“Smear The Queer” And Other Violent Playground Games

And speaking of suburban kids’ games — does anyone play a game called “Smear the Queer” anymore?  (I recognize the name isn’t politically correct, but that is what the game was called.)

When I was a kid growing up in the Akron area in the ’60s, “Smear the Queer” was a popular, mindless playground game that was an effective outlet for the gushing adrenalin of growing boys.  The only equipment you needed was a ball — any ball would do, although a football or one of those rugged red playground balls were preferred.  The only rule of the game was that whoever was holding the ball would get tackled by everybody else.  There was no objective to the game, no strategy, and no score.  You just grabbed the ball and ran as far as you could until you were brought down by the following horde.  As you were getting ready to get tackled you might flip the ball to some other unsuspecting player, so they would get tackled instead, but getting tackled was fun so you tended to hold the ball until you were on the ground and it was wrestled away by someone else.  It was not unusual for the game to end when someone was injured; bloody noses, broken glasses, and assorted bruises were just part of the fun.

This admittedly was a rugged game, but rugged playground games were commonplace.  Another tough game was “Red Rover.”  Two teams linked hands and then picked out someone from the other team by calling out “Red Rover, Red Rover, let _____ come over.”  That player then was supposed to run pell mell toward the other line and try to bust through.  Either the runner got successfully held back, often by clothesline hits, or the people trying to hold the runner back got bowled over.  Either way, someone usually would end up on the ground.

In our modern nanny state, I’d be surprised if kids were permitted to play either “Smear the Queer” or “Red Rover” during playground time.  It’s too bad, because both games were fun, and there was nothing wrong with blowing off a little steam before heading back into the classroom.

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