When most people wake up on a rainy morning, they think nothing of it. It may mean a little inconvenience: wearing a raincoat, taking an umbrella, allowing extra time to get to work. For me, however, waking up to the sound of rain brings back bitter memories of junior high school. From the time I was 12, rain in the morning has meant humiliation, embarrassment and the threat of permanent injury. How could this be? The answer is dodgeball.
Dodgeball is a game based on one man's ability to hit another with a thrown ball; the throwee attempts to dodge the ball.
Whenever our gym class was forced indoors by poor weather, dodgeball was what we played. The exact origin of the game is obscure, but I suspect that dodgeball was born at a meeting of gym teachers during a rain-provoked brainstorming session.
"We need something that'll teach 'em teamwork and discipline," said one gym teacher. "Something that'll improve their cardiovascular fitness, that'll build the kind of camaraderie they'll need to succeed in life."
"I've got it! I've got it!" said another. "I'll get a bunch of balls and toss them out into the gym and tell the kids to throw them as hard as they can at each other and see how often they can hit someone...." And dodgeball was born.
The 1949 edition of the Dictionary of Sports defines dodgeball as "a game played between two groups [in which] one attempts to hit the [other] with a volleyball, soccer ball, codeball [a 6-inch inflatable ball] or similar ball. Victory goes to the group eliminating the other group in the shortest time."
Being hit and being eliminated were two of the things I feared about dodgeball. Of course, I was only too happy to hit someone else—like any kid, I guess.
The other thing I feared about dodgeball was—let's call him John Doe. At 13, John played hardball—he was in complete command of a slider, a knuckleball and a forkball and had already thrown his share of knockdown pitches. John could hurl a red Voit—a ball the size of a full-grown Pekingese—so fast that it curved. I would make for a corner of the gym, where I thought I'd be hard to hit, but his ball always seemed to possess a fear sensor that guided it to its target, and it invariably homed in on me precisely where I was cowering. This is not an exaggeration. You don't quickly forget a ball slicing the air at high speed and aimed at your head.
There are many variations on the theme of dodgeball. The game we played most often was called Darwinian dodgeball, and it included a biology lesson: Every man for himself. But there were other variations.
?Crown the king—The target, "the king," stands on a chair in the center of a 30-foot circle. The object is to lead a coup, assassinate the monarch and usurp his throne—in other words, hit the king with the ball.