Dodgeball. Just the very connection of those two otherwise innocent syllables is enough to send shivers down the spine of many who have grown up in the American education system. Dodgeball connects those of differing ethnic and economic backgrounds in a way that no official lesson plan ever could. You may not be able to remember even having to spell sphygmomanometer, but chances are you remeber every tortuous moment that you were forced to play dodgeball alongside those psychopaths who were handed a free pass in exercising their most sadistic desires with the full complicity of the school system.
Dodgeball has been a major plot element in kids’ shows like Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide and, of course, received the full-scale big-screen treatment in a Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller big budget movie. Most cinematic representations of dodgeball give in to the widespread view that dodgeball at its best is pure anarchy infused with life blown in the form of air pumped into the punishment balls. Organized dodgeball is a bit different, however; is chaos controlled really chaos anymore?
The official rules of dodgeball–and, yes, there are actually codified rules observed and enforced by an official governing body–state that dodgeball can be played with any number of players on each side. Competitive dodgeball of the kind that the Ben Stiller film took satiric aim at is played with six people on each team. The object of competitive dodgeball is essentially the same as that played in any number of schools on any given day. The ultimate goal is the annihilation of every member of the opposing team to the degree that they are sent to the sidelines. The free-for-all that ensues on school property becomes a timed game in its official competitive capacity. Therefore, in competitive dodgeball, it is possible to win without actually having gotten rid of every member of the opposition. The team with the most members left standing when time runs out is declared the winner. Dodgeball is played in a series matches and typically the winner is the team that wins the best of five.
You may remember from your school daze that you are out of the game when you are hit by a dodgeball thrown by a member of the opposing team. In order to provide the illusion of safety, this primary rule of dodgeball is only applied to those parts of the body below the shoulders. In other words, if you get hit in the head, you can still stay in the game. I mean, you know, if you are still lucid. If you should catch a ball tossed by Big Al Hodges, your middle school nemesis, then the tables are reverse and Big Al must leave the game. Of course, this rule of dodgeball applies only if the ball you have caught has not previously bounced off another player, the floor, the wall, ceiling or any other obstruction.
Timeouts? What are you some little Nancy from Our Sisters of Wussies school? Just as Mexican police don’t need no stinkin’ badges, dodgeball has no need for stinkin’ timeouts. Even in timed games-perhaps especially in timed competitive games-dodgeball is best enjoyed as a continuing line of balls being tossed back and forth. Chaos controlled, it turns out, is still chaos. The only control in competitive dodgeball is the introduction of the Five Second Violation Rule. This rule of dodgeball states that if any team remains in control of all balls for more than five seconds without throwing even just one of them, they shall be penalized. The first penalty results in the taking away of enough balls to create perfect symmetry of distribution between the two teams. The second penalty means a free shot taken by a member of the opposition. The third strike associated with the Five Second Violation Rule is ejection of a player.