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The late 80s and early 90s were a very rough, very strange time for me. After joining a gang at River City High and helping my buddies rescue one of their girlfriends from the clutches of a rival gang with a penchant for yelling BARF!, I decided to leave that world behind for something a bit more legitimate. I was done fighting. I would instead devote myself to the spirit of competition.
It was in 1992 that I transferred to a new high school and met a seemingly upstanding group of gentlemen led by a guy named Crash. He and his friends, known simply as “The Boys,” were fantastic athletes, turning their rivals into sniveling, pathetic losers. However, Crash’s biggest rival, Theodore "Todd" Thornley IV, had a plan: he would get back at Crash with sporting events of his own making -- ones that were far less legitimate than I was prepared for. Suddenly, it felt like this wasn’t about sports anymore, and I was about to fall back into the world that I had tried so hard to escape. Still, I had committed to this team, and I couldn’t turn back now.
Little did I know that it would lead to the first glimpse of a world that I didn’t want to see: one where promises were broken and the very foundation of the future could be easily destroyed.
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Once the events were planned and the teams created, a name was chosen for this epic undertaking: Crash ‘n the Boys: Street Challenge
. I soon realized that this was unlike any sporting challenge that I had ever been a part of; Not only was I in charge of making sure that my team succeeded during the events, but I was also tasked with the maintenance of the team members outside of the events, taking them shopping to help them develop their skills or purchase items to use to defeat their opponents.
The events themselves initially left me dumbfounded thanks to the surprisingly dangerous and/or violent spin that they put on familiar sports. Dying was a very real threat, though all of my team members somehow came back from the brink in order to compete another day. Miraculous, quite frankly.
Anyway, to give you an idea of what my life was like during this strange era, let me tell you a little bit about these events. 400-meter Hurdles
When I initially joined the team, I expressed concern to Crash and the other boys. I had legs, sure, but actually using them to jump over hurdles while I was trying to run seemed like something that my body was not set up for. They shared a sideways glance briefly before Crash put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, “Trust me, don’t worry about it.” Of course, I continued to worry right up until the day of my first event.
After learning the rules, however, Crash’s words began to make sense. See, actually jumping over the hurdles was rather unimportant. Picking up shards of shattered hurdles and beating the hell out of your opponent was a far better strategy.
The insanity didn’t stop there, however. There were plenty of opportunities to perform helicopter kicks -- a talent that I never knew I possessed -- in order to knock your opponent around. In fact, in the long run, simply wailing on your opponent was a far better way to achieve victory. If his stamina were to run out, he was gone, and victory was mine. It was quite an adjustment, but the feeling of smashing a guy in the face with a broken hurdle is inimitable. Hammer Throw Golf
What could have been one of the more hilariously violent events was disappointingly tame. Hammer throw golf is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: take an Olympic hammer and throw the damn thing as far as humanly possible. The twist here is that you didn’t just throw it once, but multiple times in the hopes of reaching the hole in the fewest throws while avoiding water hazards and sand traps.
Sadly, only one person threw at a time, so while I stood alone setting up my throws, there weren’t any dudes’ melons to aim at. Perhaps this is why, over time, I discovered that this was my worst event. These are memories that I simply try to forget. Hell, I even sometimes forgot to let go of the hammer and went flying through the air behind it. Into the water. You’ll have to forgive me, but I think we should move on … before I start crying … again … Swimming
This may be the most violent event of all, one that we came to affectionately call “Water Slaughter.” While it was initially daunting to me, it quickly became a favorite of mine -- largely thanks to the fact that I somehow was never arrested for murder.
See, humans can’t really live without oxygen, and the object of the swimming event was to deprive your opponent of this precious element. Though the officials (which I never actually saw but assumed were there to enforce the nonexistent rules) called the event a race, it really wasn’t. Instead, I jumped into a pool with my opponent and basically had a cage match underwater.
There was a great variety of tricks that we used to get our adversaries underwater and keep them there. My personal favorite was something I called the “impossible leap to face-sit” technique. Basically, I learned that I was able to leap out of the water to great heights during this event, which I employed in order to land with my ass right on my foe’s face. Soon, the weight of my body forced the poor bastard underwater, where he struggled to reach the surface again.
Underwater, Crash often argued, was when the real fun began. He was rather fond of grabbing his opponent’s legs and dragging them underwater, proceeding then to punch them in the face until they sank to the bottom of the pool. At other times, he took piranhas into the pool with him and unleashed them, allowed them to bite off some faces.
Amazingly, despite my many victories and the fact that defeat meant death, my adversaries always came back to fight another day. I’ll never understand that, but my own losses made me thankful that this strange hiccup in the natural order of the world was there. Rooftop Jumping
This was the event that was the most inherently dangerous. I’ve broken every bone in my body at least seventeen times thanks to this competition, which on the most basic level is like a mixture between parkour and the circus.
Participants began on one rooftop and were tasked with reaching the finishing line (on a faraway rooftop) in the shortest time. Between that, we had to use varying techniques to cross small and large gaps between rooftops. Some required only a short jump. For others, we tried and usually failed to pole-vault over them. I always felt a bit silly riding the unicycle, though.
Oh, right, the unicycle! Yes, there were occasionally rooftops that were connected by a tightrope, and these could be crossed by pedaling a strategically placed unicycle over the rope. To be honest, it wasn’t nearly as hard as it sounds, but that might be the destroyed bones and nerves talking. Protip: if all of your bones have been turned to powder, they can’t hurt when you break them anymore! Judo
Judo. Meaning “the gentle way” in Japanese, Judo is perhaps one of the more respectful combat arts, with the aim being to subdue your opponent by throwing him to the ground rather than by punching or kicking. Indeed, this martial art could be considered one of the gentlest among its kin.
Our version of judo was far from gentle. Praytell, is a “throat grab smash,” which involves picking up your opponent by the throat and jamming his head into the ground, something you would call gentle?
Indeed, our judo was more like an all-out street fight, where any means necessary could be taken to beat the hell out of your opponent. A flying kick to the face? Sure! A spinning body throw? Of course! An elbow to the gonads? Not that I ever experienced, thankfully, but probably! A super spinning headbutt, though, was most certainly in my repertoire.
After struggling through these events with my new friends, I felt that we had built up quite a nice bond. I had enjoyed our time together despite the constant unbearable pain. But, like all great yet unbearable things, it had to end.
Indeed, the competition ended in victory for Crash ‘n the rest of the boys, and Todd Thornley IV and his allies were simply left to wallow in their embarrassment. After the competition, Todd’s father even invited Crash and I up to his lavish office to offer praise of our great performances during the games.
Happy ending, right?
Well, as Crash had warned me, you don’t get any happy endings from Theodore Thornley IV. Wait … that didn’t come out right. Anyway, he began trying to sow the seeds of hate amongst the other competitors, hoping to turn everyone against our team. It didn’t work. The other boys saw through this ruse, instead turning on Todd. Crash’s final message to Todd will stick in my mind forever: “I can’t wait to get you girly-man Hillers on the ice during hockey season.”
Indeed, the organization that had organized this sporting extravaganza, a videogame company called Technos, had promised after our victory that yet another fantastic event would be coming soon: Crash ‘n the Boys Ice Challenge
. My excitement couldn’t be concealed. The thought of playing some twisted brand of hockey with these crazy fools was something I couldn’t resist. I waited very impatiently for my opportunity to lace up the skates and cut someone’s face with them.
Here’s where my story becomes cheerless. This opportunity never came.
I checked magazines for mentions of this great event, yet none came. I waited for a year. One year became two, two became three, and soon, I had forgotten about Crash and the rest of the boys. The thought of hockey was far from my mind. So, what happened? Why had Technos abandoned us?
Well, while I was under the wing of Crash, the world seemed faultless: a place where nothing bad could happen to a company like Technos. A great thing was announced, and that magically made it a reality. I had no reason to believe that anything could go wrong.
Unfortunately, I soon learned that this was not the world in which we live. Technos died a terrible death in 1996 before it had a chance to bring Ice Challenge to us. The dream of competing again with Crash by my side faded forever.
It was a rude awakening, and one that I would learn many times in the future. Nothing is certain, and an announcement is not a promise that we will get to experience something. The knowledge that I will never skate alongside Crash is crushing, but it reminds us all to be thankful of any game that does see the light of day. With Crash 'n the Boys
on the Virtual Console as of September 14th (which, coupled with this post, is the weirdest coincidence I've encountered in a while), perhaps there's hope for a future for Crash and I on the ice. Together.
But, for now, Crash, wherever you are, big ups to you ‘n the boys. You are missed but not forgotten.
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