I am remembering, fondly, a game I used to play with “friends” in elementary school. The game would have made Martin Luther King Jr. proud. During recess, all the hispanic, black and white and asian kids (…there may have been an Indian kid.) would brace themselves and stare up…while a boy tossed the football across the field.
As the ball flew through the air, we all start jogging. Before the fence ended, on the green and torn up field, the ball would smack and kiss the ground.
The objective was, grab the ball and run. We’re all coming for you. We will get you. The entire male class of elementary school kids will tear your limbs off to get that ball.
Welcome to “Kill the Man with the Ball.”
The reason I remember this story is because I was thinking of a black friend I had growing up. We never hung out or anything, but we always liked each other. Our friendship was formed one fateful day when we were playing Kill the Man with the Ball…we got into a fight. I forget his name, it was close to Robato. Not Mr. Robato.
Robato pushed me, and although I was the shiest kid this side of Jersey, I never let my temper down when it was ready to “talk.” That’s the way I was as a kid, wallflower, wallflower, occasionally artistic, wallflower then boom…emotional breakdown, anger, tears, if I were Carrie, I’d have metaphysically blown apart the elementary school walls, ruining the single file lines, the burned dinosaur chicken nuggets, the hot food line with the free 2% milk for poor kids, all the little kid bullshit before we knew the word “bullshit”, the grief. When you look at your youth, when you search deep enough, you see patterns. The same circumstances gave you anxiety like hollograms echoed through different ages, sneaky enough to evade your connecting the dots. Maybe even the same things made you calm, mother cleaning the house and singing, winning a drawing contest, when a kid decided you were acceptable and they agreed to be your girlfriend at the age of six.
Robato used to tell the story to me, in middle school, in highschool we would stop each other with smiles and laugh about it.
That day, he pushed me on the playground and I went after him. I grabbed his arms and twisted him over my body. It was like I was Channing Tatum and we were doing a dance routine and I flipped him on his ass and stunned the children. They formed a circle around us. Robato shed tears and then we hugged. For some reason, the fight was a right of passage, for him the right to shut the fuck up and for me, the right to finally say something.
I used to wonder why Robato liked that story, maybe he realized that some of us had a strength we wished not to share. Maybe its beautiful to have been forced to share it.
These are the moments of youth, safe from television.
Kill the Man with the Ball, the only game to satisfy young boys’ urges to utterly destroy each other. Brilliant.