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Dodging a ball proves to be a huge success
Bill Schwartz could be anybody. Hes a fun-loving guy with a passion for sports and a commitment to his community, pretty normal stuff.
But Schwartz takes his passion a step further. He heads up the Arlington Athletic Association and organizes all sorts of events around the area. His wide reach includes indoor football, soccer and ultimate frisbee. But his most radical idea yet was on display at the indoor soccer center on May 19.
Hundreds of people crowded into the arena to celebrate a new and rapidly growing sport in America. The sport of dodgeball, underpublicized until a recent Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller movie brought it out of the shadows, captured the hearts and imaginations of many Arlington residents young and old, male and female, of all ability levels.
The sport consists of six member teams, throwing a combination of different colored, different sized orbs at each other until one side is knocked out entirely. The rules are simple and easy to follow. If you get hit with a ball thrown by your opponent you are out. If you catch a ball thrown by your opponent, they are out and one of your previously removed teammates may rejoin the game. Teams compete in a rectangular playing field and are separated by a dividing middle line. Despite the relative simplicity of the rules, gameplay can get quite complex as plenty of strategy and athletic ability are involved.
Twenty-six teams featuring an assortment of wild and ridiculous costumes vied for top honors at the first ever Arlington dodgeball competition. A trophy the size of a fourth-grader was awarded to the winners, the LCDs, led by their captain Markkus Ellis.
The relaxed spirit of dodgeball makes it a hipster event, not quite in the spirit of a punk rock concert, but without the typical deathly seriousness of average sporting events. Dodgeball is a sort of self-parody that mocks competition in a competitive environment. It leaves room for all types of people to participate and emphasizes enjoyment over victory. Players still compete tooth and nail to win and throw merciless fastballs at each other, but a spirit of good humor exists.
Teams at the Arlington contest competed against each other regardless of age, gender or athletic ability. Consequently, some of the most enjoyable matches to watch pitted older, male, Harley Davidson riding crowd against 10 year old girls. Or the reverse when middle-aged women took on sixth-grade boys. Spectators lined the courts to cheer on the underdogs in each contest.
Players also competed for credit in the costume category. The Dirty Napkins showed up wearing a combination of pink and lime-green felt jerseys, cut in medieval patterns. They took home the prize for most amusing outfit. They werent alone as most groups came in with ridiculous uniforms, haltertops being the story of the day for the guys, bright yellow the overwhelming color of choice for the women.
Andrew DeFreese, an Arlington High School senior, wore a vintage Clyde Drexler basketball jersey, white sweatband, knee braces, mismatched socks and a trucker hat. DeFreese talked about the ensemble.
When I dressed this morning I knew I looked good. I walked in here like a rock star.
Bill Schwartz ran the whole event with the utmost aplomb. Nobody, not even Schwartz, foresaw the massive turnout from the community and the overwhelming logistics needed to make it all come together. Phil Bartlow, who recently purchased the center, saw good potential from the turnout.
This was a great way for people to come out and find out where our place is at. Were kind of hidden down at the end of the road here.
As the day went on, making everything run smoothly became difficult. Schwartz planned to feed and water the competitors with a small concessions stand outside the arena, but within 30 minutes, all the hotdogs had been scarfed up. Schwartz quickly went to Plan B, asking his wife to make another run to Haggens to pick up more foodstuffs.
The event itself, slotted to finish in three hours, went closer to four due to the overwhelming participation.
Schwartz and Bartlow did the best they could to make the event run smoothly. The initial goal of the dodgeball tournament was to raise money for the Arlington Athletic Association and also to bring in donations for the Arlington Food Bank. Schwartz certainly accomplished that as many bags of food were stuffed to the brim outside the playing field.
All of the helpers were working as volunteers, including the referees.
The refs did a great job, they took it kind of serious. We basically gave them the rule book and they read up on dodgeball. They even ejected a player when he threw a ball at one of them, then called the game a forfeit. I thought that was hilarious, said Schwartz.
Schwartz looks forward to doing it all again in the future and raising money for various local causes. If the initial turn-out is any indication, Arlington has a huge interest in the sport and it should remain popular for years to come.