Barry Smith: A kick to the head for U.S. war plans

I got smacked in the face with a volleyball when I was in junior high, and it wasn’t funny. Well, not to me, at least.

The ball, having been served out of bounds, was bouncing through the gym and I was bounding after it. It bounced up onto the nearby pingpong table, right toward this guy who really was named Stan Lamb. As I was grabbing for it, Stan decided to hit it as hard as he could with his fist in my direction while exclaiming “Bip!” I don’t remember Stan as being the smartest guy in class, but he certainly knew the effectiveness of some well-timed onomatopoeia.

The unexpected spike caught me right square in the face, and everyone who was lucky enough to witness it laughed heartily. I lost a contact lens and my nose hurt. I saw nothing even slightly funny about it. I probably even cried, but I’d rather you didn’t know that about me.

Just the other night I was watching “America’s Funniest Videos,” a guilty pleasure of mine that I also don’t really want people to know about, but I should have thought about that before I started this paragraph.

The fact that I can watch this show at all is a testament to the psyche’s ability to heal. When the first incarnation of this show came out, sometime in the early or mid-80s, it was hosted by Bob Sagat. Bob’s excruciatingly lame introductions to upcoming video clips were, in my opinion, crap.

However, for some reason, my grandparents got it in their heads that I was Bob’s doppelganger. When I went to visit them, each time I said something that I was pretty sure was amusing and/or clever, they’d both look at each other and smile, then say, “See? He’s just like that funny video guy.”

I’d protest this wildly, of course. It felt like a betrayal. Bob Sagat?

“I am not Bob Sagat,” I’d say. “True, we have the same initials, but the similarities end there. And speaking of initials, let’s roll this next batch of videos, which we initially thought were really funny.”

They smiled and nodded proudly. Their precious grandson was just like that video guy on TV.

So, I’m watching the next generation of this show and they had a segment called “35 Ball Hits To The Face In 32 Seconds.” I sat up straight so as not to miss an instant of this blistering montage of people – people of all age, size, gender, and coordination – getting bipped in the face with equally varying ball types. A grandmother got it in the beak with a beach ball kicked by a toddler, a toddler got bowled over by a giant exercise ball. Wiffle balls, soccer balls, bip, bip, bip, all set to an upbeat bit of music. And when it was over I was exhausted from laughter.

I know what it feels like to have a ball flatten against your nose, and I know that it’s far from amusing, so why is it so funny to see it from this end? And I’m obviously not alone. I mean, the guy who taped his grandma getting clocked in the face knew enough to send it to the funny video show, right? And they knew enough to play it on the air, right? Even giving it its own segment.

There’s universal appeal in a ball to the face. Am I right? Are you with me?

Good, because I may need some support for this plan.

As troops poise to invade Iraq, why not arm them with soccer balls and video cameras? Then, when they storm an unarmed peasant village they could smack them in the faces – the kids and the elderly especially – with these balls, videotape it and play it every night on U.S. and Iraqi airwaves as “America’s Funniest Invasions.”

A shot to the side of the melon with a firmly kicked ball makes for a much better visual than a smart bomb going down a chimney. No one could condemn the show for being cruel to the victims, since we were initially gonna wipe them out anyway.

And if we got Bob Sagat to host, Saddam would surrender in no time.

[Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at]