• Terry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. The Games We Played

Growing up a brat meant lots of opportunities to participate in both organized and disorganized games. Organized included sports such as swimming, hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball (including biddy, do you remember biddy basketball?). Disorganized was what us kids threw together to entertain ourselves.

One of my favorites was Red Rover, where the kids get into two lines, facing each other. Each line joins hands and then one calls one of the kids from the other team over. "Red Rover, Red Rover, we call Sally over." The called kid has to run and try to break through the line that called them. If they don't, they join that line and become part of that team. If they do, they take one of the kids where they broke through, and return to their original line. The team that ends up with all the kids on it, is the winner. This, of course, never happens, but after ten or so rounds, no one really cares.

Another disorganized game was Neat Fall. This game was played between two houses, preferably ones that didn't have a sidewalk between them. One kid would be It and would stand with their back against one house. All the other kids were at the other house. In turn, each kid would call out some weapon that they wanted to be killed with. The It kid would make the appropriate weapon sounds, and the other kid would perform a dramatic death scene and, after suitable theatrics, would fall to the ground dead. This was why you didn't want a sidewalk in the way. After all the kids had had a chance, the It kid would decide who did the neatest fall, and that kid would become It and the game would play out again.

Other games we disorganized ourselves were croquet, lawn darts, baseball, football, monopoly and a gambit of board games. Quite often we would make up our own rules to make the games more interesting. Many of us also played marbles, some of us amassing huge collections of the little glass balls. We not only shot them into holes in the ground, we would drop them into holes cut in the tops of tobacco cans, roll them into holes cut in the sides of laundry or cereal boxes. Similarly, we would flick hockey cards against the wall, trying to get ours closest or get a 'leansy' with the winner keeping all the cards flicked. I can still flick those cards although that generally makes the sports card collectors flinch nowadays.

Another thing we did was trade comics. I recall long periods of time, kneeling in front of someone's box of comics, flipping through them one at a time chanting, "read it" or "got it" or "want it" depending on the status of that comic. I still consider this a game since it had rules. Normal comics cost five cents but there were thicker ones that cost twenty-five cents. These latter ones were worth five normal comics. There were also classic comics which were illustrated version of classic tales like Moby Dick or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Classics were not in as much demand but I liked them. Once you flipped through your friends collection, he would flip through yours and the two of you would negotiate for the ones you wanted. Then started the marathon reading sessions. Nowadays, comics all seem to be collectibles and worth money so they are kept in plastic sleeves and hardly read. Spoiled the fun of it. I do wish I still had my Daredevil Issue 1 though.

These activities kept us occupied, taught us social skills and, mostly, were entirely free. Some of them taught us deeper lessons.

I recall when I wanted to play hockey. My parents couldn't afford to buy me equipment but I had a pair of skates. I was able to borrow a friend's equipment. I would walk to his house, get his equipment, and then lug it to the arena. Putting it on was not pleasant as his practice was earlier than mine so the stuff was wet and cold from his sweat. It didn't smell very good either, but I wanted to play so I endured through it.

The bad part for me was that the coach didn't have much time for those of us who were less skilled players. Mostly we would be sent to one end of the rink and told to skate back and forth while the skilled players were drilled at the other end. With no real training, we never advanced much and spent game days on the bench since we could hardly skate. Not much fun so I only did that one season.

Kids at hockey practice
Organized hockey practice

When I had my own kids in hockey, I would be on the ice helping with coaching and I always ensured that all the kids were involved and encouraged in all the drills and games, regardless of ability. I hope others had better experiences.

While I was young, I was never all that good at sports but I participated anyway. Soccer, baseball, basketball, and swimming. I was good at swimming but didn't develop much talent in the others until after high school. I blame it on being tall and gangly, making me uncoordinated, but I still had a lot of fun.

What games did you play as a brat?

Kids playing soccer
Impromptu, disorganized games were the best

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