Now it has been quite a while since I wrote a highly educational piece. Today I chose to select a topic that will fall into that very rare arena as both a great sports trivia fact and the much more attractive genre, we like to call a “cautionary tale.” After reading this today, I beg you to go down to your basement and rip the multigame controls of your children’s hands. If they are in the midst of a achieving a new high score, please show a little respect and allow that game to be completed before sharing this one. For the younger children, this could also substitute for tonight’s bedtime story. Your final option might be to innocently slide this tale into tonight’s dinner conversations at the drive through, starting with that well loved opening, “Ya well when I was a kid”.
If you choose the bedtime story option, let me help you with your opening. “Once upon at time there was a game called Lawn Darts… what could possibly go wrong?” Your uncles, who have huge pointy scars on their now rather significantly balding heads, will help answer that question.
To help with your credibility in telling the tale of Lawn Darts, you are going to have to do your best in describing the game. What were the rules? I really don’t remember, but the gist of the game was this: You took these rather large darts, the size of your dad’s golf umbrella, and threw them high in the air and watch them come down on your lawn, probably near a target as I recall. The uncreative marketing departments of the manufacturers decided that a great name for a game that involves darts and your lawn should be called Lawn Darts.
Family and friends would gather in your relatively small back yard to join in the fun. The fun lasted until the lawn dart landed in the forehead of your aunt Milly. Clearly Aunt Milly was not going to win the game, but all hurling of the pointy projectiles temporarily ceased, until somebody escorted your bloody aunt into the house where she would stop ruining everybody’s fun. If your lawn dart kit only came with two darts, it was essential to remove the dart from her head and get it back on to the playing field, because each team had there own coloured dart to help with the scoring.
There is an old expression “its all fun and games until somebody loses an eye”. People were losing their eyes regularly, as the family added alcohol consumption as part of the weekend lawn dart game in the back yard. The local and federal governments were not amused as they decided each box of lawn darts must add a warning label that said something like “its all fun and games until somebody loses an eye”
As the popularity of the game increased so did the regular trips to the emergency department of the local hospital. Surgeons became very skilled at removing shiny pointy objects from the skulls of the patient population. Since there was no internet at the time, people could not post selfies of themselves with lawn darts gently imbedded in their ear lobes. Because of this lack of sharing, it took a very long time for each family to realize that this recreational weekend activity was casuing the healthcare bills in communities to soar to their highest level, since World War II.
Lawn Darts did offer an economic advantage to the family home. At my home in Oakville, we never had to pay for aeration of the back lawn as the darts landing in the grass created so many holes, that we never needed to see those ugly grass plugs. The game also offered great community bonding. The honour of calling yourself the Lawn Dart champion of the neighbourhood was an honour just below the Medal of Freedom.. No higher honour could be achieved on your block, unless you had forearms with terminal contusions to help remind the neighbours that you were the reigning Clacker champion,
Like all great things eventually the fun had to end. The end was sporadic as nobody wanted to ruin the weekend fun for the families in North America.
In the 1970’s due to numerous accidents, the game was temporarily banned. Through brilliant lobbying and the help of smart lawyers, this ban was challenged by the manufacturers in court, and in the late 1970s, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reinstated the game to the market as long as the manufacturers did not market it as a toy
The game rose to popularity in the early to mid 1980s and it became one of the most popular yard games around. In April 1987, a 7 year old girl was killed by a lawn dart in her own backyard by a neighbor. The 7 year old’s father lobbied for the next year to have them banned again from sales in the US. His case was that 6,100 people were injured from the game over the past 8 years and on the week of the ruling another 11 year old girl was hit by a lawn dart and sent into a coma. Effective on December 19, 1988, CPSC banned the sale of all lawn darts in the United States and asked consumers to discard or destroy their games immediately.
In Canada, lawn darts resulted in at least 55 serious injuries. They were banned for sale in the country from July 1989. The sale of second-hand lawn darts is also illegal under the Hazardous Products Act.
As always the laws of civilized society, poked their unwelcome nose into the culture’s desire to have fun. Perhaps in the future as governments start to lighten up, things might change. Think about it, when marijuana becomes legal here, wouldn’t it be great if, with every ounce of pot you purchased, you received a box of lawn darts as a party gift.
When you conclude telling this story your children are going to say things like “Xbox” or “PlayStation”. This is your perfect opportunity to remind the little ones the lesson that every form of fun has a balance of risk and reward. The risk reward ratio of this old fashioned fun might be challenged. However one can not argue, that when recreational activities include blindness, unconsciousness, perforations, blood everywhere and the occasional death, the reward for that fun must have been pretty incredible. Oh and we were always playing outside (indoor lanw darts never really caught on.) where fresh air, good times with friends and family bonding opportunities at the Emergency department are memories that cannot be replaced.
Cue the Blong: Dangerous seemed like the perfect song for today’s tale. I wrote this in a Minor key as I did not want to distract you from the Major message of the fun with Lawn Darts!