Jan 122010

By Patrick Smith

Bright, frigid, and windy, the sidewalks of downtown Lexington were nearly deserted last Friday after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow on the city. What seemed like a normal winter afternoon in downtown Lexington was offset by the tense, giddy energy of the few pedestrians making their way along Main St. and milling around the Courthouse lawn.

Photo by Patrick Smith

Cold? They don't know the meaning of the word.

Suddenly, in what seemed like a case of spontaneous mass hysteria, groups of people descended on what appeared to be Lexington’s smallest horse farm, the proposed sight of the Webb Companies’ CenterPointe skyscraper, and began pelting each other with fistfuls of snow at exactly 12:30 P.M.. Within seconds, thirty to forty people had hopped the fence and began struggling to form the light, fluffy snow covering the ground into projectiles. Laughter and shouts of joy were punctuated by the hollow thumps of well-packed snowballs landing direct hits onto thick winter clothing, as participants struggled to make more ammunition and locate familiar targets in the crowd.

Fearing swift police retribution for trespassing on the hollowed ground of a stalled corporate develoP.M.ent, the snowballers fought with the frantic energy of people who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their rulers, and within minutes the blizzard of snowballs had subsided into a flurry as exhaustion and cold began to set in. The last few missiles of the day were thrown not among the rowdy band of misfits, but at the billboards and fake security cameras stationed at the corners of the block, in weary “fuck-yous” to the robber-baron developers who manage to ruin everything they touch in the heart of our city. As quickly as it began, the Great CenterPointe Snowball Fight of 2010 dissolved.

Lexington Sports History

This is not the first time a public sporting event has been organized in defiance of that pit of shame in the center of downtown. Last summer, a similarly sized group of people gathered at Phoenix Park decked out in shorts, sneakers and sweatbands for the inagural CenterPointe Parke kickball game. Participants quickly slid through a gap in the chain link fence into the then dusty demolition zone, divided up into pre-arranged teams, and began what would be the shortest game of kickball in Lexington history. After just two pitches and some impressive base running, nearby police officers entered the play field and escorted our athletes away. The ease of promotion allowed by social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter turned into a liability for the CenterPointe kickballers, the open publicity of the event drawing the attention of Lexington’s web-savvy cops.

Organizers learned a valuable lesson from the swift police response to the kickball game, limiting the publicity for Friday’s snowball fight to word of mouth. Text messages and blog postings reading “Centrepitte snowball fight 1230 tomorrow — DO NOT PUT THIS ON FACEBOOK!” and “Snowball fight, call me for time and location” were passed from person to person in a sort of rapidly evolving phone tree, a phenomenon that techno-fetishists of the last decade have dubbed “flash mobbing.” This simple, low-tech application of high-technology managed to serve the organizers of the snowball fight well, allowing for a rapid and confidential mobilization of dozens of protesters, and such techniques are likely to be useful in the future of activist sporting events in Lexington.

Ironically, the secretive organization of this snowball fight may have been completely unnecessary. Though there were police circling the downtown block during the snowball fight, they were more concerned with issuing parking tickets and getting lunch than hassling a group of twenty-somethings having a good time. Perhaps local disappointment with that blighted block has become so intense that even the police having stopped caring about the property rights of the Webb Brothers.

One can dream.

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