No Ball Games Permitted

There’s a little patch of grass up the road from where I live, maybe about 20 yards square, and in the middle of it there’s a sign that says, “No Ball Games Permitted”. Which is a shame, because it’s an ideal patch of ground for kids to play football on, even if it does have houses all around it.

I used to spend hours and hours and hours playing football as a kid, on football pitches which had a wall as a goal at one end, and a couple of pullovers or jackets to mark the goal at the other end. We’d start off playing with inflated plastic balls at the beginning of the school term, but these would either get punctured or gradually deflate after a few weeks of intensive use. So we’d usually end up playing football with tennis balls, and some of them would end up either lost or looking like pieces of orange peel. Once somebody found a golf ball, and we played football with that. And, in extremis, we’d even play football using marbles. The balls got progressively smaller and smaller. And the smaller they got, the easier they’d get lost. A lot of football games were spent just looking for the ball.

I read once that Diego Maradona played football that way when he was a boy in Argentina, and developed most of his skills back then. I could well understand why. And also why the Argentinian team won the World Cup. Diego Maradona could probably play football with a marble.

The same was true in Brazil. Beaches like Copacabana beach always had football games being played on them. And playing football on soft, dry sand takes quite a lot of skill. The ball doesn’t bounce much, and it needs to be scooped out of the sand with a special foot action. And there weren’t any signs saying “No Ball Games Permitted” on Copacabana beach. And the result was that Brazil has won the World Cup even more times than Argentina.

England used to be a place where kids could play football almost everywhere. But now it seems to be almost nowhere. And this is probably why English football is so crap, and why England will never win the World Cup again. It’s also why English football clubs increasingly rely on foreign players, from places like Argentina and Brazil. There’s no homegrown talent any more. Because there aren’t kids kicking footballs around on the streets or on patches of ground or in back yards. Instead, they’re all sitting inside with their X-boxes, playing video games and slowly becoming obese. What else is to be expected?

I don’t know why ball games aren’t allowed on the little patch of grass up the road. Maybe it’s because the balls would go in people’s gardens, and they’d need to be fetched out. Or maybe they’d damage the flowers, or frighten the cats. Or maybe the ball might roll onto the road, and the kids might get run over by cars. But most likely it’s that people simply don’t want a bunch of kids running around outside shouting and yelling. They want peace and quiet. And there’s a lot of peace and quiet around here. But the result is that there’s a nice patch of grass that isn’t used for anything at all, as far as I can see.

The smoking ban is just like “No Ball Games Permitted”. The ostensible reason for it is that smoking causes other people harm, a bit like a football might crush a flower or frighten a cat or dirty some washing that’s hung out to dry. It’s not the real reason why smoking is banned though. The real reason is that some people simply don’t like tobacco smoke. And in fact, even that isn’t the real reason. The real reason is that they don’t think people should smoke, and they want to ‘denormalise’ smoking. They want to control what other people do. And now that they’ve managed to get smoking banned more or less everywhere, they want to get drinking banned too. And for much the same fabricated reasons. They want to ‘denormalise’ drinking. And there are plenty of other things that they’d like to ‘denormalise’ and forbid as well.

Now that smoking is banned, I can well imagine that miniskirts might get banned too. The real reason for banning them would be that they’re just too damn sexy. But since the banners never use the real reason, and always dream up some other reason, they’d probably justify it on some fabricated medical grounds. Maybe that the sight of miniskirts raised blood pressure among elderly, “at risk” men, with the concomitant risk of heart attack and “premature death”.  They’d carry out studies which showed that male blood pressure and pulse and breathing rate increased linearly with skirt height, and would produce figures showing the likely “projected” mortality. The BMA would release studies showing conclusively that “245 premature deaths are caused by miniskirts every year,” with recommended skirt lengths being at around ankle level. Why not? After all, it’s on the back of such absurd studies and projections that the smoking ban has been launched.

And they’ll do it using the law. They always do. And yet this seems to me to be an abuse of law. I don’t think it’s the purpose of the law to control people or make them behave it prescribed ways. I don’t think it’s any business of the law to tell people what they should eat and drink, or what clothes they should wear. In fact, I think that there should be laws against people making laws like this. The US Constitution seems to have legal restrictions of this sort, so that some laws get struck down for being “unconstitutional”. But it doesn’t seem to have stopped smoking bans multiplying across the USA.

But a lot of people seem to see the law primarily as a way of controlling other people, and making them do what they want them to do. Such people would quite happily ban anything, simply because they didn’t like it. They’d ban cars. They’d ban TV sets. They’d ban pornography. They’d ban lipstick and miniskirts and high heel shoes. They’d ban doughnuts and chocolate chip cookies and hamburgers and sugar and salt and bacon. They’d ban books. And music. And art. And trees.

These people seem to think that they can make any law they like. That if there are enough people who don’t like, say, things that are lime green in colour, it would be perfectly okay to ban anything that colour. And why not? What’s wrong with banning lime green, if enough people want it banned? Or why not ban all words beginning with the letter M? Why shouldn’t people be allowed to make laws like that? Isn’t that what the law is there for? To stop other people doing things you don’t like?

After all, they’d say, the game of football has all sorts of rules (or laws). You’re forbidden from touching the ball with your hand or arm. You’re not allowed to trip up other players. A goal is only scored when the ball goes between two posts, and not if it goes outside them. Football has lots and lots of rules or laws. And it’s the same with chess. Knights can jump over other pieces in ways no other piece can. The rules could have been written differently. They could have had suicide chess pieces that blew up and removed all the pieces near them. Or rocket chess pieces that could jump anywhere on a board just once in a game. The rules of chess and football are the way they are simply because enough people agreed that those were the rules they wanted. What’s different about the law of the land, enacted in parliament? Aren’t all those laws just like the rules of football or chess too? If we want to ban cars or miniskirts or lime green or words beginning with M, there’s absolutely nothing to stop us.

And in fact there isn’t, as far as I can see.

About Frank Davis

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23 Responses to No Ball Games Permitted

  1. Leg-iron says:

    There is a ‘no ball games’ sign on a patch of unused grass near here. It’s in the middle of the roughest part of town.

    I wonder if the reason those kids hang around being thugs is something to do with having no other choice? I grew up on a council estate but we had woodlands to play in and we had a big open green where football and other games were allowed. There were very few thugs, most of us had other things to do.

    Now even the kick-about is banned. So it’s no wonder the kids entertain themselves by mugging people. They have nothing else to do.

  2. “Maybe that the sight of miniskirts raised blood pressure among elderly, “at risk” men, with the concomitant risk of heart attack and “premature death”.”\

    Wonderful Frank! I think I see the next big crusade a comin’!

    – MJM
    P.S. I like your “rocket chess” idea too. Just once in a game so there’d be a strong incentive not to use it (because then your opponent would have a killer potential advantage!) and probably with Kings off limits (so that it couldn’t be used to get out of a forced checkmate.)

    • Frank Davis says:

      Yes, the King would have to be off limits. Otherwise you could win with your very first move.

      And if you could do that, it wouldn’t be much of a game. And so the rules of games are generally made to make for an entertaining game in which you really don’t know who’s going to win.

      But I don’t think that the laws that govern us are simply the rules of some sort of game we’re all playing. Because life really isn’t a game. A game is something that we can all stop playing if we want to. But life isn’t a game like that.

  3. Walt says:

    FWIW, in America in the 20’s, coincidental to when Prohibition came into play, a number of cities were exactly banning both the sale and the wearing of “provocative” women’s clothes– banning hems above the ankle and necklines below the collarbone. (See “Only Yesterday,” Fredrick Lewis Allen.) The grounds were “moral.” and I think they were less worried about raising the blood pressure of the elderly than the …shall we say euphemistically, the hopes… of the young.

    • “Provocative clothing” however most definitively raises the blood pressures of innocent young men and women who could otherwise have gone on to live healthy and productive lives for the State instead of being consigned to an early grave.

      Scientifically I believe it is indisputable that the sight of a sexy guy or gal on a video screen produces effects quite similar to those produced by smoking a cigarette or eating a bowl of Sugar Frosted Super Flakes.

      Obviously, SOMETHING needs to be done.

      Banning cornflakes (or provactive clothing) is obviously something.

      Ergo, it needs to be done.

      – MJM

  4. Pingback: No Ball Games Permitted | Frank Davis | Baseball

  5. Brenda says:

    How ‘legal’ are the ‘no ball games’ notices. ?
    What are the penalties for a kid ignoring the sign ?
    Who has the ‘power’ to enforce these notices ?

    Sounds a bit like the public grounds of the NHS hospitals and public parks that put up ‘no smoking’ signs to me.

    Totally ‘ultra vires’ and 100% unenforceable at Law.

    Legal Powers
    There is no general criminal prohibition on using land in the ownership of the Council for ball games.
    However, certain named parks, recreation grounds and open spaces are subject to byelaws regulating the playing of games upon them. In general terms ball games played in a responsible manner are permitted but where that is not the case an offence is committed.
    Where there is no general right of public access to the land the Council has all the powers of a private owner to regulate use of the land, including taking legal action to prevent ball games (where practicable) or other appropriate action to abate any nuisance caused by ball games.
    Where nuisance is caused by council tenants, members or their family or visitors by the playing of ball games action can be taken through the tenancy agreement. In serious and persistent cases that could included action to seek possession through the courts.

    Policy Considerations
    The Council has a policy of promoting sport and outdoor recreation carried out in a responsible manner.
    The Council will only prosecute offences where there is adequate evidence to prove the offence and it is in the public interest to do so. In general terms the likely sentences and deterrent effect of prosecutions under byelaws do not warrant prosecutions, particularly where children and young people are involved.
    The Council should not erect signs prohibiting ball games unless it is prepared to take appropriate action against persons playing ball games in breach of the prohibition.

  6. Pingback: No Ball Games Permitted | Frank Davis

  7. Rodent says:

    There are quite a few open areas on or close to the estate where I live, but I rarely see anyone other than dog-walkers on them. I have tried throwing my own two sprogs out to use them, to have my Better Half expressing fear of the pervs and murderers lurking, waiting for just such a moment of lax parenting.

    Why use laws, when simple mind-control by the media can be so much more effective?

    RSP

  8. Rose says:

    When we first moved here the front gardens were all open plan.
    The lady two doors away had filled her front garden with the most beautiful display of flowers, they were a delight to see.

    Unfortunately across the narrow road, on the corner was a short strip of grass about 8′ wide.
    After a while a new family moved in and this tiny strip of grass became a football pitch.
    The grass filled up with small boys and the “football pitch” extended across the road, which was quite safe as it’s a cul-de-sac and the small boys couldn’t kick the ball very hard. Their mum’s could keep an eye on them.

    When the same boys got into their teens, they could kick very hard with a real football and the “football pitch” now a patch of rutted mud had now extended into peoples front gardens with rutted lawns (not their own) and other peoples driveways with balls ricocheting off the cars.
    The lady two doors away’s beautiful flower garden was a mass of broken stems and they even kicked the ball so hard it had travelled down the drive and smashed her greenhouse.
    So downhearted was she that she never grew another flower and dismantled her greenhouse, it just wasn’t worth it.

    One by one the tall fences went up in front of the houses, my front garden became a bed of gravel.
    I did ask the football players if they would take the game across the road to the large park which had proper football pitches that anyone could use, but they didn’t.
    The crash of a football unexpectly hitting the glass front door used to make me jump out of my skin and summer holidays were misery.

    The footballers have grown up and gone now but the fences remain.

    Antisocial behaviour? You betcha.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It seems to be a propensity of boys to kick things as hard as they possibly can, even when they needn’t do so. It causes annoyance not just to everyone around them, but also to the other players.

      I can still well remember a game of cricket played in a garden many, many years ago. The game was being played using tennis balls. And the garden was surrounded by quite tall hedges. It required only a modicum of restraint for the batsman to prevent himself from knocking the ball over the hedge.

      The game proceeded quite happily for a while until one of the bigger boys, a visitor who was something of an athlete in his school cricket team, came in to bat. And he proceeded to show no restraint whatsoever. He hit every single ball for six. And since we only had three or four balls. they were soon sent flying not just into the next garden, but into the gardens beyond them.

      And that was the end of the game. There was no way of recovering any of the balls, because they’d been hit so far away that it was anyone’s guess where they’d ended up. They were in short lost forever. And that meant not just the end of that game, but all other ball games, because we no longer had any balls to play any game at all.

      I was absolutely furious. He’d done it, I think, to show us all just how strong and athletic and skilled he was. Or maybe he’d done it in order to bring to an end a game that he probably didn’t want to play. Either way, rather than gaining any respect for him, I lost all of it. He didn’t even offer to compensate us for our loss.

      And it is possible for people to restrain themselves. It really isn’t necessary to kick the ball or strike the ball as hard as possible. And if boys can’t do that when they’re playing football, then they probably can’t do it with anything else.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I did ask the football players if they would take the game across the road to the large park which had proper football pitches that anyone could use, but they didn’t.

      I can sort of understand that. At school we used to play football both on ‘proper’ football pitches and also on patches of tarmac. I regarded them as two different games. The proper pitches were far larger, and required much more running around. And the balls we used on them were bigger and heavier than the plastic ones we used on the tarmac, and were much harder to kick. It wasn’t much fun playing on the big pitch. And mostly we had to wear football boots, which we never did when playing on tarmac.

      In retrospect, we were small boys playing football on an adult-sized football pitch. They were too big for us. Much like adult cricket bats or tennis rackets are too big for small boys (or girls). What we really wanted were small pitches and light balls.

      • Rose says:

        When I was little, my sisters and I used to play ball in the back garden, the sheer annoyance of having to break off the game, tell Mum where I was going, then traipse round to the house next door, knock, politely apologise and ask an inconvenienced neighbour “Please can I go and get our ball?”
        Made sure that it didn’t happen very often.

  9. lleweton says:

    Memories indeed. Wartime. No traffic. My friends and I – we were aged about eight to 12 – played football in a side road, using a tennis ball. A couple who were of ‘grandparent age’ lived in a corner house into the garden of which our balls repeatedly flew. They were unfailingly patient and friendly. Shortly after the war the (probably not very) old lady told me her son had been a pilot who had been shot down and killed.

    I make no judgment about today’s world, but we schoolboys organised our own football and cricket teams who marked out pitches in a local park and played against groups of youngsters from other streets in the area. We also wrote (by hand) and distributed our own magazine.

    We also travelled unsupervised, as a group, to watch our local club, Brentford play in the wartime league. I also went to watch Fulham and Chelsea. No traffic. No (daytime) bombs in our part of London at that time.

    Perhaps we were discovering, without knowing it, what is a true taste of freedom.

  10. Gary K. says:

    Govts, BAH HUMBUG!!!!!

    Milton Friedman was an extraordinary Nobel Prize-winning economist whose ideas helped underpin modern conservative economic theory. His contributions to economics and the conservative movement cannot be underestimated. Although Friedman is no longer with us, his words, his ideas, and his legacy live on. In honor of Friedman, here is one of his best quotations.

    “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

    to which I would add: ” and then it would raise your taxes so that it could buy and ship sand back into the desert.”

  11. Tom says:

    Here is a good example of being overly protective of children in some of the newly refurbished playgrounds in San Francisco. They have taken some and removed all the grass and macadam. In its place they have lined the entire playground with some kind of cushy bouncy black rubber paving blocks that look made from recycled rubber tire bits. If you fall down, it would be nearly impossible to be hurt. Then they have taken trees growing within the playground and coated the bark with some extremely thick brown colored latex paint that completely seals in all the bark and potential splinters inside this rubbery concoction. At first I thought they were fake trees made of plastic, but it’s truly real trees entombed in rubbery plastic coating to protect anyone who touches them. To top things off, they seem to have made up yet another outdoor-smoking-ban citation number, this one exclusively for playground areas and posted new signs everywhere saying it is “for the sake of the children” outdor smoking has been banned (not that it’s not everywhere else outdoors, but under various codes that overlap one another so that if one is ever over-turned there are still dozens more still active laws on the books, with penalties ranging from $50 to $500 to jail time in case of resistance).

  12. harleyrider1978 says:

    AMA Statement on New Report Citing Reduced State Funding for Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Programs
    For immediate release:
    Nov. 30, 2011

    Statement attributable to:
    Peter W. Carmel, MD
    President, American Medical Association

    “The American Medical Association (AMA) is very concerned about the reduction in state funding for tobacco prevention and treatment programs as noted in a recent report, titled ‘A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 13 Years Later.’ With fewer funds for these important programs, smokers who want to quit will find it harder to find the support they need, and the success of proven tobacco prevention programs aimed at children and teens will be challenged due to these funding cuts.

    http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/2011-11-30-reduced-funding-tobacco.page

    first amount is what they spend/second is what CDC says they should spend/3rd is percent of what they spend to cdc expects/4th is ranking in 50 states

    Tennessee $200,000 $71.7 0.3% 44
    Missouri $60,000 $73.2 0.1% 45
    Connecticut $0.0 $43.9 0.0% 50
    District of Columbia $0.0 $10.5 0.0% 50
    Nevada $0.0 $32.5 0.0% 50
    New Hampshire $0.0 $19.2 0.0% 50
    Ohio $0.0 $145.0 0.0% 50
    Alabama** NA $56.7 NA NA
    * North Dakota currently funds tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended levels if both state and
    federal funding is counted.
    **Alabama’s tobacco prevention program budget for FY2012 was not available when this report went to press. In
    FY2011, Alabama budgeted $860,000, which is just 1.5 percent of the CDC’s recommendation.

    Click to access 2011Broken_Promise_Report.pdf

  13. harleyrider1978 says:

    Id take every penny they got and put it towards fighting the smoking bans in each state!

  14. Pingback: Denormalising Sport | Frank Davis

  15. Tom says:

    Anti-smoking is probably the number one “industry” in San Francisco. For example, UCSF, Stanton Glantz’s school, is currently the number one employer in the entire city/county of San Francisco. On top of that, they pay the most in employment taxes and are so well off they are the only employer in the entire city/county who has as their court jurist leave policy that they will pay a person to be off indefinitely, for however long it takes, to sit through a major court case. As a result the city/county medical directors all hail from UCSF and are controlled by Glantz and since any major court decision taking months of trial could only use UCSF employees, then only representatives from the anti-smoking industry will be the ones to serve as a jury of peers when rendering a court decision. If you have a civil or criminal case brought against you that is of a major nature, it will be nearly impossible for an accused person who is also a smoker to get a fair and unbiased trial a the jurors will have all been tainted with anti-smoking prejudice thanks to them all being employees of SF’s number one largest employer, UCSF.

  16. chris sorochin says:

    Re: miniskirts. Not long ago, it was fashionable among “wellness” centers (i.e. nannies) on US college campuses to warn female students that if they drank or used drugs they were essentially providing an opportunity for a sexual assault, much the way dressing “provocatively” was once said to be a red flag for uncontrollable male predilections.

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