The Four Square World Championships concluded last month in Maine, which I mention because I had no idea there was such a thing. It makes me very happy that we have a national four-square champion, even if it is this guy. Four square, you see, is more than it seems.
There isn't an elementary school in America that doesn't have at least one four-square court, and that isn't by accident. Everything I needed to know in life I learned from this game.
THE RULES: For those who have just entered this country illegally from Central America (welcome!), the four square court is as pictured to the left here. A player is eliminated when the ball is hit into their square and not returned by the player successfully to another square, on one bounce. The player in square A is the server, and can slam the ball in any direction he pleases; he's virtually impossible to depose. As players are eliminated, new ones enter via square D, and move up in succession.
THE STRATEGY: Oh yes, there is strategy. If the player in square A is the president of the game, think of the player in square B as vice president. A smooth, efficient game of four square always features this tandem cooperation ... an unwritten law that states that square B will always support square A. Squares C and D are populated with a conga line of sacrificial lambs; anonymous, faceless losers who come and go until the bell that signals the end of recess. Best to not even learn their names.
TECHNIQUE: Corner shots are deadly, but should be used sparingly, as it's easy to miss. Slow-witted players (usually found in square D) can be easily dispatched by hitting a ball at their feet, which they are unable to return. Players A and B can have a huge advantage if they work together to set each other up with easy, bouncy returns, which can then be fired at C and D with devastating and sometimes comical effect.
TAKING OUT TWO PLAYERS ON ONE SHOT: Oh yes; a rotating shot that lands in the corner of square C, then twists into square D and takes that player out, is a rare double-kill and means that you are a four square God.
THE COUP: Square B decides that he's had enough as second banana. A serves him an easy one as usual, expecting B to rifle the ball at D; loosening his braces and making him cry. But recess is almost over, and B decides that he wants to go out on top. Intrigue is in the air! So suddenly and without warning, B unexpectedly returns a corner shot to A, and knocks him out! The kids in line gasp; even the remedial students over at the tetherball game have stopped to watch. This isn't supposed to happen! For a moment the earth seems to stop its rotation; even the birds are silent. B moves over into the luxurious confines of square A, which he has plotted to occupy since recess began. AHA ha ha ha ha ha!
But heavy is the head that wears the crown. Because now, square A can never trust the person in square B again. A level of trust has been breached, and life during recess will never be the same again.
Oh, for the simpler, halcyon days of duck, duck, goose ...