Posted on December 31, 2011
I am a huge fan of sports and I’m usually game to try pretty much anything (except beer pong). So when my local Schwann’s man mentioned he was a professional dodgeball player and invited me to come out and play sometime, my interest was piqued. He’s a pretty good guy (at least I thought, more to come on that). Looking back, I think he invited me out as he could sense my raw athleticism, or perhaps he was just looking to lower the per player cost. Regardless of the reason, I kept his invite in the back of my mind. But my entry into the sport ended up coming a little sooner than expected in the form of a New Year’s Eve Dodgeball tournament at the Rancho Sahuarita clubhouse.
Doug informed me that he was forming a team for the tournament made up mostly of his fellow professionals and he wanted me to play. I figured this was my best chance as it was close, cheap, and hopeful full of amateurs like myself. Looking back now, there are a few questions I probably should have asked. Should your Schwann’s man invite you to a dodgeball tournament, I recommend you ask the following:
- What are the rules?
- How many players are on a team?
- Is everyone who comes out bloodthirsty and hellbent on the destruction of their fellow humans using weapons in the form of playground balls?
4. What are the jerseys like?
Now you may wonder why anyone would bother to ask about jerseys. Well, I showed up to play and was surprised to find out this was the team apparel (even more shocking considering in the last Sahuarita league I played in I was wearing our church’s jersey):
Now, while it does look amazing draped over my pecs, I was less than happy about the graphics. I mean, black flames in the numbers? That doesn’t even make sense. Oh, and there was also the giant Satanesque figure and name of “TEAM EVIL”. In order to assuage my guilt in wearing the shirt I had to convince myself EVIL was an acronym for Everything Virtuous In Life and the figure was actually a sunburnt superhero with hair like Wolverine whose goal in life was to reward people who helped others.
And while this shirt was bad, the other option was a jersey that said “7 Deadly Sins” and each jersey’s “name” was a different deadly sin (ie. Lust). Thankfully I didn’t have to wear that, but if I did I was hoping once of the sins was “General Lack of Coordination”. These jerseys really made me reconsider what I thought I knew about Doug.
Now, pretty much everything I know about dodgeball came from the movie “Dodgeball” and numerous repressed memories from junior high school.
So, my form of preparation involved putting on a protective “cup”.
I really only had two goals for the experience: to have fun and to come back with my facial features in the same spot as when I left. So I didn’t know what I was in for when I actually walked on the court and observed the pros start warming up. My first thought was “oh geez, oh geez, oh geez.” These guys (and one amazingly agile and strong-armed female) weren’t so much throwing the dodgeballs as they were launching them. I began warming up by throwing a ball at the fence. While I was throwing with literally everything I had in me, my balls were going much slower than everyone else’s so I had to keep saying things like “oh man, my arm is cold” and “can you imagine if I really threw this slowly? Ha!” Doug then decided he wanted to practice catching the ball so he stood in front of the fence while everyone took turns throwing at him, until it came to me and I more or less lobbed it at him. He was tossing the balls back pretty hard to the other guys and gingerly looping them back at me. I could tell he was taking it easy on me. Not wanting his pity and knowing I wouldn’t get better unless I started trying to catch some faster shots I asked him to “throw it a little harder.” MISTAKE!!! Literally before I knew it there was a red ball dribbling away from me and a growing welt on my chest. To this day I am not sure how he did it but I am reasonably confident a teleporter was somehow involved. I knew I was in trouble (and also that Doug has no idea what the phrase “a little” means).
Now that I was sufficiently freaked out, I looked around to gauge the competition. There were three teams who showed up. Two of the teams were comprised of the professional Tucson Dodgeball all-stars (and me) and the third was a group of terrified amateurs. I felt bad for them knowing they signed up thinking it would be a fun thing to try with a bunch of other Rancho Sahuarita folks who have never played. They probably even laughed to each other thinking “wouldn’t it be hilarious if we were the only newbies and literally everyone else who showed up (except one) was a professional player?”
Most of the pro players (wherein pro just means they play in tournaments for money…not as a primary occupation…but they are still crazy good) where very cool…albeit with “spicy” vocabularies.
Well, we started playing and I gradually began finding my place. It was usually on the sidelines chasing down balls. But when I played, I also became slightly more confident. They say in football that nervous players just need to be hit once to knock the nerves out. I assumed the same principle held true and that I just needed to be beaned once to get in the zone. Well, it took a while to get beaned, not because I am an elusive ninja, but because the other team didn’t sense enough of a threat in me to bother wasting a ball in my direction. But when the first ball came at me, it came fast! I managed to avoid it with an instinctual seizure-like move I call the “herky-jerk”. It only works when accompanied by a high-pitched shriek of terror which I definitely included.
You may be having a hard time grasping the “feel” of the tournament so I figured I’d help you out. The picture below is a picture of a standard playground dodgeball like the ones we used.
This is a picture of said dodgeball three inches from your nose:
Now, take a look at the first one and look quickly at the second to experience a ball flying at you. Now to truly understand the game from my perspective, do it again and imagine your teammates yelling things like “catch the ball!” and “why are you even here?” all the while against a backdrop of male (and one female) body odor. Of course, my view was more like the following as I was curled up in a ball with my eyelids doing their darndest to protect my LASIK investment:
I did eventually figure out that I needed to rely on deception rather than arm speed and/or accuracy. And by deception I meant I walked around like I owned the place and would have absolutely NO problem decapitating anyone with a dodgeball should the desire arise whilst I did everything in my power to avoid having to hold an actual dodgeball. I did score a few sweet outs towards the end using my patented no-look move I carried over from basketball. I knew my knack of passing the ball directly into my teammates ankles would pay off someday!
The team I happened to be on was clearly the best of the tournament as demonstrated by our winning all but 1 of approximately 33 rounds of play, However, based on some shady tournament organizing, the championship ended up resting on a single “winner take all” game with the other pro team. This despite us having beaten them roughly 16 out 17 previous times. I call shenanigans!
As luck would have it, we ended up losing. But, our team did end up walking away with fabulous Rancho Sahuarita gift bags that included things like a keychain and chapstick. That and I accomplished both of my goals. Hazah!