The Object of the Game

In the Detroit public schools I attended during the sixties, gym teachers had a sadistic little game that they liked to watch boys play. The game was called Dodgeball. You might remember it.

The teacher would divide the class into two groups on either side of the room, and each group would take a turn throwing an inflated rubber ball at the other. The object of the game, of course, was to hit someone with the ball, preferably with pain, and the one who was hit was out of the game. Each team generally consisted of a few mutant jocks who could throw the ball like it was shot from a cannon, and everyone else. “Everyone else,” of course, was the preferred target while it lasted. Guess which group I was in.

What this game was supposed to teach us, I never did understand. I suppose the lesson was that if you’re bigger and stronger, you win. But I already knew that.

At first I dealt with the game the way all the other smaller, weaker boys did: The object of the game, for us, was to get hit in some painless way early so you can sit out the rest of the sadism. But that solution did not satisfy me. I like to win.

So I found a loophole.

The game of Dodgeball had a seldom-invoked rule – At least it was seldom invoked in Detroit: If you caught the ball, the one who threw it was out of the game. I wasn’t particularly athletic, but the ball was large and they were after all throwing it right at me. Catching it turned out to be easy, once I overcame the instinct to dodge it. And so the bigger boys, the ones with the savage smiles and the mutant arms, eventually learned that if they wanted to keep playing their sadistic game they’d better not throw the damned ball at me. And that was all I wanted from them: Around me, the only way to win was not to play.

Once in a great while I’d be one of the last two standing. The other one, of course, would be the biggest surviving mutant on the other side. And then I would do the cruelest thing I could think to do. No, I didn’t catch the ball. He expected me to catch the ball, he expected to lose. The gym teacher expected it as well, and he was my real target. I didn’t care about the boy; he was just another jock.

I would wait until he threw the ball at my chest, avoiding it if he went for my legs and waiting for the chance. This could often go on for some time, because he knew by then that to throw it at my chest or head was to lose. He’d throw it at my legs, I’d dodge out of the way and either let the ball bounce back to his side or lob it off to one side so he had to scramble to retrieve it. I couldn’t throw the ball hard enough to have any hope of actually hitting him, so I didn’t try.

Finally he’d get frustrated and throw one high. I would line myself up with the ball as if to catch it. And then I would sidestep it, reach out my hand and let it brush my fingers as it passed, then walk off the boards. Enjoy your victory, asshole.

This used to annoy the hell out of the teacher. And that was the object of the game. ;^)

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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2 Responses to The Object of the Game

  1. Anonymous says:

    Holy God in Heaven I love that game!

    My cousins are almost 30 and still play it. The game currently involves a tennis court and beer these days

    I’m 42 and if there is a local game to be found I am all in.

    Cory

  2. TJIC says:

    > This used to annoy the hell out of the teacher. And that was the object of the game. ;^)

    Utterly awesome!

To the stake with the heretic!