There was no convincing required. The second the word “dodgeball” popped out of my co-worker’s mouth, I was hooked.
Here was a chance to relive a childhood addiction, an opportunity to compete in an organized activity again.
It may not be a premier sport like baseball or basketball, but dodgeball’s been on the rise ever since the popular movie hit the big screen a couple of years ago.
Give me the time, day and location and I’ll see you there, I said.
As it turns out, very little persuasion was required in forming the rest of the Clarion team as well.
So, here we were, a group of mostly out-of-shape, has-been athletes in search of one more exhilarating, competitive moment.
Well, some of us just wanted to peg somebody in the head.
Anyway, one by one, six of us showed up at the Nikiski Recreation Center with goofy smiles on our faces, the thought of flinging a dodgeball for the first time in decades on our minds.
After filling out consent forms with our medical history, complete with everything from what type of instrument our umbilical cords were cut with to how many meatballs were on the sub we ate for dinner last night, we were nearly set to begin.
Then we forked over the $25 fee, which seemed a bit high to me considering we were using only the gym and a bunch of Nerf-like dodgeballs.
But alas, we get T-shirts.
Little did we know we’d be leaving with massive, pounding headaches, too.
And I’m not talking from getting beaned in the head with one of the balls.
These stemmed from the constant childlike taunts of our opponents that evening.
And as luck would have it, we were forced to play them all night long.
It sounds like fun, getting to participate in nearly every game over a roughly two-hour span.
But let me tell you, if I had the choice of taking a tetanus shot, a kick in the groin or playing two hours of dodgeball with this team again, the inoculation or the shot in the groin both sound rather appealing at this point. At least they won’t linger as long as those annoying squeals did.
After every out, catch or victory, hoots and hollers echoed across the gymnasium. There was also no shortage of unnecessary chest bumping and pig piles, dancing around like headless chickens or taunting that made the Little Giants look mature.
And I’ll admit, it got to me. Even to the point that was I was responding to them.
But during this carnival of ignorance, something came to me.
Either we signed up for a children’s league or the organizer’s mistakenly admitted kids into the adult league.
Unfortunately, I believe it was the latter.
Which pains me even more to give credit where credit is due.
One one hand, I tip my hat to our opponents. They were a fine dodgeball team. Honestly, I have no idea how they honed their skills to the near-professional level they were at that evening. We didn’t really stand a chance.
On the other, I must say I am disappointed.
Somewhere along the line they missed out on a valuable, lifelong lesson in sportsmanship. Either these kids didn’t play organized sports or they flat out just don’t care.
Personally, I grew up immersed in sports. I participated in recreation baseball, basketball and soccer and continued them all the way through high school. Never, and I mean never, would a coach allow someone to act as these guys did.
Here we were, a group of middle-aged people looking for an enjoyable event to incorporate into our busy schedules and we wind up getting paired with a group of obnoxious teenagers, who happen to be the only other complete team there.
And I have nothing against teenagers. Heck, I was one about seven years ago. But the way they carried themselves was simply embarrassing for the community or communities they represent.
What irked me even more than their ridiculous behavior was how much it affected me. I’m embarrassed to say it, but their antics angered me to the point that I was willing to disqualify myself from a round solely to connect on a high-powered head shot.
I felt like an 8-year-old again, eagerly trying to nail that bully in the face during a gym class dodgeball game.
For the most part, I remained composed, although a few timely comments managed to slip out.
Either way, it didn’t matter.
In the end, we were slaughtered. And while we obviously would have liked to have won, it didn’t affect most of us. We were just out for a night of fun.
Our opponents, however, acted as though they had just won Game 7 of the World Series.
But it wasn’t. And we’ll be back tomorrow.
I may be late, though. I need to pick up a pair of earplugs first.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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