Wii Are Family

It was a traditional Thanksgiving at the Snider house, very similar to the celebration the Pilgrims had in 1621. Almost the whole family was present, we had turkey with all the trimmings, and afterward we dropped off a load of smallpox-infected blankets at the Indian casino. We carried muskets and wore buckled shoes, too, although that was coincidental.

As a family, we Sniders are very big on tradition. This is especially true if “tradition” is extended to mean “obsessive-compulsive disorder.” Things that no one likes — cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, my brother Lane — are included at Thanksgiving just because THAT’S THE WAY IT IS. If our family’s first Thanksgiving had been interrupted by a deadly grease fire, we would still be recreating it every year.

Sports are a significant part of many people’s Thanksgivings. We don’t watch a lot of football on TV at the ancestral Snider homestead in California, but we make up for it by participating in other athletic contests. Video games, for example.

No, for reals! Nintendo has just released a console called Wii, pronounced “We” or “Whee!,” and some of its games involve actual physical activity. My brother Christopher, who is a grown man with a job, waited in line for 10 hours to buy it when it went on sale last Saturday night. He says he was in line with a lot of nerds, though surely he meant to say OTHER nerds, for when the pot waits in line for 10 hours to buy a video game system, it should not call the kettle black.

The Wii has taken the Snider household by storm. First of all, as fans of juvenile double-entendre, we like the name “Wii.” It is used in such statements as, “Christopher, bring your Wii over here” and “I’m exhausted from playing with Christopher’s Wii all day” and “Christopher’s Wii sure has provided hours of entertainment.” THIS WILL NEVER STOP BEING FUNNY.

But as I said, these games are the real deal. One of them is a bowling game. And you’re probably saying, “A bowling video game? That must be boring and stupid! Shut up with your lies, Eric D. Snider! I hate you and I hate your ugly face!” I think that is a hurtful overreaction to the situation, but I do understand your skepticism. But you see, the Wii uses a wireless remote control device to play the games. To bowl, you actually have to hold the controller as if you were holding a bowling ball, and swing your arm. The game responds to the speed at which your arm and wrist move, as well as to the spin you put on it. It’s like being at a bowling alley, only less seedy. (Our house is less seedy than a bowling alley, anyway. Your house may vary.)

What we’ve proved with the Wii is that I’m as bad at imaginary sports as I am at real ones. I bowled very poorly my first few times out, even worse than I bowl in real life. My niece Emily, who is 6, threw a 176 and beat most of us. My mom, who had neither bowled nor played a video game before, scored 210 on her second game. I hovered in the low 100s for a while before finally getting the hang of it and reaching the 160s.

Our activities are not limited to video games, though. My dad and Christopher also play a game called crotchball. They sit on the floor at opposite ends of the family room, about 18 feet apart, with their legs spread. Then they take turns throwing a foam rubber Nerf ball at one another as hard as they can. Players are not allowed to move to get out of the way. The goal is to hit the other person in the groin.

Where’s the fun in that, you ask? I have no idea. But where’s the fun in any sport, really? If you start questioning why grown men would hurl things at one another’s crotches, you have to start questioning why they would throw bouncy balls through netted hoops, too.

A variation on crotchball is a game where instead of aiming for the crotch, they aim for the face. Again, the fun? Nowhere to be found, at least as far as I can tell. But at least it lets Christopher’s Wii rest for a while.

Ah, memories of home. The laughter, the merriment, the Wii.

The best part about crotchball is the noises my dad makes, not in response to being hit, but in anticipation that he's about to be hit. This is a man in his 50s who has held several important church callings.