November 16, 2007

Dodgeball WAR at Max P.

There’s something about going back to our youth once we reach the long-sought-after independence of college. Cereal provides a solid dinner, afternoon naps are key to survival, and a good ol’ game of dodgeball is one way to while away the afternoon.

What began as an O-Week activity quickly turned into a Wednesday night tradition for three Max Palevsky houses. While the pick-up games provide an alternative to the more structured IM dodgeball league, the players take each competition just as seriously. The names of Wallace, Alper, and Rickert don’t spell W.A.R. for nothing.

“Don’t let the pressure get to you, because you definitely get caught up in the game,” second-year Maranda Blount said. “It’s like a battle out there.”

Walter Adams, the third-year R.A. for Wallace House, first revived the classic playground sport for his residents as a way to break the ice. About 20 students showed up at the tennis courts outside the Reg to pelt each other with the rubber balls Adams purchased at Target over summer.

The game caught on, and Adams contacted the R.A.s from Alper and Rickert to invite them to a competition. While Wallace stands alone when it steps onto the court, Alper and Rickert houses merged together to form team “Ripper.”

“Our team always talks smack, like they think they can do it better on their own,” said Kat Benesh, R.A. for Alper House. “But deep down, they know they need Rickert.”

“We like to think it’s because Wallace has so much house spirit,” Adams said of his house’s ability to field its own squad.

Not only is Adams his team’s co-captain but he’s also called on to arbitrate referee decisions when there’s a disagreement on the courts.

“It’s hard to rule against your team,’ Adams said. “It’s been worse before, like when we had four people left, and I had to call three out. I was like, ‘Jeez, you guys are killing me.’ But that way, the other team respects you.”

Players who make their way to the “underground” matches are in store for dodgeball in its purest form. W.A.R. games don’t feature the cushy balls of the IM league or restrict the number of players on each side to six. Anyone who shows up (or gets guilt tripped by his R.A. to come) has a spot, and harder balls make for a much faster-paced game.

“The IM people are the people who are seriously competitive, and these are the people who are fun competitive,” said first-year Karen Alper, a Wallace resident.

And if there’s one game that brings out the competitive streak in people, it’s dodgeball, where trash talk is as much a part of the game as the strong throws needed to nail opponents.

One Wallace player, left standing alone as his team’s last hope, didn’t seem to be fazed by the other team’s advantage in players and the number of balls that would soon be simultaneously hurled at him.

“C’mon, you guys have six [players] and you’re still afraid of me!” he said.

A meager attempt to hit him with the ball was met with, “You call that a throw?”

First-year Michael Hendrix is one Alper player who is so dedicated to his team that a dislocated finger incurred during a dodgeball game put him on the DL for a six-week hiatus. A keystone for Alper, he recently returned to action in Wednesday night’s showdown. But even if players lack the technical skills exhibited by players like Hendrix, they’re still welcome on the courts for the W.A.R. games.

“It appeals to everyone,” Adams said. “You don’t have to be the best to play dodgeball. Even if you’re not the best, you can dodge from the back.”

Correction appended: This article contained a misspelling. First-year Michael Hendrix dislocated his finger in a

dodgeball game. He also lives in Alper House, not Wallace House.