Can Johnny come out and play Mortal Combat?



Ted Escobar

I’ll bet you have never heard the question above. That’s because Mortal Combat is played on the computer indoors.

I’ve seen my grandkids play the game or other games like it. They are so zealous that you can’t pull them away to play outside. And this is concerning health specialists.

I don’t know if I’d be so concerned. Everybody grows up sometime. I’m just about there.

But the controversy does remind me of the old days of kick the can or Annie, Annie Over. And if there weren’t enough kids for those games, we had the good old stand-bys of war and cops and robbers.

When there were enough of us, which was tough living out in the countryside, we played games like red rover and crack the whip. Those games required 10 kids and up. We played it when cousins and friends within a mile of us would show.

We probably played kick the can the most — at night, when the countryside was really dark due to the lack of lighting. You could simply lie down away from the lights of the house and not be seen. We didn’t adjust the rules, but we adjusted the way we played.

The bigger kids had to allow themselves to be tagged and be “It.” If you didn’t, the game often ended quickly. If you kicked the can on the smaller kids more than three times, they’d get frustrated, cry and quit. Then all of the big kids would blame each other.

Crack the whip and Red Rover had a level of danger. In Red Rover, you selected two teams. They were usually matched with the same numbers of big, medium and small kids.

The kids on each team linked hands to form a chain. The team that broke all of links of the other won.

A member of your team would call out, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Johnny on over.” Johnny would run as fast as he could and try to break one of the links (hand clasps). That hurt as you tried to absorb the blow to your arms and shoulders.

If Johnny broke a link, he took one of the opponents back to his team. If he failed, he became a member of the opposing team.

In Annie, Annie Over, the goal was to eliminate the members of the other team. The teams were divided by the house. You’d hear “Annie, Annie Over” and soon there’d be a ball flying over the house.

If a member of your team caught it, he or she would run around the house and try to hit one of the opposing kids as they ran and knock a kid out of the game. If you didn’t hear Annie Annie over in a reasonable amount of time, you were set to run, but you didn’t know which way to run until the thrower came around one corner or the other.

We played king of the mountain on dirt mounds, hay stakes or something similar. It was a simple game of all against one. You all worked to bring the king down to allow one of yourselves to supplant him. Then that king would be the target.

In crack the whip, all of the kids would clasp hands to form a long chain. The person at the front of the chain would go where he or she wanted. The rest had to hang on and follow. It started slowly, just like a train, and when it got up to speed, it started whipping.

If you were at the other end of the chain, it got pretty hairy. Some kids were smart enough to let go. Some were stubborn and ended up in a hedge or rose bush

We played crack the whip at a 1990s family reunion in Granger, after we were all adults. One of my grand-nephews, Dustin Bamberg, from Florida, who was little, grabbed on to the last adult hand. When the whip came around near to where most of the people were sitting, that adult lifted Dustin into the air to fly over the non-players, but he didn’t go quite high enough, and his feet clipped my son Teddy, who was also small.

I was going to say to all of you who are concerned about your children’s attachment to the computer: Yes, push them out the house to play games like we did.

On the other hand… forget it. We could have killed ourselves. Mortal Combat is much safer.


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