Dodging Every Sudden Move
By ANNE LONGERBEAM
Drive-By Shooter dashes onto the court in the chill late night air at the UMW basketball court behind Jefferson Hall.
Drive-By, a nickname in dodgeball for sophomore Ryan Lott, charges the center court line at the start of the game before the opposing team can reach the line and strike with their balls.
“I just swoop by and take one [player] out from a couple of feet away,” Lott said. “It’s hard for them to hit me because I have so much momentum.”
He is just one member of an eclectic group of UMW students who meet every Wednesday night for dodgeball games on the basketball court. This informal group of students started meeting about five years ago, at the same time as the establishment of one of the first U.S. college dodgeball teams at Michigan State University. The first college dodgeball tournament, the Spartan Dodgeball Invitational, was held by MSU in 2005.
On a nice night at campus, as many as 50 players show up to play dodgeball. Even on a stormy night about 10-20 players show up, including senior Sam Krieg, for the love of the game of dodgeball: games sometimes run until 3 a.m. despite rain, snow or other bad weather conditions.
“Dodgeball has become a part of my college experience that I’ll look back on when I’ve graduated, and consider time very well spent,” Krieg said. “I don’t hitchhike to Yes concerts during my time in college like some of my friends’ dads did, but I have hit and been hit by people in the face.”
Well-known in the surrounding residence halls for their loud games, some members have faced heated resentment from students who find out their affiliations with the dodgeball crew, while other students appreciate their passion.
“For not being a formal club, I am impressed at how well-attended and committed they are to playing,” Tim St. Onge said, a junior and Bushnell resident. “I can often hear them from my dorm and they sound really intense.”
Krieg has been in casual small talk with classmates who have been less understanding when he revealed that he is an avid dodgeball player. Krieg mimicked one classmate’s reaction in a high-pitched tone.
“So you’re the reason I couldn’t sleep last night!” Krieg said.
Dodgeball players adhere to a strict set of 14 rules found on their Facebook group entitled “UMW Dodgeball.”
After team members grab balls from the center court line, the players run back to the three-point line where the balls are considered “live,” or in play. During the game, if players are hit by the ball before it hits the ground, they are counted as “out” and must stand outside the fence of the court. The game ends when one of the teams is eliminated.
Some other rules on the Facebook group describe the character of the game, such as “play with honor” and “don’t be a douche-bag.”
An implicit rule among dodgeball players is the final elimination of one-on-one, similar to the sudden-death round in the movie “Dodgeball,” a comedy released in 2004. In “Dodgeball,” the Average Joes team, led by Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) battled the power-hungry Purple Cobras team, led by White Goodman (Ben Stiller). The Average Joes won the final elimination round due to a blindfolded team member getting his confidence back and striking Stiller with the last ball.
Both players must run to the fountain and back to break the tie, according to the one-on-one elimination round at UMW. This rule resulted in a major injury last semester for 2008 alumnus Jason Istvan.
Krieg remembered how the injury took place: Istvan ran hurdling down the hill, flying over the table, tripping, and falling onto the concrete pavement. Istvan suffered a tear to his liver, in addition to severely spraining his wrist while trying to vault over the picnic table behind Bushnell Hall.
Overall, the injuries have been few in dodgeball, and for many of the players, it is well worth the risk.
“Dodgeball has greatly increased my social circle at UMW, which helps since I’m a commuter,” Krieg said. “You never know what kind of people are going to show up—what year, major, or personality. I became good friends with a lot of people that I would not have otherwise.”