There’s a new movement to ban dodge ball in schools. HBO’s Real Sports is running on the efforts tonight. I haven’t seen the HBO story, but (surprise) I’ve got my own opinions.
The mere mention of the word “dodge ball” kinda makes me smile and nod my head reflectively. Ah yes, dodge ball. Talk to just about anyone older than 25 and they have definite memories of dodge ball. Sissies hated dodge ball and jocks thought it was target practice, but for me dodge ball was one of the purest “sports” on the playground.
All dodge ball purists know there’s only one real way to play: red playground balls in a closed gym. “Orthodox Dodge ball”, if you will. Half the kids on one side of the half-court line and half on the other side. You can run all the way up to half-court and fire at will. Other “pagan” forms of dodge ball involved balls of various sizes, kids running to the free throw line, and other perverted derivations.
Dodge ball was a pure playground sport because, to be good, you didn’t have to be the best athlete. But you did need to be quick, smart, and having a decent throw didn’t hurt either.
Dodge ball taught you to think on your feet: calculate the velocity and arc of dozens of red playground balls while trying not to get killed by either their flight path or by some other kid running for his life.
Dodge ball taught you to take calculated risks: if you could catch a ball, then the thrower was out. Plus, you could immediately unload on one of the other teams throwers as they retreated. And, there was nothing better than hitting some kid in the feet from behind and watch them go sprawling across the gym floor like Bambi on the frozen pond.
Most importantly, dodge ball taught one of life’s most important lessons: sometimes you get a bloody nose, sometimes you don’t — but if you want to enjoy life, you’ve got to get out there and play the game.