"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Feb 14, 2012

Smear the Queer

When I was young, boys played a game. It was called "Smear the Queer," or alternately, "Kill The Man With the Ball." The objet de jeu was simple, compared to baseball or lacrosse: do violence to the "Queer" with the ball. If you are wondering if the Queer was just an odd fellow, within game play, ponder no further. The Queer was certainly the Fag. And he had a handicap, which was the ball. The Queer had to have two hands on the ball, unless he was throwing it away. The point of the game, from the vantage point of the ball clasping Queer, was to get rid of the ball and become not-Queer. Because the only person who could be struck, tackled, knocked down or done violence to was the Queer with the ball.

The Queer was not allowed to just get rid of the ball. There were rules, sort of like with dodgeball. The Queer had to throw the ball to a team mate. Who then became the Queer who tried to get rid of the ball while all the members of the opposing team either attempted to tackle, trip, punch and smear him, or block passes to the new Queer's team mates. Team mates who were not the current Queer could not be hit, struck or touched. Violence was reserved for the Queer. And only the Queer.

Smear the Queer was a rugged game. We all had to take a knee, once, when a Queer was driven to the ground so hard one of his lungs was collapsed. Sometimes players took the Smear part literally. By "sometimes," I mean "regularly." We should perhaps remember that the game was also called "Kill the Man with the Ball." During the course of play, I had a dislocated shoulder, and there were a few broken wrists, noses, fingers and what not.

Smear the Queer was a Boy's Game. Girls never played it. They weren't allowed. Well, publicly that is. We had a few tough chicks who played. They were often the most aggressive players. Something about compensation to male-consistent behaviors in a male dominated environment, and conditioning, I image.

Smear the Queer could be played impromptu, but in my youthful experience, it was nonetheless organized. The game had rules. If the rules weren't followed, it wasn't a game. And most often, it was not only organized, it was sanctioned. I learned to play Smear the Queer in the Cub Scouts. With the Cubmasters as referees. It was more popular than Capture the Flag. It was even more popular than Capture the Flag (with Prisons*). It was surely preferable to Flag Football, which game provides no opportunities for the smearing of Queers, and has the distinct disadvantage of being free of tackling, tripping, nose breaking, lung collapsing and other boyish delights.

We also played a version (sans collapsed lungs or leaping tackles) on school grounds. The nuns, as referees. Girls excluded, of course. They had their own side of the playground. Literally. There was a line painted in the middle. We boys had football, StQ, dodgeball, tag and smash the faggots through the chain link fence, on our side. We also had marbles, jacks, baseball card trading and kickball. The girls had hopscotch. Once, the girls, led by the firebrands M---- S. and one of the many Michelles, organized a soccer game. The nuns were not pleased with this collapse of decorum. For a week, the girls has to spend recesses walking around the perimeter of their side of the playground. Doing the rosary. We boys were not discouraged from watching them. Object lessons need objects of condemnation, and all.

I'm told that if there were no giant leviathan, or world full of competing giant leviathans, society, such as it exists, would devolve overnight into one massive free for all of Smear the Queer.

I imagine that the exemplars, shapers of boys into men, pillars of the community, gum-hating nuns and bastions of rectitude - who organized and sanctioned Smear the Queer, as well as boy and girl divided playgrounds - would agree.

That no anarchist ever taught us to play Smear the Queer is entirely besides the point. And the one boy who was (in hindsight, and who is now Out) obviously gay was, I imagine out of self-protection, one of the game's most brutal participants. But, it's not like we learned the game from adult homosexuals. Or from the long-hairs who occasionally passed into the area to pick apples and berries alongside the Mexican, Cape Verdean and Brazilian migrant workers. The potheads couldn't be bothered, and the deadheads wouldn't have tried, and nary a Red could be found to teach us to hunt down the Other and smash him into the ground. Perhaps they were too busy being Others themselves.


We learned that game from the same sort of people who are now telling us that, without them, the game itself would spread all of the planet as if by moral infection, and would no longer worry mere Queers. It will even trouble hitherto comfortable white people.

I should note, in conclusion, that the present campaign against Bashar Assad looks like international Kill the Man with the Ball. In Libya, it was definitely more a version of Smear the Queer.

Of course, when exemplary, organized, decent people play it with guns and moral sanction, it's called government. When anarchists try to imagine a world where kids aren't taught to play the game at all, well, obviously the correct response to that What If is that everyone will learn it as if by magic, and also everyone will be a Smear-worthy Queer...

* - CtF(wP) inevitably led to the abuse of the prisoners. This came as a surprise to our elders. It was eventually banned. Prisoners were no longer allowed to be taken. Captured players were instead assigned to a neutral zone, where they could be liberated by a team mate, according to varying rules. Smear the Queer was never banned, at least not when I was a minor.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

We also called it Murderball.

Jack Crow said...

We did too, Thunder, but I left that name out because the word Murderball is now firmly associated with wheelchair rugby.

Jeff Popovich said...

Maul ball, we called it. Some were routinely more mauled than others for some of the same reasons you cite.

fish said...

Yup, StQ. Usually self organized in my case. I will admit to being slightly shocked that a Cub Scout leader thought it a good idea to organize games, but then again, tackle football for 6 year olds exists...

fish said...

by self-organized I mean parents didn't usually sanction it, not that I played by myself. Interesting game that would be.

davidly said...

StQ. Also Catholic school (1-8). I suppose some might say it's the anarchic version of football. In other words, ask someone with "honest questions about anarchy" and they might use Smear the Queer as a metaphor for anarchy's inevitable chaos.

As a matter of fact, it was Catholic school where I first heard the anarchy equals chaos line and nothing else was ever said about it.

Clearly conditioning has led to this viewpoint, because the skepticism is groundless otherwise.

Walter Wit Man said...

Hey. This was our favorite game when I was probably around 6th grade. We called it exactly those names.

Our rules were a bit different. We didn't have teams, it was the boy with the ball against everyone else. And it was sort of an 'honor' to have the ball and resist everyone ganging up on you.

The real tough guys would try to get the ball. They would grab it from the hands of a downed queer, and run off with the other boys chasing him.

I am convinced this game helped me develop great core strength as I recall multiple boys hanging off my back trying to drag me down as I clutched the ball, hunched over, stumbling to keep my balance, resisting going down. If the smearing was too much a boy could throw the ball in the air for another boy to catch (and if I recall correctly this was the procedure when a boy was downed and he still held the ball--he was let up and he would throw the ball in the air for the brave to catch--or throw it directly at a boy that was not very eager to be the next queer). If a boy was really scared of the smearing he could throw the ball before the other boys even tackled him--but this wasn't very honorable.

We used to wear multiple t- shirts because the outer t-shirts would usually get ripped and/or wet from the snow/rain and they provided for extra padding. I remember lovingly preparing for battle and choosing my 10 or t-shirts.

Each boy would pick a real life Running Back to emulate. I think I was Erick Dickerson.

Oh, and the worst insult I remember from this time was calling another boy a commie! Fag was pretty bad too. Probably a close second. No wonder boys ripped off the "fag tags" on their shirts.

Unknown said...

There have been cultures where there were no leaders. In those cultures everyone was more or less equal. In our own western world we cannot imagine being without leaders because we believe that having a leader is the nature of man. In those cultures children were allowed to do whatever they wanted and were never beaten by adults. Beating children was considered an act of barbarians. Children were taught what they needed to learn not by their parents but by relatives. There were no schools public or otherwise. These cultures were destroyed, or acculturated by or into the barbaric and violent western nations. They were not prepared for the barbaric monsters that invaded their lands and these monsters thought of themselves as civilized and superior in every way because of their god and their advanced technology. Today the monsters are still at it. They continue to destroy cultures older and more civilized than themselves. These monsters are of an extremely narrow view that cannot imagine anything outside of their revolting little world, at least anything worthwhile.

Five by Five said...

Great point by way of analogy - this post is going out to my OWS friends who rail against the Evils of Anarchy.

I decided to play (or was graciously "allowed" to play) in middle school, low those many 9-10 years ago, when I was still a bit of a tomboy. On one particularly cold morning I had the ball and someone seemed to have no problem planting my face into the bricks of the auditorium wall while we were both running at a full clip.

Picking myself up out of the hard-packed snow I again made a decision - that being smashed into walls over a game I didn't like with a name I hated wasn't worth the trouble.

I just liked running with the ball and being chased, the violent aspects never really appealed to me.

Besides, freeze-tag capture the flag was always better.

Jack Crow said...

How to change it? Not an easy question. I don't think there is - or don't want to place an easy faith in - a right answer.

It's why I have such disdain for the pacifists. And it's also why I can't trust the vanguards and fervent revolutionists.

Unknown said...

It would usually start after a game of some sort when everyone was standing around someone would yell Smear the Queer and throw a ball at someone. There was no question but to grab the ball and run. You couldn't throw the ball away without getting pummeled. It taught us how to escape from monsters. It was just as scary too.