Game Fixer

Off to the gulag with students

BRIAN BAKER, Sports Editor

“Do you ever do bad stories?”

It was an interesting question posed to me by a phys. ed. teacher from North York.

In a previous conversation, I mentioned I focus on “just the facts” in my sports reporting and keep things positive because it’s high school sports.

To avoid ambiguity, the teacher threw Earl Beatty Junior and Senior Public School into the conversation. The East York facility has banned all balls from its schoolyards and has been the subject of punchlines from our sports-loving American neighbours, in particular Saturday Night Live.

I chuckled to myself. Synchronicity.

Of course, when I hear about kids’ right to play getting deflated, I’m the first one to play hardball with their Stalinesque oppressors.

The North York teacher and I spoke about the protective bubbles that parents put their children in. He shared a story about a kid scuffing their knee in a soccer game and the parent reacting to it like Mt. Vesuvius had just smothered Pompeii in pyroclastic devastation.

My wife, who works in retail, tells me about weekly recalls of toys or products made for kids. No one has died or been physically harmed, but apparently there is still a risk.

It seems the sweat pouring from corporate executives and lawyers is made from a bouillabaisse of anxiety, overactive imaginations and paranoia.

Knee-jerk responses are the consequence. And it’s not because the corporations are afraid a child will be hurt, but because they might face litigation.

It comes as no surprise that a school in East York is driven to the brink of bad craziness over a mother getting bonked in the cranial region by a soccer ball.

I don’t downplay her injuries — a reported concussion — but may I highlight the fact it was a soccer ball. Not a hardball, or golf ball, or the uncaring plastic sphere meant for lacrosse. It was a soccer ball: meant for heading.

Still, in the former borough I lovingly call EYSSR for its political leanings, it seems the safety of one parent who knowingly entered the realm of children with arms, is more important than an entire school’s physical fitness.

Ironic, since the Toronto District School Board and the province are trying their darnedest to get kids fit through programs like Fit For Life and getting rid of pop in hallways.

Limited gym time, and funding for sports doesn’t offer the kids the prescribed 60 minutes of activity per day. And, it appears sports in Canada are looked down on in a manner akin to academia’s view of those in the construction industry.

Schools look like gulags as it is: large brick buildings where we’re all sent to rid us of our character. Take away a kid’s pigskin, right to play catch or kick the patchwork of black pentagons and white hexagons around and you render their recreation ball-less.

I’m sure the school’s namesake, Admiral of the Fleet David Beatty wouldn’t want his sailors getting all soft after a shelling by the hands of complete amateurs.

Which calls to mind Toronto Star columnist Cathal Kelly’s piece on Earl Beatty.

Besides his lengthy lede recapping the sporting activities of the Mongol empire, he posed the question, what sport doesn’t require a ball?

Boxing.

Astute, but passive and passé.

How about mixed martial arts?

It would have been sensational to say kids could start pulling off armbars and guillotines like Georges St. Pierre until Doug Ford brought up a UFC-backed anti-bullying program in schools.

Start teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in gym class and we start producing some high-quality Octagon fighters.

Though I jest, I truly believe scars developed from sport add character. Unless parents keep their kids in cages, their offspring is going to get hurt. Prevention is ideal, but when it becomes an impetus then you have to ask why common sense has gone on the injured reserve list.

I participated in the sport of redass in the schoolyard back in the ’80s and ’90s.

Explain the gameplay of that aforementioned recreation and the “Modern Family” crowd will drop dead. Basically you bounced a tennis ball against a wall, if missed, you would get a letter. Spell R-E-D-A-S-S and you would have your opponents whip the yellow fuzz at your posterior.

Now, what does happen to children when they are victims of paranoid, over-protective parents and ball-fearing bureaucrats? I can’t say. But I have a sneaking suspicion we saw some of them at Occupy Toronto.

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