Once upon a time, we would hear the word “dodgeball” and be swept back to a simpler time, when colours were flourescent, New Kids on the Block were popular and dodgeball was little more than an excuse to work up an adolescent sweat. It certainly wasn’t a sport. Redass was a sport; dodgeball was really just a way of scoring easy marks in gym class.
Then in 2004, the Ben Stiller movie Dodgeball came out, and someone at the Toronto Central Sport & Social Club had a brilliant idea. The TCSSC, which had been organizing intramural leagues across the GTA since the mid-90s, saw the movie’s popularity and said, “Hey, we should get in on that!” Thus, their first-ever dodgeball league was born. The goal was to get six teams; they ended up with twenty-four. Three years later they’ve got 110, which works out to about 1,100 participants; an astonishing figure for a sport that the TCSSC originally envisioned as a kind of joke.
And if its popularity mystifies you…well, then you’ve clearly never given competitive dodgeball a try. We certainly didn’t know what we were getting into when we signed up for the original league back in 2004; all we know is that we were intrigued enough to drop a graduate seminar course in order to make it happen. We quickly discovered that dodgeball, as played by twentysomethings, is a full-blooded sport. The sweat poured. Muscles got strained; we had teammates break fingers. Emotions became frayed, especially since the games were self-officiated. We even witnessed an actual fistfights between competitors. Dodgeball was an awesome workout—especially when we were playing on sand (the TCSSC’s annual Canadian Beach Dodgeball Championship has been so successful that it’s being exported to Ottawa and Calgary this year). And if it all sounds a bit dramatic, that’s because it is. This is not your childhood’s dodgeball.
In the end, however, the game’s original spirit remains intact. The pace might be quicker, the cussing more audible, and the balls travelling a lot faster—but otherwise, it’s refreshingly similar to the game we played back in the day. If you’re curious, a new season is just around the corner. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more fun indoors this winter.
Photo by Jeff Pine