A touch curmudgeonly about today's youth -- Gazette.Net


I am of two minds about the youth of the day, torn between curmudgeonly and compassionate.

I'm not overly introspective (I'm a guy. “I wish I hadn't eaten that last piece of pizza” is about as far as we want to go on the inward journey), but I think the curmudgeon part stems from jealousy. We never had underwater robots or telepresence classrooms or hand-held portals to every scrap of information in the known Universe when I was a kid.

Kids today have Madden football, so realistic and, let's face it, so goldurn fun that it makes playing board games seem like studying existentialism: gloomy and interminable. The nearest equivalent we had to video football was that game where the little plastic players ran around in circles on the vibrating metal surface. You could never get the players to do anything approaching what looked like an actual football play, and the buzzing noise would drive you nuts in just a few minutes.

In Madden, you can switch from man-to-man to cover-two pass coverage on defense, and call an audible at the line of scrimmage on offense if you pick up the shift to cover two. (You folks who aren't football fans are just going to have to trust me. The difference is akin to that between life aboard Huck Finn's Mississippi raft and the leisurely three weeks to England aboard a luxury cruise ship.)

Of course you're saying to yourself right now (at least, in this rhetorical device, you are), “but they still have to go to school,” to which I reply, with a good deal of heat and a bitter, angry laugh, “Hahaha! School you say? School? (I'm always a touch wordy and melodramatic in a rhetorical device.) Haven't I already referred to underwater robots? Where do you think they use those? Huh? Huh? (leaving you no time to reply. I'm also rude in rhetorical devices) In school!”

The coolest thing we did in school was make hydrogen with lye and aluminum foil, then light it on fire (which inspired some diabolical technology bleed-over in the form of a balloon-based system for blowing up streetlights, though I swear — honest! — I only ever watched, no matter what that party-pooper Carol Zarker said at the time.) This was cool, I admit, but not nearly as cool as underwater robots.

And smartphones? Don't get me started. The coolest computerized game systems of our time ran Pong poorly (What's that, kids? What was Pong? It was this really cool game where you had this little paddle and if this little ball hit it, it would send the little ball back to the other guy, who would move his paddle in front of it and hit it back. Oh, what fun! We played it for hours and ... Never mind.), whereas the average cellphone now will play war games that have the Pentagon reeling at their sophistication.

Where does the compassion come in, you ask? Well, when we got tired of watching those little plastic players run around that little buzzy metal field, we'd get a football and go around the neighborhood and get a bunch of kids to play a game of football in someone's backyard, in the crisp, cool fall breeze, the scent of woodsmoke in the air, and we'd laugh a lot and get some bruises and cuts and argue about who was in bounds and who cheated. And after a while, it would get dark and we'd go home to dinner tired and happy, with funny stories to tell.

I guess kids today do this, too, though you hear an awful lot about couch potato video game addicts, even from their parents. I guess my point is that what I really remember about my childhood is those football games, and not very much Pong.