February 24th, 2004


(no subject)

Every day during recess in 5th grade, the 24 of us tromped out to Pennsbury Playground. We immediately split up into two groups; the 12 girls went to the grassy half and started picking teams for kickball, and the 12 boys went to the paved half and started picking teams for handball.

I'm pretty sure handball was a game we invented. We played with a red playground ball. The rules were a lot like basketball, except there was a lot more contact (you could force an automatic turnover by wrapping someone up, though I think bringing them down to the blacktop was unnecessary), and the goal was a section of chain-link fence, about 8 or 10 feet long and as high as the goalie could reach without jumping. The game wasn't so violent that our teacher forbade it, but it was bad enough that she watched us nonstop, completely ignoring the girls, and would enforce hockey-style penalties. Anyone being too violent would have to sit out with her for several minutes. In retrospect, this was awfully nice of her.

My best friend Dan and I got no respect, and were always the last two picked. This status was probably due in part to athletic ability, and in part to social standing. These two reasons probably had quite a bit to do with each other, as well, even ignoring the fact that we were definitely nerds.

We were generally not guarded during the game. Even though we would obviously be assigned to cover each other, we would tend not to; we usually wouldn't get the ball even if we were open, so why bother? I tended to play more of a free-safety, and I would usually intercept a couple of passes a game. Due to this, I started to get picked 11th a lot, and 12th almost never. I liked to think that it was because of my observational skills (Jason, who was usually the captain of the other team, would without fail touch the ball on every single point they scored, so maybe they wouldn't have much of an offense if we double-teamed him?), but it probably wasn't since they probably wouldn't listen to me anyway.

One day, I think a bunch of the guys were upset with Matt for some reason, or maybe just wanted to piss him off. Because even though Dan and I weren't a part of whatever was going on, it didn't seem surprising when I was picked 10th, Dan was picked 11th, and Matt was last. Matt didn't play, and couldn't stop crying for the rest of recess.

Another time, back in the classroom, during a context and activity designed to help resolve the social problems of ten-year-olds, one of the guys said to me, "You know, Josh, if you don't like the way some people treat you and tease you at recess, you could just not help those people with their math work anymore."