Tag, You're Out, and That's Final

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Commentator John McCann shares his thoughts on elementary schools banning the game of tag at recess. McCann is a columnist for The Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C.

Mr. JOHN MCCANN: Argh! Better stand back. Argh! I'm a wild man now. Watch out.


That's commentator John McCann, who was corrupted at a young age by a game called tag. Or that's what a school in Attleboro, Massachusetts, would like him to believe. Willet Elementary School recently banned the game of tag from recess, and John is, well, a little ticked off.

MCCANN: Argh! I'm telling you now, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. But unlike David Banner, who turned into the Incredible Hulk because of exposure to gamma rays, I'm now liable to go off any day now because of the self-esteem issues that have been bubbling up inside me for more than 30 years because I got pegged in the butt while playing dodge ball a couple of decades ago in elementary school.

You mean to tell me the childhood game of tag is like kids go crazy and shoot off schools? To believe some educators in this country, that's the deal. An elementary school in Massachusetts has banned tag because of potential injuries and - this is big - potential lawsuits.

No doubt, litigious America is the land that blames Ronald McDonald for serving hot coffee and making people fat. But good gracious, people, let's get real here. We've got educators talking about tag's a bad game since the more athletic kids do better because the ones with two left feet aren't quick enough to get out of the way of the ball.

Duh? That's why it's called dodge ball. Don't give me this stuff about the clumsy kids returning to their desks feeling bad about themselves. Because they're the ones sticking out their tongues at the dodge ball kings who don't do as well in the classroom.

Listen, we have to stop pampering kids. Like the flak I received when I came out with some comments supporting a high school football team around here in Durham, North Carolina, that was accused of running up the score.

Okay, so maybe the team really didn't have to beat the living daylights out of its opponent. I mean I guess I can see where some might view the margin of victory of 70 to nothing as running up the score. But whatever happened to using such instances as motivation to get better? Nowadays, it's viewed as humiliation, so every kid gets a trophy.

See, today's youngsters don't know nothing about working for something. Everything's given to them. Everything's so instant. I mean if they're hungry, all they got to do is stick something in a microwave and bing, 30 seconds later, it's ready. But there was no microwave back in the day when I was coming up. My Mama would fry up some boloney or red-hots or something and leave it on the top of the stove in aluminum piepans before she went to work early in the morning.

Now, my brother and I could have eaten it at room temperature. But who wants to consume meat with that greasy sheet of film that begins to coat fatty foods when they get cold? So my big brother would crank up the conventional oven and slide in the aluminum pans. By the time we'd made up our beds and got lotioned up real good, the food was ready. We ate it and headed out to catch the bus en route to school, where we'd go to learn how to count and spell a little bit.

And then go outside for recess and play tag while trying to elude the dodge ball. I'm telling you now, we're going to end up raising a nation of sickly kids, a bunch of wimps. So let the young ones catch a few germs. We didn't have hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial this-and-that while growing up. And look at us. We're still living. We turned out okay, didn't we?

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CHIDEYA: John McCann is a columnist for The Herald Sun in Durham, North Carolina.

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