When I was 12, I got my only broken bone playing a game of perceived manhood and hubris we knew as “Smear the Queer.” It also sometimes went by the moniker “Kill the Man with the Ball.” It was a form of football we played when we got tired of arguing about the rules when we tried to play real football. It essentially consisted of the person with the ball fleeing from everyone else. Your manhood was gauged by how long you held onto the ball as a gang of tacklers surrounded and descended up you. You were a coward if you threw the ball to someone else. No score was kept and there were no winners, just like real life.
During one such game on a memorably beautiful fall afternoon, I was reaching for the ball on the ground and someone landed on my thumb. I kept playing for a few minutes, but when the pain didn’t let up, I went home. By evening, I told Mom about it, and we went to the hospital. where x-rays showed it was, in fact, broken.
I was in seventh grade at the time, at Eisenhower Junior High in Lawton, Oklahoma. The cast on my hand and wrist was something of a badge of courage, aside from one slightly embarrassing moment in Carol Holsey’s English class in which she held my arm aloft and said, “We have a bird with a broken wing. Who will volunteer to write for him until he heals?” Clair Flint, the class hippie, took the duty, and despite not having a crush on her, being close to her every day in third hour for two weeks gave me a little bit of a buzz.
Four years later, October 4, 1979 (journal), Michael and I were playing catch in the pasture behind my house when I caught the football directly end-on with my left index finger. Again, I went to the hospital, but this time it was only a dislocation. While I was there, emergency personnel rolled in a gurney with a moaning, bloody teenager on it, stinking of alcohol. It was the kid from two seats in front of me in biology class. He’d been to “Blue Ice Cream,” a non-school-sanctioned Thursday night pre-football-game party at some rich kid’s parent’s house. Having gotten wasted, this kid apparently tried to ride the outside of a Jeep around a corner at 45mph. His road rash was pretty amazing, and put my dislocated finger to shame.
Those are my only broken bone stories.
Wow! I haven’t thought about smear the queer in a long time. I loved that game. I never really understood how it got that name. I mean, a bunch of guys chasing each other and then jumping on each other in a pile of sweatiness writhing around. Go figure. Some things I will never understand.