. Kids -- boys in this case, in addition to being liars, are also sadistic.

But hey, if you're looking for sadism, look no further than Bombardment. Again, any teacher who would allow a lively game of Bombardment to occur on his or her watch would be called before the school board and verbally caned by parents. But in my day, you played Bombardment to prove you weren't yellow, dammit! Here's how it worked: two teams would face each other, with that imaginary line separating them. Several of those red rubber balls, as many as you could muster, were used in Bombardment. At the sound of the word "GO" or "NOW!!", both teams would start firing balls at their opponents, careful to do courageous and sportsmanlike things such as aiming for the head of someone who wasn't looking -- or a girl. If you were hit by a ball, you were out. If you threw a ball at someone and they were lucky enough to catch it, you were out. If you got hit in the head, you might be out -- literally. times.

Kickball, Bombardment, Rough-It-Fumble -- these were REAL games, not this namby-pamby stuff kids play nowadays, such as Playstation 2. And what made them special is you could only play them at Recess, because when else are you going to be able to get, oh, 30 kids together? So you treasured every kick, every hurl, every pitch, every bruising tackle, as if it was going to be your last. Which of course it was -- until the next Recess. That's the other thing kids are: myopic.To wit, the bell would ring again and the games would pause and we all hustled back into the building, faces flushed and maybe our bodies bruised. Our 15 minutes of game were up. Until, of course, the next Recess.

But like I say, Recess just isn't itself anymore. It's now a watered down shell of its previous life. It's closely supervised and well-structured and safe and who needs that, anyway?

Really, it appalls me to think our 12 year-old daughter may never know the feeling of a red rubber gym ball being hurled at her head by an obnoxious boy. Of course, isn't that supposed to be his way of saying, "I like you"?

Now THAT'S Bombardment.

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