Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Draft Dodging

There was an article in Salon yesterday about the evils of dodge ball (okay, it was one of those personal essays that starts out being about dodge ball and ends up being about parenting and childhood and blah blah, but whatever) and it got me wondering, once again, what the big deal is about the "sport."

I was an unathletic kid who dreaded gym, and I loved dodge ball, as well as its more chaotic, every-man-for-himself cousin, "elimination" (same rules, no teams). Only in adulthood did I learn of dodge ball's stigma, and I remain completely baffled by it. You don't need any athletic ability to play it, really. I guess some catching is involved, but it's not like catching a fast-moving softball or even a Frisbee; even four-square (or box ball, as we called it in elementary school) requires more coordination. And if you want to get someone out with a throw, just aim low.

Better still, it is the easiest game in the world to get yourself out of, which should actually make it ideal for the unsporty of the world. Don't feel like playing? Lob an easy ball to someone sure to catch it, or let yourself get hit someplace where it won't hurt. Hell, in the chaos you could pretty much let a randomly rolling ball hit your foot and go sit down. Basketball, softball, football, soccer — games that require genuine coordination and skill, in which teammates depend on you — those are scary. Dodge ball was cake.

I suppose I might feel different about the whole thing if we had played it in high school, which seems to be the standard pop-culture cliché. We only had dodge ball in elementary school, and while kids can certainly be cruel it's more casual, not like the nastiness of high school — not to mention the fact that bigger kids can throw harder! But y'know that's one of the other mysteries of dodge ball for me: It seems like an awfully silly game for 16-year-olds to play! I've always perceived it as a kids' game, and therefore relatively harmless. I think even the mean kids with good throwing arms would have scoffed at it at my high school. Like I said, it's not much of a sport! And therefore I — who managed the cross-country team for a season so I could get out of gym (a wonderfully exploitable loophole in the rule that if you were on a team you didn't have to take PE — something else I learned years later wasn't normal (though it does seem awfully logical to me)), and chose swimming whenever we had an elective so I wouldn't have to compete, be on a team, or sweat — would have surely loved it.

Oh well, we've established many times here that my high school experience was not a typical one. I guess dodge ball is just one of those things, like color wars, field day, and cheerleaders, that I will just never understand.

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