There’s one thing most Americans love to do, and that’s to play. A
fun toy or game can liven up almost any circumstance and bring a sense of
silliness to what otherwise might be a bad situation.
I know that many of you out there are really incensed about what’s
happened with the presidential election of 2000. And while I don’t blame
you, I just can’t help but find comparisons between the events of the
past few weeks and some of the silly toys and games that I played or
saw while growing up — which is a work still in progress, I might add.
The games I played may be a little different than those to which you may have been exposed, but I think you’ll
recognize some of these.
The first one that comes to mind is Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots. I’m
not sure if a lot of people remember this toy, but it’s a classic in the
minds of anyone who grew up in the early ’70s. It basically was a
miniature boxing ring, where two robots, controlled by opposing players,
would try to bash the head off the other robot.
I still remember the TV ad for this loveable hunk o’ junk, where one
boy exclaimed, “You knocked my block off!” The only real difference I see
when looking at the election is that only one of the participants is an
When it comes to the ballots with punch holes through them, I
immediately think of Lite Brite. This is a toy where you create
illuminated, colorful designs by plugging tiny, multi-hued lightbulbs
into a numbered pattern. You could end up with a clown, or perhaps Bugs
I never actually had a Lite Brite set myself, but my best friends
next door, P.J. and Ann-Marie Hoetjes did, and I practically lived at their
place, if only for the games. I guess if this toy still exists, there
might be a Palm Beach edition, with special aids to help players put the
bulb in the correct hole. And no matter how you arrange the lights, they
always come out looking like Gore.
This leads me to the fallout from ballot-punching, the dreaded chad.
Howard Cosell used to say on “Monday Night Baseball” that Roy White of
the New York Yankees was the most overrated underrated player in the
majors. In the same way, chad has become the most overused underused
word in the language. Kind of like Y2K was last year.
But, I digress. The revelation that people involved in the ballot
recounts in Florida were actually eating the chads has burned a single
image into my mind: Pac Man. I just can’t erase the thought of a giant
yellow Pac Man scarfing up as many chads as he can — or she can, for
the Ms. Pac Man fans — in as quick a fashion as possible.
While I’m on video games, doesn’t Al Gore’s post-Election Day strategy
kind of remind you of Frogger? He hops from lane to lane, seeming to
cross traffic successfully for a moment, then having to jump back to
avoid being slammed in court, then jumping ahead saying he wants
all the votes counted, but then hopping back by trying to
exclude ballots he doesn’t like, not to mention any kind of
And speaking of the court battle, every time I turn on the TV to watch
the proceedings, I’m reminded of one of my all-time favorites:
Barrel-o-Monkeys. This game is exactly what the name implies. There’s a
big container of plastic monkeys — a.k.a. army of attorneys — that you
try to link together to beat your opponent, who likewise has his own
monkeys (expensive suits not included). The goal is to see how many of
these primates you can link together without losing a
commander-in-chieftanship, or whatever it’s called in the Simian world.
The ongoing tug of war is also reminiscent of a plaything called
Stretch Armstrong. If the name doesn’t ring a bell for you, Armstrong is the
rubberman equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s a super-elastic
goo-filled bodybuilding figure that you can stretch a remarkable amount
— even tie him up in knots, kind of like the way the country is now.
As I’ve gotten older, my taste in games has matured. Among my
favorites now is roulette. Anyone who has seen or played this game knows that
sometimes the ball can land on an odd number many times in a row, then
switch to even numbers for quite a while. Or black for 10 straight
spins, and then red for 10 spins.
It’s very strange, but often times when these long trends occur, the
ball will suddenly land in the zero or double-zero slot, sort of like an
equalizer where everyone loses, unless you’ve bet on the zero. This is
our current situation, where, after lots of spinning, no one wins. By
the way, for what it’s worth, all the numbers on a roulette wheel (1-36)
happen to add up to 666. Yikes!
I’m not sure exactly where we stand now, but I recall a game that
Ann-Marie used to have. It was called Mystery Date,
and it involved a door that would be opened to reveal the character who
would be the escort for the girl playing it — either a handsome prince,
or some kind of schlockmeister.
I can’t help but think we’re playing that game at this time, except
it’s called Mystery President. We just don’t know for sure who will be
our escort for the next four years. Will this game ever be over? And
when the door is finally opened, how will you react if the prince you’ve
been hoping for is a doofus on your doorstep?
Too bad I just can’t escape all the madness in the Honeycomb hideout,
playing Archies and Bobby Sherman records I cut out from the back of