Tom Purcell, 4/21/2008 [Archive]

American as Tag and Dodgeball

American as Tag & Dodgeball

By Tom Purcell

I never thought I'd beat Mike Landy at dodgeball.

Maybe I better explain.

A school in McLean, Va., reports The Washington Post, has banned tag. It's a national trend, you see. Dodgeball, tug-of-war and touch football are no longer permitted at many public schools across America.

Thank goodness I was a kid in the early '70s.

Every day during recess, we were unleashed to the parking lot. We played kickball, touch football and keep-away.

In keep-away, one kid carried the ball and everybody else tried to rip it away from him. It was a game about individualism; there was no teamwork or rules or adults to intervene. It was simply you against everybody else.

Just as life often is in the real world.

But my favorite game was dodgeball. We played it during gym class in the winter months. Mr. Milarsky would take us down to the multipurpose room -- it served as the back part of our church on the weekends. Thirty to 40 kids would line up on either side. Then the frenzy began.

Several balls were whipped back and forth until the herd was thinned. If you caught a ball thrown at you, or avoided it, you stayed in the game. If somebody caught a ball you threw, or somebody hit you with a ball, you were out of the game.

I was always among the last survivors, but the kid who won the most was Mike Landy. He was quick, agile and cunning. He was near impossible to hit and though he lacked the arm strength to knock you down, he usually figured out a way to catch a ball you whipped at him.

On that particular day, the field was gradually weeded out. Pretty soon, there were two players left: me and Mike Landy. I whipped a ball at him and he dodged it. He double pumped at me, nearly hitting me, but I dodged it. The battle went on for some time until I launched a rocket shot into his gut.

He did something he hardly ever did: He dropped the ball. I won.

It was a great victory that filled me with excitement, pride and, dare I say, self-esteem. It won me the respect of the other kids.

But such games are being squelched these days. The McLean school that banned tag, says The Post, established a "chasing, fleeing and dodging" unit. The adult-supervised unit monitors the children and reminds them about playground safety.

That's just what our kids need: more adult intervention.

The ban on tag, it seems to me, is ultimately what the presidential election is about. There are two kinds of people in our country now: those who are for tag, dodgeball and tug-of-war and those who are against them.

Those who are for them believe that kids -- and all individuals -- should be able to learn, grow and figure things out on their own. They know that there can be no thrill of victory without risking the agony of defeat. Their ideas produce kids who grow up to become independent and productive -- individuals who enable great civilizations.

And there are those who want to ban playground games. They believe there should be rules, policies and administrators who monitor, intervene and eliminate all risk in life. Such people demand that the government do more to protect and provide -- they disdain competition and individualism. Their ideas produce people who are dependent on others.

Our country was founded by people who favored tag, dodgeball and tug-of-war, and their ideas produced the greatest country in the history of mankind. But the dodgeball-banners are trying to take over. Every election cycle, they demand that our government do more -- that our politicians use our tax dollars to "give" us more.

If that crowd takes over, one thing is for certain. Fewer kids will experience the thrill I knew the day I beat Mike Landy at dodgeball.

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. For more info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Visit Tom on the web at or e-mail him at

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications."

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