Hey! You’re out: Dodgeball lives in Breckenridge
BRECKENRIDGE – Russ Paul Rahn, a 55-year-old ex-rugby player, has a theory about dodgeball.
“The ones that come out here and play are the ones who had the talent in elementary school,” said Rahn before playing in the Breckenridge Recreation Department adult dodgeball game Wednesday.
“You won’t see the kids out here who got picked on.”
He may have a point. One step inside the rec center’s gym is one step inside a gauntlet of foam missiles. The six-on-six style sport allows players to gun each other down and, for those watching, a chance to “ooh” and “aah” as some take it in the face.
“My arm’s tired,” said B.J. “Hot Sauce” Bertoline, whose team beat Rahn’s squad handily. “I haven’t played since grade school.”
As Rahn watches his team, “The Boreal Toads,” go down in defeat again, he musters a laugh. He remembers the days on the south side of Chicago.
Those were the days when his gym teacher used old-school rubber balls that left welts and black eyes on the beaten, while leaving the bullies hoping for a sudden creation of a professional league.
“My gym teacher was the first guy I ever met named “Adolph,'” Rahn said. “We had another game with towels that you’d smash each other with. It was sadistic, but we loved it.”
While grade school might be the inspiration, the sport has evolved. You can’t get hit in the face but, if you’re hit anywhere else, you’re headed to the sideline.
“The way I interpret it is,” Rahn said, “is that you should block with your head.”
More rules exist: If you catch the ball in midair, the thrower has to take a seat. Players are allowed to block throws with a ball they’re holding, but they must hold on. As the games progress (the average contest lasts about 10 minutes), one side usually is left with all its players, while the other is left with one scared fly.
“Obi-Wan, you’re our only hope,” yelled one teammate.
As everyone noted, dodgeball in Summit County is more about reliving ancient memories than being competitive.
But anyone who’s lived in this county long enough knows that’s a lie.
Example No. 1 is Chris Kleban, who helped his team rally by gunning down five opponents in a row.
And when Ryan Thiers of Blue River connects, the impact sounds like a bass drum.
“I haven’t done this since I was 8,” Thiers joked. “Sometimes, I sit on the ball and flatten it. Then I can throw it like a Frisbee. It flies then.”
Then, after admitting his strategy, he worried if his secrets might help the opposition.
About 20 people showed up to play Wednesday, almost double the number who showed up the week before.
Diane McBride, who has organized the league, said she’s planning another league after the New Year. Games are limited to 15 minutes and the winner takes two-of-three. Team fees are $60.
Ryan Slabaugh can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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