By Larry Teren
Hasbro Gaming Company recently decided to replace the least popular token in their Monopoly board game,probably to jump start new interest in the game. (Similar to when M&M’s made a big deal about adding a new color to the candy mix.) They conducted a contest to replace the least favorite game piece or token with a new creation. Results: the iron was voted off the island and replaced by a cat.
The iron. Hmm… I guess that anyone who admitted to playing Monopoly in recent years had to have been born in this century (yikes!) and long past the era of stay-at-home mothers spending half a day ironing cotton clothes and linens. In this era of permanent press clothes, the iron is used about as much as a computer floppy disk. So, who wants to play a long, drawn-out game moving a relic of the past around the board?
The cat selection garnered thirty-one percent of the replacement choices available. These included a toy robot, guitar, helicopter and diamond ring. Hmm… I would have voted for the robot. Not that I would want to pick it if I was stuck playing the game. I’d go for either the racing car or the top hat, mostly out of tradition.
Do kids even play Monopoly that much in an era of hand-held electronic mobile devices that contain access to all types of challenging games? Bent on doing a scientific survey, I went over to the house of a good friend who has ten kids. That’s right- ten. I started out by asking them if they knew it was cheaper by the dozen and they replied to make my point or get lost.
I sampled a handful of the kids. (They have five boys and five girls.) I couldn’t get answers out of the two youngest females as one was 2 and a half while the other entered the world three months ago. An eleven year old boy sheepishly admitted he played it a few times but only if he really had nothing else to do. The other boys wanted to know why I wasn’t talking sports to them.
Back in the previous century when a hand-held transistor solid state radio was the high watermark in electronics, we played board games all the time when the weather was lousy outside. Actually, we didn’t play with our siblings and friends as much as played at them. We all were out for blood and victory although either was mutually satisfactory.
I hated playing with a younger sister because there was no achievement in beating someone stupider than you by three years. Although, let me tell you- I’d do a Rumpelstiltskin if she would get the opportunity, coaxed on by my older sister, to yell “Sorry!” and force my token back to a starting position when playing the game of the same name. To her, that was winning- the rat!
I enjoyed playing Junior Scrabble and eventually moving up to regular Scrabble because it usually included Ma in the game as well. I knew I never could beat her but what better way to improve a vocabulary by seeing the words put on the board by someone light years smarter than you?
Monopoly was another story. I hated the game then and have no interest in it now. It takes too long. I like conflict resolution to happen more quickly. Okay, maybe also because there was one incident involving the game that still stays etched in memory. I invited my best friend’s older brother to come over and play Monopoly. I set it up on my bed in the dining room which doubled as what we called a high riser. Since I was the home team, I got to be the banker. (Yeah!) At one point, my playmate decided he needed to go to the bathroom and admonished me not to cheat while he was doing his thing. I looked back at him with a serious nodding to let him know that I wouldn’t even think of doing something that stupid and dangerous in recourse. After all, he was three inches and 20 pounds heavier than me.
Naturally, as soon as he went to the washroom, I proceeded to “borrow” a little extra cash from the till. I had not realized that my good buddy had keen eyesight and had done a quick counting of both our fortunes as well as having had astute judgement of character and its accompanying flaws. In other words, when he returned, he did a quick inventory and realized that I had made a personal loan off the books. He proceeded to act as judge and jury and sentenced me to a pounding. While I was crying on my own bed, I told him to get the heck out of my house and whatever else. He was glad to comply.
This was more than a physical discomfort I experienced. He and his brother, my best friend, lived four doors down. I was now afraid to even walk past their house through the alley, worrying that the older brother would see me and proceed to repeat the punishment.
About a week later, I caught my buddy in the alley throwing out the trash in the garbage can. He said that the coast was clear and that it was safe to enter their house and that we could play. He asked me why I set myself up for a shellacking and I shrugged and said,” I dunno. It seemed like a good thing to do at the time.” Kind of reminiscent of when they asked Willie Sutton, a small time hood who had robbed banks repeatedly why he kept doing it when he knew he would eventually get caught as he had all those other times. He replied, “because that’s where the money is.”
All these years later I still look to get in trouble. But, I promise you- it won’t happen playing Monopoly. Besides I can’t stand cats.