If you have a pulse and are over the age of about 18 months, chances are you have fond memories of playing freeze tag.
Or at least memories of it.
Or maybe you don’t remember it at all, if you played freeze tag in the 1970s. Because back then, what seems like a frolicky playground game was nothing less than blood sport.
Concussions, compound fractures, ruptured spleens, psychological trauma — they were all on the table when “it” was unleashed on a playground full of screaming fools.
It could be downright deadly, I tell you!
To wit, here are just ten of the many ways that playing freeze tag in the 1970s could kill you.
So, this game is not called “freeze” tag for nothing.
I mean, sure, the person who is “it” runs around and tags other kids, and then they have to freeze — remain in place, motionless — until either “it” tags everyone or until an unfrozen player tags them, instituting the unfreeze.
But in the 1970s, there was always a chance your recess teacher would take you outside even in the winter. And on those days, when the air was clear and the temperatures dropped faster than Leif Garrett’s star, you had to worry about a different kind of freeze.
Have you ever run around like a fool on a cold February morning in the midwest?
The only thing more treacherous is when you get tagged and have to stand in place for half an hour while the sweat freezes like an icy shellac all over your body.
This is the other side of the death-by-temperature coin.
In August and in May, temperatures on playgrounds all across the land can reach into the peri-sun region of the thermometer, rendering kickball and tag and running of all sorts an exercise in death defiance.
And the nearest water source is that fountain in the far corner of the basement … the one the school janitor looted from the Germans as he was wrapping up his service in World War II.
Sometimes, “it” has problems sealing the deal.
You get a playground full of kids running helter-skelter for their freeze tag lives, and it’s going to be tough for even the most conditioned and gifted runner to get them all.
A game of freeze tag can go on … for … ever.
And if you get tagged early on and don’t have any friends to unfreeze you, or have pissed them off somehow, your brain is going to rot just standing there until the teacher’s whistle brings you in.
Lungs of Fire
You can’t really train for the rigors of freeze tag.
Sure, you can play at recess every day, but that’s what, a maximum of 30 minutes at a time. Factor in piling in and piling out of the playground, time to gather the tag gang for the day, time to scratch, and you’re looking at about 15 minutes.
Not enough to ever really get used to the intense and abrupt change from eating meatloaf and peas to running from lions, and you can’t replicate the training effect outside of school, no matter how hard you try.
So you’re left with lungs burning like an asphalt-skinned knee and ready to explode like a 15-year-old boy by the time recess ends … each and every time you play freeze tag.
So, you’ve been tagged. And you’ve frozen.
And you’re just standing there thinking about baseball or homework or Sandy Roberts.
There’s always something interesting going on in the sky, too, whether it’s an elephant cloud or a fighter jet or a UFO.
Just as you slide into your latest abduction fantasy — WHAM!
Someone plows into your backside and breaks your spine in seven places.
It’s a smearing, in playground vernacular.
Oh, there will be explanations.
“I didn’t know you were already frozen.”
“I was just unfreezing you, bro.”
“I just wanted to see what color your liver is.”
All just excuses to turn you into a mud smudge.
And speaking of mud, playgrounds are awash in the stuff, especially during rainy spring seasons when the gods want nothing more than to turn children into slippery piglets.
Freeze tag plays right into these cosmic plans, providing plenty of opportunities to tumble into mud pits, slide into mud slicks, or be smeared into mud holes.
Hit your head just wrong on the way down, get your mouth jammed into the muck, and … well … not good.
Nobody wants to be the slow kid.
Nobody wants to be the “it” who runs out of gas.
Nobody wants to get smeared into a mud hole.
But every game of freeze tag features at least one of each of these, it seems, and it can be downright humiliating.
Add in an unforeseen factor like your mud-weighted jeans pulling off your hips and wrapping around your feet as your run, and you just might have a case of fatal embarrassment.
The most terrifying sight in a ten-year-old’s life when they hit the playground with a bellyful of “cook’s choice” lunch fare is the appearance of a malicious and formidable “it.”
Unleash the right shark (Land Shark, maybe??) in a recess full of skittish kids, and the mob will turn on each other.
And, if you happen to be slow, or just slow on the uptake, that initial swell of panic can sweep you up in its mad dash and leave you stampeded right into the old mud hole.
It all comes back to that, it seems.
Some playgrounds are not quite as open as others.
Some have trees and light poles and maybe cars.
And just about all of them have playground equipment and basketball goals if you stray too far from the barren fields where you’re supposed to run.
If you get panicked, or lackadaisical, and you’re streaking for all you’re worth away from “it,” you might forget about that low-hanging oak branch.
Or you might not even see that flag pole.
And, being a human, you run sort of leaned forward, putting your forehead front and center.
Hope you like seeing stars.
The thing about titty twisters in the 1970s is that they were blind to the boundaries of gender, race, religion, or socioeconomic status.
If you had nipples, they could be twisted.
And the chaos of freeze tags gave all the a-hole boys in your class the perfect opportunity to ply their trade.
Want to apply a tag? Titty twister!
Want to unfreeze someone? Titty twister!
Want to help someone up out of the mud hole? Titty twister!
Want to kill someone with searing pain and unrecoverable embarrassment? Titty twister!
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