Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Retro Games See Resurgence

Anyone for Wiffle Ball? How about kickball? Commentator Frank Deford says retro games are back and they're not child's-play anymore.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

OK. Old words like `poplollies' may be disappearing, but commentator Frank Deford says that old games, like kickball, aren't going anywhere.

FRANK DEFORD:

I was sitting around musing about how Jerry Garcia has now been gone from our midst for 10 years, and next month it'll be 50 years since James Dean was taken from us--Oh, memories, memories--when I received an invitation to come play kickball. Yes, kickball. Did you know that kickball is back? You didn't? Aren't you at all up on retro fashion? Why, as sure as ladies' round-toed shoes are back in style, so is kickball and dodgeball and Wiffle Ball and, yes, even capture the flag. All the childhood games of our youth are returning with a sweet vengeance. Can S-P-U-D--spud--can spud be far behind?

Of course, I neglected to tell you that my invitation to play kickball also included post-game mojitos and martinis. You see, it's not children who are playing these children's games now, but people who used to be children--i.e., grownups.

Psychologists have pondered why so many second marriages these days are between old high school sweethearts. It's theorized that when you are beset by mortgages and taxes and heartburn and children who want their own iPods, it makes the past, when all you had to worry about were pimples and term papers, seem so much happier. So reunite with the old girlfriend or boyfriend and bingo, you'll find the peace and simplicity of youth again.

I suppose it's the same delusional instincts which are bringing back the fond versions of our childhood. Just think how much better life is when all you have to do is hurl a yellow ball at a neighbor you don't like, or kick a red ball that comes bouncing towards you, instead of buying an atrociously expensive new golf club so you can drive yourself even crazier trying to break 90. Why, now you can even have the best of both worlds, the sentimental past and the technological present. I understand that the best capture-the-flag players use cell phones and limo services. Honestly.

And did you know that as sure as there has already been a feature film made about dodgeball and there is an actual International Dodge Ball Federation, so, too, is there World Adult Kickball Federation. And since it was formed in 1998 with only 150 players, it has veritably exploded. Now there are 700 official kickball teams in 18 states with 17,000 registered players. Yes, you have to register to play kickball. Bureaucracy's last frontier has been crossed. And next, kickball for the Olympics.

There's also a surprise bonus to this new craze: Children are discovering children's games. Since physical education has been eliminated or cut back in so many schools so that students can cram for standardized tests--No fat child shall be left behind--and since our pudgy tykes sit on their duffs staring at computer screens, they've never learned the great active games of yore. Now they're seeing grownups playing dodgeball and kickball and capture the flag, and they, too, want to do what the old folks are a-doin'. Yes, it's trickle-down fun.

But now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go. I've got a big game of hide-and-seek down at the American Legion hall.

INSKEEP: Frank Deford makes a comeback each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

And hey, by the way, a documentary about Deford and his work will appear on ESPN2 next Monday, August 22nd, at 10:00 Eastern.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford