Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge: CF teens create undergound dodgeball movement

By Cyrus Moussavi 2005

When one is suddenly confronted with 30+ kids viciously attacking each other in the confines of a 10-foot-high fence topped with floodlight in the dead of the night, the natural human reaction is to run, and perhps later when it all sets in, to cry. With knives and bats, this event would be gang warfare. With sophomores and plastic balls, it is Underground Dodgeball.

Indeed, since the beginning of this summer, gruesome sights such as the one mentioned above have scared unsuspecting citizens many nights a week in Cedar Falls. Kids at Cedar Falls High School have been swept up in the dodgeball storm that for some reason or another is engulfing this fine country. The rules are much like those of the PE dodgeball games of yore: hit peoople on the other team with plastic balls before they hit you, except that at the end, you don’t have to take a shower with everyone. But there is another significant difference in the fact that these midnight ghames reflect 17 or so years of middle-class fury and are played with a passion that no PE teacher could incite.

The stories detailing underground dedgeball’s arrival in Cedar Falls are murky and contradictory at best. Some say the brutal game came with a band from Omaha. Some say Wisconsin, and kids in Minneapolis have challenged Cedar Falls to a match, claiming to be the originators of the “dodgeball trend.” Everyone, however, agrees that once the sport arrived, the first games were started by residents of Cedar Falls’ F.S.U. House, the premier underground music venue in town. Senior Brian Bottke, a veteran dodgeball player, recalls the games’ humble beginnings. “The first game was probably seven on seven. It was all just people at a show at the FSU house, and we only had four or five balls. It was just a good time; now it’s gotten out of control.”

Out of control is an understatement. A few weeks ago, over 80 people came to play dodgeball, and the games regularly draw 30 to 40 athletes and audience members. These may not seem like such big numbers, but when you consider the fact that all of these kids are flipping out and throwing plastic balls at high velocity, things quickly become terrifying.

This I know from experience. I went to witness the dodgeball phenomena on a Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. Upon arriving at the super-secret dodgeball facility (the location of which will remain undisclosed at the request of those involved), I was amazed to see senior Brett Maddux single handedly take on four players from the opposing team. After some incredibly agile maneuvers usually reserved for ninjas or 14-year-old gymnasts, Maddux reigned victorious. During a post-match interview, Maddux explained his formidable technique: “My mentality is, those guys over there (pointing to the other team), they suck, they’re no good. So I try to get them all out. I don’t try to catch because that’s not my game; I just try to get them.” A viable strategy indeed, but Brett is not the only Maddux with astonishing dodgeball powers. Sophomore Britany Maddux, Brett’s sister and one of the only girls in the game, has what senior Sean Chien describes as “an amazing catch game.” To watch the Maddux siblings destroy other kids side-by-side is a beautiful thing. “It’s a great time to spend with my brother and hurt people on the other team,” Britany said, showing that despite the disgusting violence, underground dodgeball serves as a touching way to bring families together.

While underground dodgeball has its share of precious moments, there is a fair amount of carnage involved as well. The snap of well-inflated plastic on flesh is not an appealing noise, and the screams that usually come with such a sound only serve to further dampen the aura. I personally never got hit during my brief and inconsequential involvement in the game, although it was only because I used my status as a practicing doctor of journalism as a legitimate way to get out of the games when they got too hairy.

Of course, not everyone has this luxury, and, and 2004 graduate Tim Dodd showed, it’s all too easy to get too pumped and let off your guard.

As I helped Dodd off the ground, he explained his upsetting situation, “I got a ‘double ball entendre,’ Dodd said from his upright fetal position. “I can feel it in my stomach and my spinal cord, and maybe in my kidney.” While obviously still in a great deal of pain, Dodd feverishly jumped in to the next game only to face another “entendre” within second, which put him on injured reserve for the rest of the night. But Dodd’s masochistic ways are explained with beautiful simplicity. “When you’re out there throwing heaters, putting the sauce on it, and you see the other kid’s face when you’re giving him a double ball entendre, it’s all worth it. But right now, I’m feeling it,” Dodd said. While Dodd’s injuries will heal themselves within a few fours, other injured dodgeball fans have not been as lucky. Members of the injured reserve include junior Karl Renfro, whose thumb was broken so gruesomely that it required surgery to repair. “My mom as pretty shocked,” Renfro said. “No one ever breaks their thumb playing dodgeball.”

While Renfro has laid off the sport for a while, the allure of dodgeball is just too much for some of the seriously injured. Senior Dane Jensen, whose wrist was fractured by a ball from his good friend Brett Maddux, still plays as much as possible, even with his splint on. Regarding why he puts the future of his limbic mobility at such risk, Jensen simply said, “Dodgeball is insane.” His attacker shows little remorse for the consequences of his overly aggressive playing style. “I just put a little hot sauce on the ball, and you can’t catch that. It breaks you … it breaks you,” Maddux said of the fatal throw.

For many people, it is tough to imagine the allure of getting hit very hard with a ball. I found myself wondering the same thing as I approached Chien, who was leaning against a wall with what looked to be an expression of much pain. “I got hit by (junior) David Woods. You’d think, David Woods, scrawny kid, not that much of a game, but he curved the ball from the other side of the court and almost hit me in one of my vulnerable areas,” Chien said. “Yeah, being buff doesn’t necessarily make you good.” Suddenly, I began to piece together what makes this brutal spot worthwhile for so many kids. David Woods and the story of Maddux, who could not be considered an outstanding athlete by any traditional sense of the word, exemplify the reason underground dodgeball has become so popular with masses of CFHS students. When you’re playing because you want to and no one is grading or watching over you, you can excel at any sport in time. When taken out of the context of school, even a game that would seem stupid becomes important because you can get good at it. Other than that, legally beating the crap out of other kids with plastic balls is just plain fun. errr, almost legally. The police have shown up at underground dodgeball games before, but they have not tried to stop them for good yet. Maddux said, “The police hate dodgeball, but they can’t keep us down.” And perhaps they don’t want to keep the dodgeball kids down. As Hoef, a UNI student and resident of the F.S.U. house, said of the trend he and his griends started months ago, “It’s good, kids are having fun without causing trouble or doing drugs or anything else time consuming, like studying.”

As the hard winter months loom ahead, I thought this large group of highschoolers would temporarily lose its extreme extracurricular activity. But if I learned one thing, it’s to never underestimate the unfathomable drawing power of underground dodgeball.

Q: What’s going to happen when it starts to snow?

Bottke: “Well, that’s going to be one sick game of dodgeball.”

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