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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
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 Strange Games for Strange Times

Maybe you saw the story about hundreds of college and high school students taking up an exciting new sport, Quidditch.

Yes, Quidditch. As in “game from the Harry Potter books and movies.” As in “witches and wizards flying around on broomsticks trying to score goals and, occasionally, beat the bee-gonias out of one another.” As in “made up.” “Imaginary.” “Not real.”

But still they play, running around (instead of flying over) Quidditch pitches with broomsticks between their legs, thowing the quaffle, dodging the bludgers and seeking the ever-elusive golden snitch. One change: There being a shortage of magical flying golden balls these days, the snitch of the books is replaced by a person. Presumably, a speedy person dressed in yellow.

Oh, those crazy kids.

I’ll bet they think they’re doing something unusual.

Those of us with some wear on our tires know that made-up sports are nothing new, nothing new at all, and we need only point to our own lives to prove it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you 43-Man Squamish, a game first brought to light by Mad Magazine in 1965.

The game is played on a field called the Plutney, in seven 15-minute periods called Ogres (eight Ogres if it’s raining.) Each team has 43 players -- one left Inside Grouch, one right Inside Grouch, one left Outside Grouch, one right Outside Grouch, four Deep Brooders, four Shallow Brooders, five Wicket Men, three Offensive Niblings, four Quarter-Frummerts, two Half-Frummerts, one Full-Frummert, two Overblats, two Underblats, nine Back-Up Finks, two Leapers and a Dummy.

Each player carries a stick called a Frullip with which to hit a ball called the Pritz. Players wear gloves, helmets and flippers.

And then it really gets silly.

We never had enough people in the neighborhood to play a full game of Squamish, but we did attempt to play Fizzbin, a card game played once on Star Trek. The rules are so complex (each player gets six cards, except for the player on the dealer's right, who gets seven; the second card is turned up, except on Tuesdays; two jacks are a "half-fizzbin” and must be completed by a king and deuce except at night when it becomes a queen and four) that it took an entire lunch period just to get all the hand dealt. So much for Fizzbin.

We played a lot of phantom football, which is exactly like regular football except it doesn’t have a ball. Or helmets. Or pads. Mostly you just run around the yard whaling on each other -- except in winter, when you move from the yard to a frozen pond and play on skates.

After two or three hours phantom football on skates you were more than ready to go inside and take another crack at Fizzbin.

Unfortunately, the greatest made-up game came along after I was done playing made-up games. I speak, respectfully and lovingly, of the Calvin and Hobbes’ comic strip by Bill Watterson, which gave us Calvinball. The rules? You can make up new rules any time you like, no rule is too ridiculous, and you can never play the same way twice. Now THAT’S a game.

So let the kids have their Quidditch, I say. Is it silly? It has people running around pretending to fly on broomsticks. Of course it’s silly.

Almost as silly as playing football without a ball. On skates.




© 2011 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.