8/04/2008

When I am King: Kickballs o' Fire

When I am King...

Playing kickball will be required for all, for ever.

Someone at work said that we should get a kickball game together, as a team-building event.

Kickball. The very word sticks in my mouth like overcooked squash. It's not even a word anymore, but a series of images and feelings from childhood, most of which look like humiliation, anguish, and a red rubber ball.

For anyone unfamiliar with the game, it's a bit like baseball, but with a different type of ball. Someone that's up at the plate strikes out by failing to kick the ball, and someone in the field disappoints their team by failing to catch it or failing to throw the runner out.

It's usually the first team sport that children play in the U.S., because the requirements are minimal: just the ball and an ability to lose. It is also the first time when we start to divide ourselves into groups that either succeed, get by, or fail utterly. Those in the former group become the team captains, while those in the latter are soon relegated to getting picked last for teams. Day after day on the playground at school, this group watches as the team captains bravely try to pick everyone else before them, finally giving in with an unhappy, "Alright, I'll take Timmy. But you have to take Simon," as Simon wheels his colostomy bag over to the other team's area.

This sets the pattern for the rest of our childhood, as we continue to get picked last for all other sports, activities, and mating rituals.

It is no wonder, then, that we end up as programmers or other geeky professionals, burying ourselves in a field where there are no team captains, no jocks, and no daily pick. In fact, there is little socialization at all, just us communing with our computers because they appreciate us for who we are. Or at least they didn't have a choice of whether we were on their team or not.

Kickball is society's great career chooser; what would happen without that experience to pre-determine our future lives? Of all the tests and classes we took in school, kickball was probably far more influential in helping us with career possibilities and limitations.

But should this arbitrary and cruel selector be left to chance? What happens if a school doesn't have a kickball, or some kids never make it out to recess, or the kids are too busy playing video games to go out to the field? Society would grind to a halt and we would lack the geeks that our kickball tradition has produced.

When I am King, kickball will be a mandatory daily sport from preschool all the way through elementary school. Toddlers will have a red rubber ball as their main toy. Parents will choose their weaker newborns from the delivery room not out of love, but out of a grudging sense of obligation when there is no other option. In every way, our children will enjoy the benefits of this great game and our culture will embody its broken spirit.
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