Bully For You!

There’s a movement afoot.  The government is trying to outlaw bullying.

There are cynics among us could argue that the United States government knows an awful lot about bullying, having perfected it as an art form over the past couple of centuries.  For the record, I’m not one of those government bashers.  Unlike scores of celebrities and pro athletes, I pay my taxes and drive within 10 mph of the speed limit.  Seriously, I’m a good citizen, there’s no reason to audit me, none…whatsoever.

As long as I’m making disclaimers, let me get this one out of the way.  There have been tragedies, recently and over the course of modern civilization, due to bullying.  Lives have been lost, and lives have been ruined.  The following bit of writing is not making a mockery of those people who have been impacted horribly by bullying.  If you’re concerned about being offended, please stop reading now, you don’t even have to click the “Like” box.

Butch from The Little Rascals. Was he a bully, or just misunderstood?
(Image from thorninpaw.com)

A quick show of hands; has anyone here been bullied?  OK, let me say this;  either quite a few of you are amputees, or you have repressed memories.  Let me help you remember;

If you have or had an older sibling, you’ve very likely been bullied.

If you have more than one older sibling, you’ll almost certainly need counseling for the bullying you suffered – please sign up on one of the clipboards in the back of the auditorium when we break for lunch and someone will get back to you.

If you played organized sports and weren’t the star of the team, you were probably bullied.

If you didn’t play organized sports, you may have been bullied by someone who did.

If you wore glasses as a child and you weren’t a bad ass, please don’t forget the clipboards in the back.

If at any point, you had bad skin, you were likely bullied.  If you never had bad skin, you’re a damn liar, and you should be in the damn liars group, they’re down the hall in 3-A.

If you spoke with a lisp, a funny accent or had braces, you were likely bullied.

If you had a pulse, grew up in America and actually had social interactions of some sort, you were likely bullied.

Obviously, we’re going to need a bigger auditorium, and more clipboards.

Scott Farkus! He was a bully AND he's a ginger with braces. Surely he's been on both sides of the bully dilemma. (Image from Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" - MGM)

Let’s have a little experiment.  Open the newspaper, or for you tech savvy types, your browser, and take a look at the movers and shakers.

Oh! Here’s one!  He’s one of the most powerful, rich and influential men of our time, Mr. Bill Gates.  Let’s take a look at Mr. Gates for a moment and envision him as he may have appeared as a child.  Now, let’s ask ourselves a hypothetical question: Was he the victim of bullying at some point in his childhood?  I’m going to go ahead and speculate that perhaps he suffered a wedgie or three in his early years.  Some of the more cynical among us might even speculate that it’s possible that Windows Vista is not so much an operating system as it is a gigantic F-U to the bullies of his childhood, who had to learn how to find their email all over again.

Here’s another guy, Mr. Steven Spielberg.  He’s got Academy Awards and the adoration of all of Hollywood.  He picks up his satellite phone and even creatures from other galaxies snap to attention.  Take a good long look.  Consider his career, he’s made movies like “Jaws” and “E.T.- The Extra-Terrestrial”.  Do we think perhaps Mr. Spielberg may have been bullied just a little, many years ago?  I’ll take the lead and guess that the answer is yes as well.

How about mega-best selling author, Mr. Steven King, or Oprah Winfrey?  What about Donald Trump?  For the record, I don’t necessarily think that Mr. Trump was ever a victim of bullying, but there are quite a few readers who would enjoy the thought of him getting a “swirly” with that hair of his.

So what if many of these people were actually bullied as children?  Even if we assume they were, what if they weren’t?  Would Bill Gates have been driven to do the things he did later in life?  If he had NOT been bullied, I’d likely be writing this blog on a stone tablet with a chisel and posting it in my front yard.  Would “E.T.” have touched our hearts so deeply if Spielberg had sailed through his early years without a single titty-twister?  Would Jonas Salk have invented the polio vaccine or written Braodway musicals if he had never gotten that wet-willy in 3rd grade?

You can see where I’m going with this.  Before you nay sayers, start saying “Nay” (so obvious, why not say something else – change it up a little?), let me finish.  I realize that Adolph Hitler was probably bullied as a child, I mean, look at that hair and his choice of mustaches.  I’m sure Charles Manson and Rick Santorum were bullied as well.  I accept that maybe bullying played a part in the creation of those people too.  Maybe it didn’t.  Maybe the evil of the world and the goodness of the world is there and it’s going to come out regardless.  For the record, I’m not condoning bullying – you leave your little brother alone mister, or you can forget about any dessert or parole!

So the government is going to outlaw bullying entirely.  They’ll effectively rid our culture of potential monsters and the youth of America will be able to grow up in an environment free of the unpleasantness of bullying.  Perhaps they can do something about skinned knees and splinters too.  Also, I never scored the winning run, goal or basket during my entire tenure in youth sports – can somebody legislate the pain away for me, please?

Right off the top of my shiny, hairless head, I can think of  a couple of major flaws with the premise of the government’s anti-bullying movement.

For one thing, government leaders don’t actually give a rat’s rear end about bullying.  The entire issue of bullying was just their “hot topic” of things to pretend to care about between elections.  Odds are they’ve already moved onto the next “big issue” threatening the American dream.  My guess is that the issue will be the increased use of pesticides in hair-care products currently being manufactured in 3rd world countries by out-sourcing American corporations.  Outraged bald Senators will clamor to appear to be spear-heading the issue.  The media will find some unfortunate souls with scarred but insect-free scalps to profile in hard-hitting news stories.  The whole thing will quickly fade, shortly after haircare and pesticide lobbyists descend upon the halls of power, not unlike rich, generous locusts with great hair.

Another flawed aspect of the anti-bullying legislation which no one seems to see as a problem, is that kids are pretty much immune to grown-up law.  There’s a story in the news every week about some 7 year old killing his babysitter, or a 9 year old pimping out his 6 1/2 year old sister.  Nothing ever happens to these kids.  The courts, which admittedly can’t even consistently convict guilty adults, are powerless at dealing with kids.  So the powers that be have put the onus of stopping bullying on school administrators, coaches and parents.  These people are trying to run schools, win games and keep up with mortgage payments – and that’s just the school administrators.

Mark my words America, by this time next year, we’ll all be too busy scanning the tiny print on our styling gel ingredients looking for roach poison to notice that little Jimmy is getting a purple nurple from that Thompson kid from up the street.

Tyler/Brittany/Grayson Scored The Winning Goal/Basket/Run!!

As an avid TV watcher and student of popular culture, I’ve noticed a few things about advertising over the years.  It really doesn’t matter what the product is, advertisers have any number of wily ways to coddle and woo the customer.

One proven method involves subliminally suggesting that if you buy a given product, you will magically inherit the traits of the people in the commercial.  Using the right shampoo will make your hair look luxurious and full of body, and if you read the subliminal messages, it will also take care of that crooked nose, unsightly warts and as an added bonus, you’ll shed those 35 extra pounds you’ve been carting around since the late 90’s.  For obvious legal reasons, no shampoo manufacturer is going to actually promise you much of anything beyond clean hair.  Still, the models in their ads never have crooked noses, warts or thunder thighs.  A coincidence? I think not.

For many advertisers, there is an implied promise which is even more alluring than that of physical beauty, and that is making your child into a sports superstar.  Take for example, the notion that if you buy a certain brand of minivan, your child will score the winning goal in the soccer game, and will be carried off the field on the shoulders of his or her comrades, to the waiting luxurious comfort of your shiny, stain-free mini-van.  It might be the winning run of the baseball game or the winning shot of the basketball game instead of soccer, but make no mistake about it, if you plunk down 30 large for this incredible mini-van, your son or daughter will win the game (As a point of clarification, scoring the winning touchdown in football games is usually reserved for laundry detergent ads).

Listen Brittany! We didn't buy that new mini-van so you could sit on the damn bench! Now smear a little dirt on your cheek and go win the game, and for God's sake, try to look enthused about it! (Image from pranamama.com)

Parents have no bounds when it comes to doing anything and everything they can to ensure the success and popularity of their children.  Trust me on this one, I have kids.  OK, you got me, I had kids.  They’re all young adults now, but I have my memories.  If some slick huckster on Madison Avenue implanted the germ of an idea in my head that buying the right mini-van would improve one of my kids chances of scoring a winning goal, you know damn well I would have bought it.  Crash rating?  We don’t need no stinking crash rating!

Now that my kids are older, I can look back with some degree of objectivity on all of this subliminal advertising insanity.  While I wrote that any number of sports could suffice, I’ll stick with soccer for this hypothetical discussion.

On any given weekend day, there are easily a hundred thousand little league soccer games being played all across America.  A standard soccer game will have 11 players on each team.  Only one team can win – there are no ties in mini-van commercials, so we’ll eliminate the 11 players on the losing team.  One of the players on the winning team is the goalie, and unless they make an incredible kick, the goalie is highly unlikely to score the winning goal.  The goalie, especially in little league soccer, would be much more likely to score the winning goal for the other team, however this would probably not result in his or her being carried off the field a hero.

Another factor is that, despite the best efforts of league organizers at spreading the talent evenly among the teams, there are often powerhouses and cellar dwellers in many soccer leagues.  The disparity of talent will result in lop-sided wins or losses.  It’s a simple fact that no one will carry you off the field for scoring the winning goal if it happens 3 minutes into the game in an eventual 10-2 blow out.  Therefore we can safely eliminate half the games being played because they’re blow outs.

Yet another issue is the incidence of overly involved parents.  In a few of these games, despite the outcome, some Dad will go berserk and charge onto the field to assault the referee.  This will result in the game being called on account of boorish behavior, and no one will be carried off the field with the possible exceptions of  Dad being carried off in hand-cuffs and/or the referee on a stretcher.  This may present an opportunity for police car or ambulance advertisers, but admittedly these are niche markets at best.

Of the remaining eligible kids who could possibly score the winning goal, still more must be ruled out.  In commercials, it will be the smallest, scrappiest, cutest little goomer.  He or she will have a small scuff of dirt on their little determined cheek, and they’ll make a face of utter surprise and delight after scoring.  Therefore, none of the bigger kids on the team can score the goal, because they would appear to be a bully or a ringer.  None of the clean faced kids can score it, that just wouldn’t look right.  Finally, none of the really incredibly talented kids can score it because they would never be able to fake the look of surprise and delight, because as an elite 3rd grader, they knew that shot was going in.

I know I’ve lost some of you by now, so allow me to lose the rest of you by introducing a summary in mathematical terms:

100,000 soccer games X 2 Teams of 11 players                                  =  2,200,000

2,200,000 players minus 1,100,000 losing players                                 = 1,100,000

1,100,000 players minus 100,000 goalies                                              = 1,000,000

1,000,000 players minus 500,000 players in blow outs                           = 500,000

500,000 players minus 50,000 players in games called due to Dads       = 450,000

450,000 players minus 400,000 players who are

too big, too talented, and/or too clean                                                        = 50,000

50,000 players minus 40,000 players who’s parents

missed the game due to work or other obligations                                     = 10,000

10,000 players minus 6000 players who were distracted by

planes overhead                                                                                           = 4000

4000 players minus 2000 players who fell down or burst into tears

for no apparent reason                                                                                 = 2000

2000 players minus 925 players who were called offside

by that idiot ref                                                                                              = 1075

1075 players minus 274 who stopped to tie their cleats                                   = 801

801 players minus 211 who missed the game due to dance recitals               = 590

590 players minus 562 who are in sportsmanship leagues which forbid

gloating or being carried off the field by teamates                                            = 28

So there you have it.  By my highly scientific calculations, 28 players out of 2.2 million will score the winning heroic goal as portrayed in mini-van commercials.  Not exactly Mega-Millions long shots, but far from a slam dunk.

Maybe those crash ratings are worth a second look after all.