Column: Dodgeball was the best part of any school day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 19, 2005


We would suit up in our locker-ripened gym clothes.

Our teacher would toss out a bunch of red kickballs.

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Then we would commit dodgeball.

You didn’t have to drive a Chrysler product to enjoy dodgeball.

It was a school classic.

A frenetic activity for those with more energy than ambition.

I played dodgeball.

Everybody played dodgeball.

It was a simple, yet intimidating game.

It really wasn’t a sport.

It was war made as civilized as possible.

Most every act committed during a spirited dodgeball game would be a 5-minute penalty in hockey.

The primary goal of dodgeball was to avoid being hospitalized.

The odds of surviving a dodgeball contest without injury were slightly lower than the chances of winning a lottery.

Injuries were dealt with in a quick and efficient manner.

&8220;Walk it off, you big baby!&8221; our gym teacher would snarl with contempt dripping from each and every word.

Dodgeball was not for wimps.

Compound fractures were not to be coddled.

We played dodgeball in phy ed, called gym class by some; the Spanish Inquisition by others.

We played dodgeball while wearing those gym shorts with the little V-cut in the side. Because this was a school class, we were graded on our aptitude for playing dodgeball.

Our dodgeball grades kept a lot of us out of Harvard.

All we needed to play dodgeball were a Blue Cross card (or a round trip airline ticket to Lourdes), a lot of pent-up hostility and some over-inflated rubber balls.

We played dodgeball with those red playground balls.

I am certain that almost minutes of research went into developing the official rules of dodgeball.

We threw the balls at one another and if a player was hit, he would be out of the game.

If you caught the ball, you were allowed to remain in the game.

In some cases, the rules would dictate that the thrower would be out if the intended victim caught the ball.

The first team to run out of players lost.

You didn’t want to be the last guy on your team.

The last man standing would see every ball being flung at him from every direction.

The last player became nothing more than a target.

Dodgeball kept us hungry.

It kept us thin.

You needed to be nimble and quick.

Sumo wrestlers didn’t do well at dodgeball.

Dodgeball gave us an outlet for all of that pent-up hostility that accumulated during geometry class.

Loose cannons were good things in dodgeball.

Dodgeball taught us life lessons.

We learned never to stand in one spot too long.

We learned that being a quitter might not be all bad.

Now we are told that dodgeball was bad for our self-esteem, but we didn’t know it at the time.

Dodgeball wasn’t alone in teaching us the harsh realities of life.

Musical chairs taught us that there would not always be room for everybody everywhere.

Some participants were strong, while others were weak.

Some were agile, while others made easy targets.

But all were merciless.

We became whirling dervishes and Tasmanian Devils.

There was no hiding in dodgeball.

There was no crying in dodgeball.

We’d sing the official dodgeball song.

It had only one word and went something like this, &8220;AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!&8221;

There was always one kid whose side you wanted to be on.

He was the one who had an arm like a Howitzer.

When he threw the ball at you and missed, the ball became imbedded in the wall of the gymnasium.

There was always a ball with my name on it.

The last thing I would remember would be a red blur coming right at my head.

If a student could survive this guy with his rifle-arm and was able to walk away from a dodgeball game, the rest of the school day was a piece of cake.

I loved dodgeball.

Other than the time the crazed rat ran up my pants leg, it was the most fun I’d ever had.

Dodgeball helped me develop a strong throwing arm.

I still can’t toss dirty clothes into the hamper, but thanks to the strong arm I developed in

dodgeball, I at least get the laundry in the same room as the hamper.

Alduous Huxley said, &8220;Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.&8221;

It’s not likely that Huxley was talking about dodgeball.

We became battle-scarred veterans, but we survived dodgeball.

That was a very good thing.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

It makes us stronger, but it leaves us really nervous.

(Hartland resident Al Batt writes a column for the Tribune each Wednesday and Sunday.)