I hate Monopoly! I grew up in a home that did not condone excessive use of the word “hate”. Whenever I whined the word “hate” to show my displeasure, my mother would remind me that “Hate is a very strong word that is best used to describe such things as the devil.”
With this in mind, I want you to know that I hate the devil and I hate Monopoly! Charles B. Darrow created Monopoly in the early 1930s. It seems Darrow felt Americans had not suffered enough from the crippling effects of the Great Depression. Consequently, he turned the fear of losing everything into a family friendly board game.
Darrow’s capitalistic creation was an instant hit. He sold Monopoly to Parker Brothers and soon the devastating consequences of unfettered greed began to play out on dinning room tables throughout the nation. Average middle Americans suddenly became robber barons with a role of the dice. Children were now empowered to crush their parents’ real-estate acquisition dreams through the strategic placement of red hotels on blue color coded properties. Just the flick of a Community Chest card could send your mother to jail; her only crime being bad luck and unsympathetic children.
The rules of Monopoly are both extremely complicated and rather simple. Whoever acts the most like Rupert Murdoch wins the game. No one comes in second. There is one triumphal winner and many decimated, demoralized losers.
Monopoly usually ends in one of three ways. The official sanctioned end of the game happens when one individual owns everything. Another common conclusion occurs when players realize they have spent over five hours circling a square board with no end in sight. This is usually referred to as the “If you kids don’t go to bed, I’m never going to let you play that game again” rule.
The third most common ending to monopoly usually involves the game board being overturned, hit with a fist, tossed across the room, or thrown out the window. This is usually accompanied with an emotional outburst that is less than civil. Regardless of these variant endings, there is still only one smirking victor.
If any therapists are reading this blog (I’m told I have a large following in the psychiatric community), you may wonder if there is some sort of Monopoly related trauma in my past. Well if you must know, I do have some vague, almost suppressed, memories of playing monopoly with my older siblings in our downstairs rec room.
As best as I can recall, I vividly remember crying as my eldest sister tried to comfort me with the fact that I still owned Marvin Gardens. Her words failed to distract me from my anguish. All I could see were her neatly stacked piles of monopoly money.
What follows this memory is a series of ego crushing Monopoly losses; an endless blur of me relinquishing mortgaged properties into the hands of grinning victors. After my umpteenth loss I decided to mitigate my misery by refusing to ever play the game again.
For the most part, my Monopoly sobriety has increased my quality of life. Although I have experienced some awkward peer pressure at certain family functions, I have embraced my limitations. In recent years I have been content to watch from the sidelines as I work through beginner Sudoku puzzles.
Unfortunately, I did relent on one occasion. A few years back my eldest daughter Kysa was given a brightly colored, oh so friendly looking, SpongeBob SquarePants Monopoly edition board game. Although it shared the same Monopoly title as my childhood board game nemesis, it appeared so much more welcoming. The properties all had goofy names and the game pieces were so silly and cute. Then there was my persuasive ten-year-old daughter beckoning me to join in on some quality family bonding. How could I resist.
I hate the devil and I hate the SpongeBob SquarePants Monopoly edition. When the dust had settled my sweet firstborn daughter completely controlled the board. As she took my last “Bikini Bottom” property, she had a look on her face that vacillated between pleasure and pity. I could hear my sister’s voice echo from my childhood, “At least you have Marvin Gardens.”
No matter the repackaging, some things are not worth pursuing. So much of what we strive for has little eternal value. Jesus taught us that we should live for things that do not rust, corrode, or fade away. In other words, no matter how many green houses and red hotels we acquire, they can all still be removed with a flip of the board. That game will eventually end.
As a Christian I have been given the privilege to advance a kingdom of grace, love, and life that will never fade away. With or without Marvin Gardens I can engage this kingdom and find real victory. This gives me a modicum of comfort when licking my Monopoly wounds.