"It is not necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: One is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia." - Frank Zappa
"Kate, it's time for you to put your mouth where our balls are."- Vince Vaughn as Peter LaFleur in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
On the corner of West Broadway and India streets in downtown San Diego, the Family YMCA is undergoing some serious renovations. The sizable stone building is shielded from the street by a wall of scaffolding, wooden planks and metal supports. Inside, makeshift walls of bare plywood greet parishioners as they make their way into the weight room to use some of the facility's various treadmills, free weights and other exercise-related accoutrements.
Just beyond the sign-in desk is a narrow doorway leading to a basketball court and an indoor track. Every Monday night for the past two months, the unmistakable sounds of shoes squeaking, balls bouncing and celebratory cheers have streamed through that door.
But the game going on inside has nothing do to with Michael Jordan or Larry Bird. It has to do with Vince Vaughan and Ben Stiller. The game was originally invented as a means to channel the excess energy of pre-pubescent schoolchildren, to tucker them out enough to sit still for math class.
Forget that boring ol' West Nile nonsense-this summer America has come down with a serious case of dodgeball fever.
Quickly becoming the country's favorite pseudo-sport (edging out kickball and speed dating), dodgeball is experiencing a renaissance among young adults. No longer confined to junior high school P.E. classes and fat kids' nightmares, dodgeball is all grown up.
And it's still fun as hell.
Vavi Sport and Social Club, a local ... um ... sport and social club, is the organization behind San Diego's growing dodgeball craze. Earlier this summer, founder Tyler Jensen and marketing director Latane Meade added dodgeball and kickball to their list of 12 sports leagues.
Surprisingly or not, the games sparked an immediate interest among Gen-Xers dying to dive headfirst into their past and throw some balls around.
"Dodgeball has been a hit," Meade unequivocally asserts. "Adults want to relive their elementary-school years and kickball and dodgeball allow that to happen. People dress up in costumes, and it's funny how competitive people get."
Each night, teams play two best-of-five matches. Two teams of eight (four girls, four guys) line up on either end of the court and two regulation dodgeballs (from the International Dodgeball Federation, of course) are placed at center court. When the whistle blows, it's kill or be killed.
The general rules of the game are Paris Hilton simple. If you get hit, you're out. If your ball is caught, you're out.
Games are seven minutes long, after which the team with the most players on the court wins (most games end with all the members of a team knocked out before time expires).
Dodgeball's inclusion in adult sports leagues and the excitement that surrounds the games has been sudden, if not mind-bogglingly immediate. Due in large part to the success of this summer's Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn chucklefest, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, leagues have sprung up like Strokes wannabes from coast to coast.
The Natural increased people's interest in baseball, but mostly as a spectator sport. The North Shore sent thousands into the beach break with their first surfboards. But when was the last time a Hollywood flick inspired the real-life renaissance of a children's game in which children aren't allowed to play?
Will dodgeball leagues go the way of Ricky Martin's career, red hot for a few months only to fade into oblivion?
"This is the question that we are asking ourselves," Meade says. "But to be honest, I think we will always have a dodgeball league and a kickball league. It will always give a fun way for adults to have fun after a hard day at work.
"[It] probably will slow down eventually, but that doesn't seem to be the case now. We sold out our first league, and so now we are creating a 16-team league that starts Aug. 19 in La Jolla. If the interest continues to be there, then we will just keep opening more and more of them."
So why now? Why are people who haven't played organized sports in 5 to 10 years driving downtown from all over the county to throw balls at each other?
Nostalgia, of course, is the obvious answer. Television shows like "I Love the '80s" have made a successful franchise out of reminding the American public of what used to be. The Manchurian Candidate, Alien Vs. Predator and Thunderbirds are currently enjoying moderate to major success at the box office. We as a country have been particularly adept at basing modern culture on the successes (and many times, the failures) of the entertainment, trends and ideas from our past.
The second primary appeal of dodgeball is that it's equal-opportunity by nature. Where more sporty endeavors take actual athletic ability, dodgeball players need only one good arm and the ability to not get hit by flying objects in order to have a successful day on the court.
"You don't have to be a great athlete to play these sports, so everyone can play," Meade says.
And then there's this fact: it's fun as hell to throw balls at other people.
"I think it has a combination," Meade says. "People want to relive great times and this allows that and it also allows traditional "non-athletes' to have a great time at a sport."
From the screams and cheers coming from the court, you'd think there were people breaking beer-chugging records. Players assume nicknames like "Pebbles" and "Mack Attack" on the backs of their jerseys while others are content to simply wear bandanas and sweatbands-playing up the irony of the game to the fullest extent.As world-renowned dodgeball coach Patches O'Houlihan once said, "Sometimes you gotta grab life by the haunches and hump it into submission."