Friday was my son’s field day. Umm, excuse me, the politically correct term at our school is Fun Day ensuring the children focus on having a good time rather than winning. I refuse to call it Fun Day. From the tiniest Kindergartner to the future Major Leaguers in the 5th grade, every kid at Field Day wants one thing: TO WIN. Whether it be the rubber chicken toss, the potato sack race or which class shakes it the most during the DJ’s playing of the Harlem Shake, these kids want the red ribbon saying:
2013 Fun Day – 1st Place
Although the name has changed, it’s the same fight to the end, never give up, thrill of victory/agony of defeat as it was when I was in elementary school. Sadly, this is 2013 and we are pathetically the helicoptering generation, so although the competitive spirit is the same, there are some differences.
Does anyone remember their parents shelling out $10 for professionally monogrammed t-shirts to represent their class? I’m sure we were ordered to dig through our dresser drawers until we found a red shirt, turned it inside out and declared ourselves battle ready.
Does anyone remember a Misting Station under a shady tent to cool off participants in between events? Our memories involve Johnny and Susie passing out from heat stroke and the rest of the class hiding it from the teachers to avoid being disqualified from the Baton Relay.
Does anyone remember coolers of iced water bottles to quench your thirst? Of course not, we were sweaty and thirsty; it was the best day of our lives. Even Johnny and Susie attest to that.
Does anyone remember parents’ complaining because little Bobby didn’t get a red ribbon? Suffice it to say, parents back then were so lovingly uninvolved in our lives, they had no idea who won or didn’t win. If Bobby didn’t get a red ribbon, he and the rest of the neighborhood met during the summer, drank hose water and did secret calisthenics to train for next year. Kids don’t need fanfare or parental involvement to want to squash their peers like a bug.
The highlight of the day is the epic 5th grade tug-of-war. As I readied my I-Phone to catch it on video, pre-match rituals took center stage. The Survivors tebowed, praying the Field Day Gods were on their side. My son’s class, Fast & Furious, stretched and chanted in Army like precision. The other two challengers, the Beasts and the Dream Team, stood silently with arms around each other’s shoulders in a sign of solidarity; they glared intensely at their opponents like Mike Tyson before a fight.
The first round, Fast & Furious vs. Dream Team, was evenly matched. As the gym teacher dropped the rope and both teams pulled with all their 5th grade might, the red bandana barely moved. Sweat dropped from their anguished faces as they heaved and jerked for an agonizing five minutes before Fast & Furious persevered. The bandana inched their way as three hundred K – 4th graders cheered envisioning their own monumental contest one day.
The second round, Survivors vs. Beasts surely hoped to create a legacy, screaming at each other to dig foot holds in the mud as brilliant minds searched for an advantage. Survivors emerged on top. As in many Superbowls and World Series, epic occurred in the playoffs, not the finals as the Survivors defeated the F&F in seconds. Beaten and downtrodden, F&F dusted themselves off and congratulated the winners.
A great addition to Field Day is the Dunk Tank. A well-liked dad of a 5th grader braved the filthy Hudson River like waters of the tank as the kids taunted him with their promise, he was going down. He responded with a bazooka sized water gun to shut them up. 5th grader after 5th grader channeled their inner Mariano Rivera but failed to hit the red button; the Dad remained dry. Finally, a determined girl lofted the softball slowly in the air miraculously bouncing off the red button without activating the trigger mechanism. The parent running the event knew a good thing when he saw it; he elbowed the red button and Dad fell into the water. The crowd went wild. The athletic kids, accustomed to pitching strike-outs, trash talked but were unsuccessful. I was off to the side taking pictures when a ball rolled at my feet. My son’s friends and a few parents begged me to take a turn. After a few disparaging remarks from Nice Dad, I took the bait, high-fived my supporters and gave Nice Dad the evil eye. The crowd swelled to around fifty as I prayed I wouldn’t disappoint them or mortify my son. I squared up without injuring myself, smacked the red button square on and Nice Dad fell into the murky depths.
Surrounded by 5th graders, I continued my celebratory jumping up and down, surely embarrassing my son and forgetting about the bazooka. Nice Dad became Mean Dad as he super soaked me to put me in my place.
There is something to be said for stepping out of your comfort zone at 47 and acting like a child. I went to find the Principal because dammit, I want a red ribbon.