I got a funny story about that. Well it's not so much funny as it is long
[I'll get back to baseball in a bit. I've been sidetracked by a conversation with a friend, which led me to channel Grandpa Simpson]
I kind of feel sorry for kids these days. Thanks to several things - the self-esteem movement of the early 90's; the paralyzing touchy-feely don't-let-your-kids-deal-with-reality method of dealing with life that is rampant in our public schools and the endless parade of rules and regulations designed to protect but only stifle - our children are living the life of Bubble Boy.
Back in my day, we didn't worry about self-esteem or agonize over feelings. We didn't care about elbow pads and cooperative games where everyone was a winner.
We played musical chairs at birthday parties and laughed and pointed at the kids left standing. We played dodgeball without sissy rules and our gym teachers coached us to hit the other players where it hurt the most. We used the stones from hopscotch games to beat the winner senseless. Ok, no. But sometimes we would draw on her stupid pink, frilly shirt with yellow chalk. It made her sneeze. And she would tell on us and our mothers would say "Oh, stop complaining, Lori. It's just freaking chalk." Can you imagine this happening today? I'd be sued by Lori's mother for the emotional damage I caused her child and my Saturday mornings would be spent in an overstuffed chair in some dark of office of the state-appointed psychiatrist who would ask me how I feel about being so evil.
Not back in my day. There were two boys in my neighborhood who used to throw bricks at me on my way home from school. Bricks. When the principal found out that the same boys were throwing rocks at me on the playground, he took action. The boys got the shit beat out of them by their fathers and no one - not one person - blamed me for being bullied or looked for root causes as to why those children behaved like monsters. They just got detention and sore asses.
I laugh and laugh at extreme sports shows today. Extreme? How can anything be extreme if you're wearing fifteen layers of protective gear while you're doing it? You want extreme? Try powering a rickety, unstable bicycle going about 50 miles per hour - with your sister riding on the handelbars - down the steepest man made slope on Long Island, a slope which ended at a wall of pure concrete into which you would smash and die if you didn't apply the brakes with just the right amount of pressure at the right time. No helmets. No knee pads or elbow pads. We didn't even carry Band-Aids with us. That's extreme.
We played soccer without headgear. The boys played baseball without cups. We rode in the backs of station wagons, not wearing set belts and hanging out the window to wave to strangers. We walked to the candy store by ourselves. We rode our bikes after dark. We called each other horrible names and sometimes we had fistfights right on my front lawn and my mother would tell us to shut up because the noise was drowning out Dark Shadows. And when we got up from the fistfight all bloodied and scraped, mom would tell us to stop our crying, slap some Bactine on us and shoo us outside again.
Oh yea, you saw this coming. In my day we walked to school. Our district was on an austerity budget for years. Walked in the rain, the snow, the sleet and hail. Our parents never drove us because our fathers were at work and our mothers were busy preparing for the fondue themed dinner party they were throwing that evening. So we walked to school and when we got there we learned about history without the P.C. agenda that you get today. And we read books in English that would make P.C. people shriek in horror. We sang Christmas and Hannakuh songs in the winter concert and nobody batted an eyelash.
Self-esteem? We didn't exist to build up each other's egos. We were supposed to knock them down. Life was all about rivalries and competition. If a teacher back then ever told us how wonderful and beautiful and special we all were, we would have reported her to the authorities on suspicion of being a pot smoking hippie.
You know when the world went to hell? When Coca Cola decided to teach the world to sing. The second that commercial came out, a death knell sounded across the playgrounds and schoolyards of America. Parents everywhere, suckered in by the feel-good lyrics and hand-holding sappiness of the commercial felt an awakening of sorts. All those who missed the hippie train of the 60's were going to jump on the Free to be You and Me train of the 70's, and ride it hard.
Back in my day, kids weren't sheltered. We were fed the day's news raw and uncensored. Our parents took us to see gory, bloody horror movies. We were read fairy tales, grim and perverse and wicked as they were, without remanufactured endings where everyone is beautiful and everyone smiles.
We had real playgrounds with merry-go-rounds and metal slides and wooden see saws, all placed on concrete. None of this plastic adventure-in-learning crap sitting on a gentle bed of soft wood chips. We had broken noses and we had scabs covering half our bodies. The school nurse would wipe up our blood, swab us in Bactine (the panacea of our time) and send us back outside for more. Today's kids get a piece of wood chip dust in their eye and they're carried to the nurse's office on a stretcher where they're handed ten different accident and liability forms to give their parents and forced to sit through a video taped lecture on playground safety, presented by a singing, dancing, man in an elephant costume.
We learned about life with all its cuts and bruises and hurt feelings. We worked hard around the house and yard and built up a work ethic. We earned our allowance and walked half a mile to the candy store where we spent it all on sugary, fattening candy and rolls of caps for our cap guns. We would point our guns at each other and say things like bang, bang, you're dead.
Who knew that a generation later, that phrase would probably get you sent to the principal's office and an appointment with the school psychiatrist?
Sure, I lived in dangerous times. Maybe somewhere in 60's or 70's America there were babies flying out of cars or kids smashing into concrete walls and maybe death came calling to some in the form of an errant merry-go-round or a lethal dose of Red Dye #2. But most of us made it. And most of us made it without the lingering head wound side effects.
A little head wound builds character, you know.
I know, Bitch, bitch, bitch.