Tag the Fag

A queer turn of events on a Colorado Springs playground.

Growing up, we often played a game called Smear the Queer. I am not proud of this fact, but it is a part of my childhood that I cannot deny. The game was simple. All you needed was a ball of any shape or size. It was thrown into the air, and someone would catch it. That person was the queer. Everyone else's job on the playground was to then smear that queer. I don't mean run-his-name-through-the-mud-Hollywood-tabloid-
style-in-an-effort-to-tank-his-stock-Owen-Wilson smear. I mean pummel the living bejesus out of him so he'd fall to the ground and surrender the ball to the next queer.

What exactly a "queer" was, none of us could have told you. All we knew was that it was our job to beat him into submission in order to make someone else queer and then to beat the shit out of that queer as well. Again, not proud of this fact.

In college, I can remember one of those late-night, dorm-room, red-wine group conversations where everyone talks about where they're from, and somehow the conversation drifted to playground antics. I brought up Smear the Queer, and the room went silent. This was an East Coast hippie school where you could major in Queer Studies, for Christ's sake.

"You played what?"

"Smear the Queer," I said, realizing for the first time in that exact moment the extreme fucked-upness of the name. "Oh, right, I can see how that name might be a little racy."

But if Smear the Queer was the raciest game we played in school, it certainly wasn't the most violent. There was also Butt Ball. You've all played some version of this game. Maybe you called it Wall Ball or something like that, but the point is the same: to hurt others. Like an American. In Butt Ball, you threw a tennis ball against the wall and when it bounced back, you tried to field it. But if you bobbled it, you had to run and touch the wall before someone else could cleanly field the tennis ball and throw it against the wall. If they beat you, you had to stand against the wall while they took a free shot at your ass with the tennis ball, trying to inflict the most amount of pain they could.

Am I concerned that many of my childhood games manifested themselves in the form of homosexual overtones and pain? Yes. Deeply. Did our teachers stop us from playing any of these games? Most certainly not. Oh, they tried the best they could, but children are resourceful. So when they told us we couldn't line kids up against the wall and throw tennis balls as hard as we could at their asses, we adapted. From then on, if anyone bobbled the ball, you just tried to tag them as they ran to the wall. Or, alternately, as they ran toward the wall, you tried to throw the ball so it bounced off the wall and directly into their faces. In this most hilarious fashion, a fifth-grader named Marshall lost two teeth. Adult ones!

I earnestly believe that Bruce Springsteen was referencing situations like these when he sang "Glory Days." And you can bet your sweet ass that the Boss played himself some tag; probably still does with Steven Van Zandt every now and again at Sopranos premiere parties and such. And if tag is good enough for the Boss, then it's certainly good enough for the children of Colorado

Do you hear me, Discovery Canyon Campus School? Because I'm talking directly to you.

Look, here's the deal, Discovery Canyon (by the way, a more perverted person could easily associate your name with a porno about an extremely cavernous vagina, but fortunately I'm not filthy-minded like that): We all know that you're located in Colorado Springs, home of the right-wing nut jobs, so we're already going to assume that you're fucked up, but now you up and ban tag, that immortal childhood game of sheer awesomeness? That's just cruel and unusual. Apparently tag was the source of much conflict on the playground, and some parents complained, and like that, tag was banned. Oh, and fuck you, too, parents who complained — even more than Gaping Vagina Campus School. Because of people like you, an entire generation of Springs youth is doomed to become utter losers. More than they were already going to be.

And hey there, administrators, here's a question for you: Are you going to ban dodgeball, too? Dodgeball is way more aggressive than tag, especially in the hands of masochistic gym teachers armed with cherry balls and shattered dreams.

The point is that childhood is supposed to be full of these screwed-up games. Nobody likes playing them, but you have to, because that's how you suffer and are miserable and go home crying and not wanting to go back to school the next day; that's what growing up entails. Without those experiences, you'll never grow hair on your chest, your second testicle will never descend, and you'll be a fancy mama's boy in corduroy shorts the rest of your life.

So here's what students of Gaping Vagina Campus School should do: Play Smear the Queer. See how those administrators feel when you bring out a violent game with a gay-bashing name during recess. Then again, it being Colorado Springs and all, they'll probably give you some sort of medal.

 
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