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Takin’ It to the Streets

Hopscotch to X-Box

En español | Once upon a time, before Twitter and Wii, city kids left their houses in the morning to play games in the street and returned only at night to eat dinner with their families. Stickball, hopscotch, hide-n-seek—you name it, the new DVD, New York Street Games, celebrates it. Narrated by actor Hector Elizondo, this documentary intercuts interviews with celebrities who grew up playing these games in New York (from Whoopi Goldberg to Regis Philbin) with vintage photos and movies of children playing in the streets. But despite its title, this DVD is really about kids everywhere.

“I was running around the streets all the time,” says Rene Soto, 51, a native of Chicago. “We played a lot of running bases, freeze tag, softball.” Ultimately, he says, it was about “being outdoors, enjoying what nature had and interacting with other kids.” Those interactions, he believes, led to cultural understanding both on and off the streets of his diverse neighborhood. “I saw different cultures firsthand,” he says. “You could visit their houses and see how other people lived. When I had friends that came over, we introduced Hispanic foods to non-Hispanic friends.”

As for Elizondo, he recalls not only the sweet sounds of songs in Spanish coming from neighborhood windows while children played punchball—his favorite—but the basic life skills the games taught.

“Negotiation. Alliances. Justice—‘You can’t do that, that’s not fair,’ ” says Elizondo. “And the added bonus was the fact that you were fit, you could go forever, you were lean and strong.”

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