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Tag, you're it

How can the most basic childhood game be banned?

Posted: Wednesday October 25, 2006 2:30PM; Updated: Wednesday October 25, 2006 2:44PM
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In the growing American realm of NO CHILD SHALL BE LEFT BEHIND IN THIS REAL WORLD comes word that more schools have banned ... if you can believe this: tag.

Heaven forbid that any American child shall be called "IT."

Yes, school districts as diverse as Cheyenne, Wyo.; Spokane, Wash.; Charleston, S.C.; Santa Monica, Calif., and Attleboro, Mass. ,have decreed that the game children have been playing, well, forever and ever and ever, is too dangerous to either the physical health or the mental well-being of our little 21st-century darlings.

This, of course, comes on the heels of the attempts to ban dodge ball, another movement which has enjoyed great success in taking the spontaneous fun out of growing up.

Then too, recess itself is now often eaten up by having children stay at their desks and practice for state-mandated multiple-choice tests.

But ... tag. Ban tag? What's next? Not letting kids sell lemonade because they don't have a commercial license?

In the immortal words of an elementary school principal in Attleboro, recess is "a time when accidents can happen." What a revelation. Why, a little boy or girl might actually even scruff a knee or scrape an elbow. Hey, boo-boos happen when you're a child having fun.

But a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University finds tag so baleful an experience for kids that he has placed it in the "Physical Education Hall of Shame."

All this at a time when we have an absolute epidemic of childhood obesity in this country. But for goodness sake, don't let kids play games at recess. They might bump into each other. They also might burn up a few calories. Would you rather have your child running around or sitting on his fat rear end playing video games?

But, for the pompous protectors of our youth, it's not just that somebody playing tag may have to put a Band-Aid on. It's a debilitating emotional experience, as well. Educators refer to tag as an "elimination game," which means it can be upsetting if you get put out. Musical chairs is another evil to be proscribed. The trouble is that the kids who are the slowest and the least athletic are likely to be the losers.

Duh. Nobody's good at everything. All life is a pecking order, and you might as well find out where it is you peck. In music class, I was the one who was only allowed to play the triangle because I was so unrhythmic. Hey, I sucked it up and got on with it.

I hate to say it, but that's the way it works in every phase of life. Please, I'm not trying to be Darwinian, but sparing children from their deficiencies is delusional.

There are a lot of us who think kids would be a whole lot better off if adults would just butt out and let children be children and play children's games. I'll bet you this, too. I'll bet you the spoil sports who are trying to eliminate tag were the ones who were themselves always "IT" at recess.

I'm Frank Deford, and I approve this message, because somebody has to call the grown-ups who ban tag: enemies of childhood.