My first reaction was, of course, "Dodgeball? What fun!" After all, who doesn't like throwing things at other people, and trying not to get hit? It's like a re-enactment of the great Roman wars, only with sponge balls instead of javelins.
I showed up at the YMCA, ready for action. I'd imagined that it would be like a combination of... I don't know, Frisbee and Dance Dance Revolution. Something that would give people a chance to show off their moves to a bouncing soundtrack. Possibly with some slow-motion camera and strobe lights during the jumps.
(In case you can't tell, most of my sporting experience lately has been through snowboarding video games.)
My delusions quickly bumped up against cold reality when everyone around me started warming up. Full body stretches, heart rate monitoring, close attention to water intake... this was my first clue that these people took dodgeball seriously.
There was a review of the rules, the selection of teams, and then we were off. The first task: run and get the dodgeballs. I did so... and my usefulness started to taper off at that point. I've never had the best throwing arm, but in an effort to ensure that dodgeball remains a safe sport, the balls have a whiffle-like consistency that seems to act like a hundred tiny parachutes which deploy from the ball as soon as it travels more than two metres. I was tempted to stuff cork inside of them, to make them *heavier*. And so, almost every throw simply turned into a breath of fairy dust, which the opposing player could snatch out of the air with a giggle and a childlike sense of wonder. That is, provided that my throw was well-aimed enough to come within their peripheral vision. I think that happened about twice.
Was I any better at dodging? Well, I wasn't bad at running around the gym, I'll give myself that much. And I was also pretty good at being the person the other team didn't have to worry about (see above paragraph), so I'm happy to say I did all right for myself in that respect. However, near the end of the game, I saw one ball hurtling towards me like a missile (don't ask me how, but everyone else could fire dodgeballs back and forth like they were on wires). I could already see where it was going -- straight for my left calf. No problem, I thought. I'll just step back. Or forward. Or jump. Any of those things... and then the ball hit my left calf, as my body simply refused to enact any of those plans.
That's when I realised that running around the gym and vaulting off the walls wasn't the best strategy, provided that you wanted to be able to react to stimuli later in the game. It soon became apparent to the other team that the direction Denton was moving was the direction in which Denton would keep moving, because he no longer had the energy to change what he was doing. My contribution to the team (such as it was) started to decline rapidly.
Mercifully, the game eventually ended. Ten minutes had elapsed -- and we had booked the gym for two hours.
It was a long afternoon, but I must admit, it was still a great deal of fun, thanks to my fellow players. They were all a friendly bunch, easy-going and quick with a joke. They applauded appreciatively as I got knocked back hard enough to lose a shoe, and one of them actually called me "J.C. Denton" as a compliment. That right there is worth any amount of suffering.
So if they were such a casual, fun-loving group, what was the deal with all those stretches and warm-ups? As it turns out, they didn't take dodgeball seriously -- they did indeed see it as a harmless pastime. What they took seriously was being able to move the next day.
And that's why I'm typing this entire post with one finger. No other muscles will respond.
Can't wait for the dodgeball season to start again in September, though.