Is it East versus West
Or man against man?
Survivor, “Burning Heart”
Rocky IV Soundtrack
(Volcano Records, 1985)
The President of the United States wasn’t having one of his better days.
“He wants to annex what?” he asked into the phone. “Moldovia? I’ve never even heard of Moldovia…What’s that you say?…It’s ‘Moldova’ and not ‘Moldovia’?…Well, I’ve never heard of Moldova, either…I don’t care how many athletes they sent to the Olympics.” An advisor walked into the Oval Office and the President glanced at him briefly. “Listen, John, I’ll have to call you back.” The President slammed the phone into its cradle.
The advisor spoke without preamble. “Mr. President, the President of Russia says he won’t withdraw Russian troops from Crimea and he won’t give Crimea back to Ukraine.”
“Really? Did you make him the offer?”
“Of course, Mr. President. And he said thank you, but that he already had a neck basket.”
The President frowned and nodded.
“Okay,” he said. “Time to think outside the box.” He went up to a white board along the wall of the Oval Office and wrote “military action” in red erasable marker. “Let’s brainstorm. Give me some options for dealing with Russia.”
“Military action, Mr. President,” said the advisor.
“Great! Now, let’s flesh that out a little. What are some things that go with military action.”
“Um, troops,” said the advisor.
“Yes, okay.” Underneath “military action” the President drew a dash and wrote “troops.”
“Okay, great.” The President wrote “- tanks” under “- troops.”
“Great. We’re moving right along.” The President added “- planes” to the list.
There was a knock at the door.
“Come in!” yelled the President, wiping away some stray marks from the white board. In walked the Secretary of Defense.
“Mr. Secretary!” said the President. “Come on in. Take a doughnut. We’re just doing a little brainstorming on what to do with Russia. As you can see, we’re off to a great start.” He presented the white board with his hand, palm turned up.
“That’s very good work, Mr. President. But I don’t think military action is going to work. The Russian forces are well set up inside and around Crimea, and our forces are frightened of going into a country that has a backwards ‘R’ in its alphabet.”
“Hmm, that’s a good point. I never trusted that backwards ‘R’ either,” said the President, shuddering.
“Mr. President,” said the Secretary of Defense with a tight smile, “may I offer an alternative strategy?”
The media did not respond favorably when it was announced that the President of the United States had formally challenged the President of the Russian Federation to a game of Flappy Bird to determine the ownership of Crimea and Russia’s overall designs on world domination. The criticism was especially sharp over the fact that the challenge had been issued over the President’s Twitter account. But to everyone’s surprise, the challenge was accepted, and the coverage shifted from anlysis of foreign policy to analysis of the two leaders’ video game skills.
American historians noted that when the President of the United States was in law school he had won a Super Mario Bros. tournament against the other students in his constitutional law class.
But Russian historians noted that the President of the Russian Federation had been the top scorer in a first-player combat video game developed just for Russian government officials, called KGB versus Journalists.
Flappy Bird was a two-dimensional, side-scrolling game with primitive graphics, like Super Mario Bros., but required laser-like precision and impeccable reflexes, like KGB versus Journalists. So both Presidents had an edge.
As the time of the match approached, people were anxious. No one wanted to be unpatriotic or find themselves imprisioned. But Vegas odds never lie, and the odds on the two contestants were neck and neck.
TV stations had arranged to broadcast the match during primetime. Since Moscow is nine time zones ahead of Washington, DC, to prevent either President from playing the middle of the night, the match was arranged for 10 a.m. eastern standard time, and 7 p.m. Moscow time, on the same day. Video cameras were set up so that in the left corner of the screen would be live video of the American President, and in the right corner would be a live video of the Russian President, and the middle of the screen would be the video screen of the leader who happened to be playing Flappy Bird.
The rules were simple. A coin flip would decide who would go first. Then they would take turns, and whoever had the most points at the end of ten rounds would be declared the winner. If the American President won, the Russians had to withdraw from Crimea and forget about the Soviet Reunion. If the Russian President won…well, no one really wanted to think about that.
Everyone – East and West – was nervous as the coin was tossed at a live video feed in Reykjavik. As the coin flipped end over end the Russian President said “Golovy!” – heads. And the coin landed heads.
Immediately there were arguments all around the world over whether it was better to go first or last. The Russian President chose to go first, and his compatriots cheered him for taking the initiative. But the Americans were, for the most part, relieved, as more than a century of baseball had taught them the value of last licks.
In the end it didn’t matter who went first. Flappy Bird was so hard that even after ten rounds neither man had scored a single point. There was no winner and nothing changed in the geopolitical world. But since it had stayed unchanged without a single shot being fired, both sides declared victory and were wrapped in the flags of their respective nations by the warm embraces of their citizens.
I’d like to wish Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson a hearty welcome back to blogging. It’s good to see that familiar title in my inbox again. – MK