Dodgeball, a time-honoured vehicle for school-sanctioned gym-class violence and retribution, took on a new, kinder meaning this past weekend as twenty local twenty- and thirtysomethings attempted to set the world record for the longest game of the sport ever played. They did it for charity.
The thirty-six-hour dodgeball marathon was orchestrated to raise money as part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s A Dare to Remember campaign, with the proceeds to go towards battling AIDS in Africa. Helder Brum, who organized the event, was inspired by a previous Dare to Remember—a twenty-four-hour standup marathon by Toronto comedian Pat Thornton that we thoroughly covered in November.
Dodgeball players in Albany, New York, attempted a thirty-one-hour game in March, for a world record. Brum said that attempt has not been recognized by Guinness World Records and there is therefore no current official record for longest dodgeball game. Even so, he decided to set the length of his challenge a few hours beyond that previous mark, to be safe.
“We just want to crush ’em,” he said. “We want them, when they read about it on the internet, to just think, ‘There’s no way.'”
The participants in Helder’s attempt were involved, to greater or lesser degrees, in Toronto’s competitive dodgeball scene, which, yes, exists.
“I was very pleased to find out a couple years ago as an adult that I can do that a couple times a week,” said Brum.
The game began on Friday night, in a dodgeball court carved out of a disused factory floor, near Bloor Street and Lansdowne Avenue. The twenty players, an almost even mix of women and men, began hurling balls at one another with gym-class velocity. A pair of video cameras behind the court’s plexiglass barrier were set to record the whole game, as evidence for Guinness.
Dodgeball players Jen Ritchie and Chris Gammage.
There would be five-minute breaks each hour, bankable so that they could be saved up for longer, more infrequent ones. Also, each team of ten would play in shifts of five, giving participants some needed downtime. Otherwise, the game would go non-stop.
The event was webcast. At midnight on Saturday, twenty-four hours into the attempt, dodgeballers’ grainy likenesses could be seen listlessly lobbing brightly coloured foam balls.
By Sunday morning they were back up to speed. At 10:40 (an extra forty minutes had been tacked on to the end of the challenge, because someone had forgotten to set the all-important video cameras to record at the very beginning), the players let up a cheer. The thirty-six-hour goal had been achieved, and the world record was secure, pending recognition by Guinness. More than four thousand dollars was raised for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
Brum, haggard and hoarse, and wearing calf-length blue tube socks with Superman logos on them, gave interviews to two television stations, and then began contemplating how he’d spend the remainder of the day.
“I’ll have to go home and shovel some snow,” he said. “Then I’ll probably sleep a bit.”
Lead composite photo and body photo by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.