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Choosing Up

Odds or evens
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Let's choose, I got evens!
Any game with three or more players to a team usually required you to choose sides, no doubt one of the more intense common childhood rituals. When the whole gang was out, team captains would be consistent. Boys who were the best at sports were often the group leaders and captains, though size or social status could off-set playing skill. If the regular captains were not around, the next best player (or next biggest kid) would assume the role. The two captains would alternate picks and choose the players for their respective teams.

The better players would get picked first, the less agile, or younger kids last. Some kids wouldn't get picked at all and would have to sit out, though many groups tried to be as inclusive as possible, evenly distributing the less skillful players. A good friend confided that one of his most painful childhood memories was watching the two captains regularly argue that they shouldn't have to take him on their team. Another recalled that although he was a poor player, he was best friends with one of the captains, so at least he'd always get chosen.

After reaching consensus on the game to be played and the identity of the two team leaders, the next order of business was determining who would pick first. If one of the captains was much better than the other, he might concede "first pick" to off-set the advantage. In all other situations, you'd choose who'd pick first. Different places had different methods, but in the boroughs of NYC it was pretty simple. You'd call odds or evens and then say "once twice three shoot."

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