Tuesday, December 11, 2012

We Called It Battleball

"If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." -Patches O'Houlihan. 

The best part of the Dover Area High School week was the Activities Period on Tuesdays.  If you were one of the lucky ones, you were chosen by the gods to be in the Intramural Sports Activity group.  Those selected were divided up into 4 teams by the 4 alpha males of the whole group.  But those picked last by the captains were every bit as valuable as the first.

Those of us with Letters in Varsity Sports (mine in Junior High Basketball!) were delegated to be the referees for every sport that was played.  We were treated with uncanny deference by the hordes, to the point of being called "Sir".  Arguments were spirited but always respectful, and our rule was adhered to completely once a decision was made.  This made for some great times.

The sports ranged from floor hockey (great!) to volleyball (boring) to Battleball, our version of Dodgeball, which is probably the greatest sport ever invented.  I think it's origins go back to Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle and was used to pick the one to throw off the ship when rations were low.  I may be wrong about that fact, but Battleball certainly is a Darwinian Exercise.

 "Remember, Dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion and degradation."
-Patches O'Houlihan.

The rules were very similar to what's on the movie Dodgeball, but there were a few changes.  When catching a ball, the thrower was out, but a teammate didn't get to come back in.  No 2 for 1 exchange for a catch.  There also was a neutral zone where both teams were permitted, populated with the little fast guys trying to sweep stray balls back into their end.  These were valued members of the team and were protected like no others. They called those guarding the Sweepers, Snipers.

At the beginning of the year, everyone had to pay an initiation fee when the gym teacher wasn't present (was it illegal or something?) to be used at the end of the year for t-shirts for the overall winners.  These shirts were highly prized and worn often enough to be ragged by the end of the current year before the new winner was determined.  As a referee, I never got one, but I did get a great whistle for official duties.  Sometimes expenses would rise when we would break a gymnasium door's window, and everyone would have to pony up more dough to get it fixed.  Everyone would claim to have been the one to do it, as punishment of the 100's of kids was not feasible to the Administration.  All for one, one for all. We actually had a standing order for the glass with the wire inside, so it could be replaced quickly.

The games were epic, and competition was so keen that kids would cry in the stands when things weren't going their way.  But I never remember any cheating, and even the "wimps" among them were treated to protection and respect around the school because they belonged to the group.


  1. They took dodgeball out of Rochester area schools in the fall of 2000. Reasoning was it was too much competition that unfairly favored the strong and athletic, but isn't that the point?

  2. At Dover High, Darwinian Selection was never taught. And yet it's main mechanism was on display on our gym floor. There were even mutations among us. This wasn't lost on this blogger.


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