Thingish Things

They’re My Balls and I’ll Play if I Want To

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Apr• 19•11

The genius at the New York State Health Department who came up with this should be tied to a Tetherball pole and pelted with Dodgeballs.

New York State, it seems, is not content to regulate businesses out of the state, it is now targeting fun. Kickball, Dodgeball, Wiffle Ball, Capture the Flag, Red Rover, and other popular childhood games have just been deemed “dangerous” activities by Albany bureaucrats, and, as such, they must be regulated and medically supervised. There is a strategy behind this of course; this is New York’s attempt to license and regulate ad hoc community summer programs — and collect a $200 annual fee from each of them in the process.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way:  This is nonsense.  It is utterly ridiculous.  Kids play.  They get hurt sometimes.  And they learn to toughen up from it. I’ve caught my share of Wiffle Balls in the testes, but, hey, you get back in the field, just a few steps further back. It’s part of growing up. Besides, who can afford a dozen kids these days anyway?

This is also the ten-millionth example of what happens when government gets too large — it begins seeking targets to rationalize and pay for its existence. That’s why legislators propose so many dumb laws every year. They and their staffs sit in back rooms all year dreaming this stuff up.

But there is a more serious issue at play here. In regulating common childhood games, the State is taking responsibility for which games are appropriate to play unsupervised and which must be chaperoned. If one gets hurt playing the former, can one sue the State?  There was no warning…

Does New York really want to get into that business?

I’m a believer in American Exceptionalism and I have no yearning to live elsewhere,  but I am always amazed in visiting
other countries to see how, well, free people there are to make their own mistakes. Cliffs come without railings; toasters — actual toasters; ones you can burn your fingers in — are in hotel lobbies, and ladders don’t warn  against using them.

And yet people cautiously use them. It’s amazing. They decide on their own to be careful, and they have no one to blame but themselves if they fall.

Regulations like those just announced by the Health Department are routinely dismissed in the U.S. as “nanny state” annoyances, but in the long run, they are more pernicious than that. Ubiquitous regulations rob us of our freedom; they strip us our responsibility to make judgment calls and create a system of victimhood for those who get hurt. There’s nothing trivial about that. It is eroding the American spirit and turning us against one another.

Oh, why a Tetherball pole? Well, our friends at the State Health Department seem to have left that game off the list. Have you ever caught the nub of a Tetherball with your wrist? It hurts.  That menace of a game should be outright banned. Who can I sue?

UPDATE:  The State Health Department just scrapped these new regulations. More on that here.  No Dodgeball pelting necessary.  Kudos to those who changed their minds.  It’s not easy to do in public.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Wiffle Ball Fantatic says:

    I pelted my 14 month old daughter with a high, hard one this weekend. She was crowding the plate. How else is she gonna learn that the inside of the plate is DADDY’S!

  2. Another year and she’ll be knocking it right up the middle. Careful, pops!

  3. Me says:

    Though when Priscilla and I went hiking in Switzerland (just a quick jaunt), EVERY SINGLE PERSON who passed us on their way down chastised us for not wearing proper footwear (we were in sneakers). It was quite astonishing!

  4. Well yeah. The Swiss.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.