An unexpected invitation arrived in my voicemail last week. A few fire crew buddies had started a dodgeball team in the local city recreational league. They needed an extra player. I was more than happy to oblige. You see, my last two dodgeball memories are dripping with glory. The scene: typical middle school gymnasium: lacquered plywood bleachers folded against the wall, basketball hoops, lots of white tile, eighth grade. It was the last day of school. The gym teacher let us play three team dodgeball. I was still a scrawny four-foot-something nerd. The bigger kids were putting some serious steam on that playground ball. I suddenly found myself holding that red rubber sphere of destiny in my hand with only a few minutes of class left. I had nothing too loose. I sighted across the gym from me a big, fat, jerk of a kid I had never liked throughout childhood (incidentally he just walked into the coffee shop I am at, I haven't seen him since high school). Some inner strength I didn't know I had welled up and I put every muscle in my body into throwing that ball. A red streak sped across the gym, nearly breaking the sound barrier. The missile beaned the jerk square in the face. My gut jumped with equal parts elation and fear. I had just smoked the biggest kid in the class. In a state of near shock at being hit with a ball moving at a speed only he thought he could produce, he asked "Who threw that?" I said, as nonchalantly as I could, "I did." The whole class looked at me with a newfound respect. Now that's the way to finish off eighth grade.
My second brush with dodgeball glory came as a senior in high school. I had to satisfy my PE requirements as a senior because I had been to busy the previous years with studly things like marching band. Again it was three team dodgeball. I was the last one standing on my team. I managed to avoid all the balls thrown at me until, once again, a big burly kid was the only other player left. At least by this time I had grown a couple feet, but I couldn't be described as anything but a beanpole in stature. The big kid ran straight at me and hurled the ball with all his might at very close proximity. Somehow I caught the ball and put him out. He yelled in astonishment and, being a bit more confident, I raised the ball toward the sky and paraded around the gym.
As you can see I must have some innate dodgeball talent. At least that's what I thought before the big game last Tuesday night. I sucked. I was out quicker than I thought possible. My problem? I was trying to jump over balls thrown at me. Now if you remember your "Five D's of dodgeball" from the movie Dodgeball, players should avoid being hit by employing the Five D's. The D's instruct you to dodge, dive, duck, dip, and dodge. Jump is not a part of the Five D's. Hence my poor performance. Next week I reclaim glory.