Thursday, December 06, 2012


This is my confession:  I used to cheat at Battleship.

Battleship was the game where you positioned several plastic ships on a grid, hidden from the view of your opponent.  You then would call out grid locations (B-3!), and if one of your ships was on that location it was a "hit".  If not, it was a "miss".  Hits (red) and misses (white) were recorded on a second grid so you would know what *not* to ask the next time.   My ingenious strategy was to record ALL guesses.  My guesses would be marked on the second grid, but my opponents guesses were marked on the first grid where my ships lived.  The cheat came in that my fleet always happened to be, well... mobile.  If my ship was on B-3, well... it just moved somewhere else.  Since I was recording the guesses of my opponent on my ship grid, I knew which spaces were open so my cheat would go undetected.  And, to defend something as silly as my amazing moving ships, there was nothing in the rules that said you couldn't.  It just assumed once they were placed, they were anchored for the remainder of the game.  I simply didn't make the same assumption.

Another cheat-possible game was Monopoly, but only if you were the banker.  If you were sly or able to distract your opponents, it was possible to palm a few extra hundreds when you were running low.  But to be honest, actually completing an entire game of Monopoly happened NEVER because we always got too bored to finish.  So, extra money or not, it never really mattered.

I abandoned my cheating way with board games early, because... I stopped being six and seven and eight years old, and there didn't seem to be a point to it.  There was no lasting satisfaction in always winning.  It's nice to win.  It's OK to lose.  As always, it was just a game, and the whole point of the fun was to play and hang out with friends or family.  Besides, you cannot help but laugh when you get sent back to Plumpy in Candyland for the 3rd or 8th or 12th time in the same game.  Sure, it's annoying, and you'll probably lose, but hey, Plumpy needs a friend too.

1. Don't be fooled by the smiles.
If you're stuck here, you're in the back of the pack, Jack.

2. I always thought his name was "Plumy" (Plum-ee), not "Plumpy".  
Sorry Plumpster, you shall always be Plumy to me.

 Competition, sportsmanship and fair play are lofty ideals and worthy attributes when it's convenient.  We toss around all sorts of sayings (winners never cheat and cheaters never win) to demonstrate how upstanding we are, and when cheaters are found out, they are impeached or stripped of their victories, or banned for life.  We don't take kindly to cheaters when they are the other guy. 

In an ideal world, we are all better when we begin a sporting event, a prizewinning competition, an academic exercise, a game of chance, or a philosophical debate on equal footing following the same rules.  That ideal works out just fine, until we're hit, and then the rules become fluid and our moral ships become mobile.  We cork a bat, we sabotage a competitor, we steal answers, we palm fake money.  We win our debates by not allowing the opposition to speak.

Today my state government realized it was hit and the rules became fluid very, very quickly.  It started shoving bills through as quickly as it could, and it accomplished this, in no small part, due to the fact that they locked the doors of the Capitol.  No debate.  No dissent.  No opportunity to discuss or consider any viewpoints other than their own.  And make no mistake -- this is not a question of being on the opposing side of the issue.  It's a question about being allowed to have a side and then participate in the process.  There should always be the opportunity to listen, discuss and debate.  We are stronger when we are all given the opportunity to agree or disagree and express those opinions.  But that didn't happen.  Not in my state.  Not today.

Today, anybody who wished to be a part of the process, to play the game on equal footing, or to present a viewpoint and engage in thoughtful discussion was unceremoniously shoved all the way back to Plumy.  It was back to the back of the pack, Jack, and by the looks of things, nobody is going to be moving forward any time soon.  If this were a board game, it might be funny.  But it's no game.  Meanwhile, the ships continue to be on the move, skirting the rules and avoiding the hits, just as long as they are able.  

Sure, I used to do the same thing.  But I grew up.

What's their excuse?


MissMeliss said...

I came here to leave a comment about how I remember when TeenTuna was still TinyTuna on the blog (and to observe that she's likely to need a new name soon), but then you posted this - for some reason I always pictured you in Massachusetts and not Michigan, but I don't know WHY - and while I'm not in any mood to discuss politics, I have to say that I wish I was shocked at what happened with your state's legislature, but I've been in Texas for eight years now, and am no longer shocked as easily.

Anonymous said...

I used to cheat at Battleship the SAME EXACT WAY! My brothers are 4 and 6 years older than I am and it was the only way to "keep up."

Sad what's happened in MI. We had the same thing here in WI a year ago. So sad when debate is discouraged. Having no say is the fastest way to create resentment.