The awful return of innocence

At the end of “The Bad News Bears” — spoiler alert — the Bears lose the big game and their coach rewards them with cold beers. Back then, that sort of thing happened in real life, too. I was 15 in the 1970s when I went to my first “Beach Week,” the annual bacchanal on the beaches of Maryland that high school students in the D.C. area used to go to. I went with a bunch of guys from my high school, and our “chaperone” was a teacher. He had two rules: we weren’t to drive anywhere, and he would buy us as much beer as we could drink. But it wasn’t just a party — it was a way for us to carve out our own space and identities, away from parents and school. It was a way to become responsible for ourselves and each other. It was a way to not just have safe play-date fun, but experience some reckless joy.

Twenty years later, there was absolute media hysteria when, in 2001, the Bush twins tried to drink a beer — at 19 years old. The twins then dutifully closed down, got married and avoid having any fun. Since then, the moral clampdown has stripped the world of pranks, wedgies and other harmless fun — to say nothing of more hard-core Bad News Bears trouble. Once upon a time, the president’s kid brought a Beatle into the White House. These days, Malia Obama doesn’t speak, at all, and only appears briefly in public to hug Justin Bieber. What a dull, Disneyfied country we’ve become.

Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.