Then there was the game of all games: British Bulldog. I think every school on the planet that was tied to the commonwealth played British Bulldog. It didn’t matter if you could even spell it or pronounce it or even read it, especially in countries such as India, or Pakistan, Bangladesh. Oh you say British Bulldog you say. Okay. Let’s play you British Maha-raj-dog you!
This game could be brutal. I truly believe it was the foundation that made the British Empire great or the modern day commonwealth common. And if you were weak kneed, fragile, timid, shy, look out. This was one game where anyone’s, everyone’s disposition or nature, weak or strong, somehow manifested itself in very short order. If you were scared you might as well be wearing a sign that said: “I am scared shitless.” Okay, let’s go after him. He’ll be the last one standing. It was an unwritten rule. This game was so profound. It provoked the leaders from the followers, the bullies from the bullied, the weak from the strong and the popular from the dispossessed. Too bad! That’s the way it was and was the life of a male elementary student at a Catholic School. Meanwhile the girls were playing May-pole. Or Hop Scotch! Sounds like fun to me!
So, how did this game go?
Get as many guys as you could muster in the centre of the schoolyard by yelling out British Bulldog. Volunteer immediately to be one of the Bulls, that is, one of the guys in the middle of the schoolyard facing about one thousand of your closest friends who are lining up against a fence at one end of the yard. The aim here was that once the alarm was sounded by the Bull one had to run across the open yard enmass to the other side of the field without being caught by one of the Bulls waiting in the centre of the field of play, of course. Caught? No tackled was more like it. Today I believe they might call this “Capture the Flag” but for us it was a tad more brutal and neanderthal than waving some fag worthy piece of shitty pink or blue ribbon. Tackled, yes, but in those days the schoolyard at that time of the year, again late winter or early spring, was covered with course green-brown grass sprinkled here and there with rock hard but soon to be well textured mushy, smelly dog turds. That was the whole point of the game though: to scare the beejeezus out of some of the so called geeks of the school. And once you were tackled you joined your tackle-er and became one of the Bulldogs in the centre of the field. The last one standing was the so called winner of the game. In reality, and by our rules, the last one standing was the biggest loser.
This was definitely the preferred game for bullies in that it was an unwritten rule that the geekiest or so called weakest looking nerdy guy in the school would be the very last one up against the fence. His poor, pathetic perspective of his seemingly small nerdy world would be facing down 1,000 of his closest bully Bulldogs standing in the centre of the field waiting unabashedly to rein down pure unadulterated, adolescent terror on the poor lad. Fun? You bet! A tad mean and ruthless? Perhaps! Definitely. But it was a sure fire way to grow up.
And why would some seventy pound weakling agree to participate in such madness? Simple. At the beginning of the game there was strength in numbers so one geek would feel somewhat safe and have a somewhat secure but false sense of belonging standing there against the fence at the beginning of this melee, with 1,000 of his so called geek buddies. Unbeknownst to him though it was the unwritten but agreed upon rule by all of the bully Bulldogs that the designated target would be allowed to run free and easy, again and again, bypassing the awaiting but increasingly growing horde of bullies who would manifest themselves into becoming this vast conflagration of idiots bent upon the realization that this was going to be the very worst day in the poor lad’s short life.
Interestingly, while some of the remnants, or targets, realizing what was about to occur in very short order, might turn and run toward one of the school’s doors. Those that did stick it out found out, somewhat ironically, and to their astonished astonishment and amazing amazement, that they earned the respect of some of the biggest bullies, louts in the school. They unwittingly demonstrated that they had the courage, the backbone, the stupidity to stick it out, get a little bruised perhaps, and wear that badge of honourable dog shit that every British Bulldogger wears on their sleeves. Interestingly, soon after, they relished the thought of becoming a Bulldog themselves: one of the guys, louts, idiots, Bulldogs, in eying down some other poor sod who had the misfortune of becoming a target. There must be some psychological determinant to explain away this form of activity, group think, mob behaviour, stupidity with security in numbers. How else can one explain how a horde of 600 Bulldogs ran across this field of death with idiots to the right of them, idiots to the left of them, and so ran the 600 idiots (apology to Tennyson). *
(c) Shakey Jay 2015
* “Excerpt from “I Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven”