In tribute to this week’s Independence Day festivities, we researched (read: hastily Googled) the gaming pastimes of various presidents and patriots. If weekends had existed in America’s olden days, what might these great figures from our nation’s history have played on those weekends?
When he wasn’t busy chopping down cherry trees or posing for currency, George Washington played copious amounts of a trick-taking card game called whist, which is sort of like a slow, less aggressive version of euchre. The game involves four players. It uses all 52 cards—every last one of them! And the trump suit, the one that beats all others, is determined randomly. Each person takes turns laying down cards, and everyone has to follow suit if they can; if not, they can throw trump and win the trick. Points are determined for every trick you get above six, and you play partnered up with the person sitting across from you. Which, in Washington’s case, was AMERICA.
In his boyhood, Abraham Lincoln liked to play a game called corner ball. Now, that right there should show you what primitive times these were in American society. Just look at the name of that game: “corner ball.” What the hell kind of a title is that? There’s not a single colon or subtitle to be found. As everyone knows, this is how you name a game: Call Of Duty 4®: Modern Warfare 2™: Black Ops II: The Warkilling: Episode 1. It’s like Lincoln’s people didn’t even understand the concept of branding. Anyway, this is how you play corner ball:
A Springfield doctor recalled that Abraham Lincoln enjoyed the game of Corner Ball. An indoor version can be played by six or eight players with a small foam ball.
1. Divide into two teams of three or four players each. One team is called the Outs, and the other is called the Ins.
2. The Ins stand at the corners of an imaginary triangle or square, and the Outs stand inside the triangle or square.
3. The Ins pass the ball from player to player, occasionally throwing it inside in hopes of hitting an Out and forcing him or her out of the game. If the throw misses, the thrower is out of the game.
4. Play continues until everyone on one team is out.
Of course, they did not have foam balls back then, so the game would have been played with a skull instead.
Apparently, Jefferson spent a great deal of time gaming with his whole family (though not his secret slave family—too soon?) during his tenure. There were games like chess and The Game Of The Goose (which as far as we can tell is a very simple board game where you roll dice, move in a spiral, and use geese as shortcuts), but Jefferson had a penchant for inventive word games. He played one with his grandkids called, “I Love My Love,” where he’d start with the letter A and name as many words as he could in a sentence that began with the letter A; the next player would get B, and so on. Be on the lookout for the Wii version next year, in which Super Mario characters, plus characters from a game you’ve never heard of, play the game in customizable outfits you purchase with Wii bucks.
Is singing Al Green a sport? Not yet? Well, put that on your second-term “to do” list, President Obama. In the meantime, the coolest prez this side of the millennium is an avid golfer, who hits the links whenever his schedule and the weather allow it. According to NPR, his typical rule is that people are not allowed to talk politics on the course, but last year he played with John Boehner, so that probably changed. Plus Boehner singlehandedly refilled the course’s water hazards with his patriotic tears.
The National First Ladies’ Library says that this patriot and first lady, famous for her political passion and intelligence, “did not play cards, sing, or dance.” Yeesh. Okay, let’s just say that she liked to play cup-and-ball. That way we can post this old Simpsons clip.
Ben Franklin’s favorite game was probably Paris Grabass (Prendre La Fuite Avec Derriere) but when he wasn’t philandering about with America’s foreign allies, Franklin was known to invent a game or two. Just ask the physicists at the American Physical Society, for some reason:
Franklin also devised a game called “treason,” which involved an electrified portrait of the king, with a removable gilt crown. The picture was rigged so that anyone who tried to remove the crown while holding the gilt edge of the picture would be shocked.
Jeez, they had a pretty lame concept of fun back then, didn’t they? Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have to go tap on things in Tiny Tower.
And now, we turn the question to you. Assuming you’re not recovering from a terrible fireworks accident, what are you playing this weekend?