Red Rover Red Rover

The events that transpired some forty-five years ago are still etched in my mind.  To even reflect on that transformational moment sends my heart racing and coats my palms in cold sweat!  I was an innocent first grader, standing on the cold playground in Minot, North Dakota; waiting for what I was certain would be unbearable pain!

I looked at the burly boy to my left, my hand dwarfed by his as we tightly clasped hands.  On my right was a petite little girl, with a battle-hardened look of determination pasted across her angelic face.  She was grasping my other hand even tighter than the future professional linebacker to the left of me!  We were comrades in arms, or at least in hands, as we stared down our collective nemesis across the gravel-covered playground.

The battle cry was issued.  The words, “Red Rover, Red Rover” were chanted for all to hear.  My heart froze as I heard, “Send Bobby right over!”  This particular individual, a third grader, was living testament to our Neanderthal forefathers.  Bobby possessed the characteristic thick and protruding jaw, an oversized brow ridge, and more body hair than any eight year-old child should be cursed with.

Our hands all clasped tighter as I scanned the row made up of some dozen of us.  It was a mix of boys and girls, ranging from six to eight years of age; each of us bundled up warmly against the incessant icy prairie wind.  The more fortunate of us pint-sized warriors were protected by the armor of thick winter coats.  The sickening sound of flying pea gravel pulled me out my protective trance.

Bobby was quickly building mind-boggling momentum as his snow boots dug into the playground surface.  His broad shoulders were squared in alignment with our row of human barriers.  As I fixated on his now bulging eyes, I was certain that I could hear him snorting!  Unexpectedly, I had learned at an early age just what primal fear was.  In a matter of seconds, I had been indoctrinated in the “fight or flight” response!

For those of you unfamiliar with the game of “Red Rover,” allow me to share the basic concept.  Two sides are chosen, and the members of the respective teams line up across from each other at a distance of some twenty yards.  Children on a team then either grasp hands, or in the more combat-like version lock arms at the elbow.  One side will call out the name of a member of the opposing team.  The chosen one then runs at full speed, trying to break through a link in the opposing chain.  If they succeed, they are allowed to claim one of the two people that they broke through.  If they fail, the charger is then claimed by the opponents.  It is then the other team’s turn to call out an opponent.  This process continues until one team is completely devoid of participants or until somebody has to take their tattered body to the school nurse!

The young boy was quickly morphing into a charging rhino as he closed in on his prey.  My greatest fear quickly materialized as I saw him veer in my direction!  He was aiming for the weak spot in our little Maginot Line; the fragile grasp between me and the girl to my right.  “It only hurts for a little bit!” she uttered under her breath.  I turned towards her briefly, only to witness her warrior intensity coming to a boil.

As you would expect, Bobby came flying effortlessly through our line.  In the process, my fingers were mangled and I did not get feeling back in them for a few minutes.  I was chosen to be the captive, humiliated as Bobby marched me back towards his cheering tribe.  My head hung low as I trudged across the field, an adolescent prisoner of war.

“Know why I picked you?” Bobby asked cheerfully.  I shook my head back and forth, careful not to upset my captor by speaking.  “I always go after the strongest guy first, in case I get tired later.”  He paused for a moment as he assigned me a spot in his team’s line.  “Besides, you never even closed your eyes when I hit you!  Want to be friends?”

In an instant, all of my shame had evaporated.  My once enemy had just paid me a compliment.  He had perceived me as the strongest opponent, he admired my courage, and now he was inviting me into his personal inner circle!  Yes, I had been defeated; but no, I had not been humiliated.  Bobby had taught me a valuable life lesson.

How do you handle situations where you defeat another person; be it in business, sport, or even family?  Do you gloat at the expense of the loser or do you show compassion to your opponents?  There is a realization that all of us must come to.  You will be remembered for your victories; but ultimately, you will be honored for how you treated the defeated.

About Jerry V. Dollar, Author, Humorist, Observer of the Human Condition

When not trekking around the globe, Jerry Dollar can be found in Colorado Springs, CO where he lives with his wife Robbi. Besides an affinity for writing and travel; he is also an avid bodybuilder, a very prolific reader, and an enthusiastic observer of the human condition. Jerry has published two books which are available on: Lulu, Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and IBook. "Announcing a Flight Delay" is a hilarious recap of the author's experiences as a million mile flyer. "A Dollar's Worth" is a collection of observations on the human condition, which originally appeared as blog posts. Dr. Dollar has served in various senior executive management capacities over the past 25 years. He has previously worked within the healthcare, insurance, software, and several other high technology industries. Jerry is recognized for his expertise in creating the foundations for emerging organizations to succeed in complex sales environments. He is also well known for his leadership in guiding technology companies through rapid growth phases. Jerry speaks five languages and has conducted business in over 70 countries on six continents. He holds particular expertise in the Latin American and Western European geographic areas. Dr. Dollar holds a BA in International Affairs, a BA in Spanish, an MBA in Marketing, and a PhD in Organizational Development. He has authored numerous professional articles, various training courses, and has conducted seminars and conferences around the world.
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9 Responses to Red Rover Red Rover

  1. What a nice thing for him to say. It took the defeat completely away by putting a positive spin on your experience. Bravo!

  2. Another interesting one Jerry.

    Two of my books are coming out as ebooks. in the spring. One in May and one in June. These are already in book form, in audio cassette and as CDs. They are still available in all the other formats of course. Have just bought myself a kindle so must now go down the electonic road and find out how to use it! Technology is not my strong point but ever willing to learn. Keep that versatile pen/computer/whatever going. Look forward to reading your blogs. All the best, Joan.

  3. Dave Khaliqi says:

    I love this post. My work with students in science and math education is revealing a disturbing trend that students are terrified of failure. I have blogged about this as well at: and would love to get your feedback! Thanks again for your great writing (“It only hurts for a little bit”, so funny!).

  4. Techquestioner says:

    It’s too bad a lot of today’s politicians, candidates, congressmen, and senators don’t seem to have the graciousness of that eight-year-old boy.

    • Margaret,

      Thank you for sharing your insights. Oftentimes we can learn more from the children around us than we can from the adults in our midst. I am pleased that my simple words struck a chord within you! Feel free to share my blog with any elected officials you might know; or for that matter any literary agents that you socialize with! (LOL)

      Wishing you all the very best that life has to offer,


  5. I like this post, enjoyed this one appreciate it for posting .

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