- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Goodbye, dodge ball.
It was fun while it lasted.
It was good, clean fun, too, except for the occasional bloody nose. It was kill or be killed by the red rubber ball, almost Darwinian.
But now, in the land of the ultra-sensitive, in school districts from sea to shining sea, dodge ball is going the way of the dodo bird, the victim of enlightened educators who feel each welt.
The forces of touchy-feeliness are hard at work, spreading their New Age gospel, pointing to the traumatizing properties of the game.
You didn't know. Now you do.
Charley don't surf, and young Americans no longer are permitted to play dodge ball.
Dodge ball, it seems, is the game that destroys young bodies and scars impressionable minds. It is a violent anachronism of a backward time, the baggage too much to bear in 2002.
Dodge ball also is the last refuge of the mentally inert, the gym teacher who majored in partying in college and resorts to the red rubber balls out of professional limitations.
Duck. Incoming.
The horror, the horror.
Col. Kurtz might as well have been discussing the ravages of dodge ball, the game that exposed the nerds, the four-eyes and the future members of PETA in grade school.
There goes the ball. Here comes the thwack.
Rubbing the spot helps.
The recovery apparently lasts a lifetime, if the squishy-minded have it right. If so, this begs a question, which is: How did we manage to get here, all of us, as victims of the red rubber ball?
This must be one of those dream-therapy things. Some eventually remember being molested. Others eventually remember the terror of the approaching red rubber ball.
Blame it on the class fat guy. They always do. It is always the fault of the class fat guy, whatever it is, and especially when he has the red rubber ball in his hands, a strong arm and a can-do spirit.
His name is unimportant. He is just the class fat guy who grows up to be a fatter guy. He is the fat guy who sits next to you on each flight, no matter the destination, always there, always available, his watch and schedule synchronized with yours.
Back in the day, the fat guy, the ubiquitous fat guy, came alive in dodge ball. There, on the asphalt playground, he moved like a cat and threw like a big-league pitching prospect. If ever there was a game for the class fat guy, besides football, it was dodge ball.
His self-esteem undoubtedly is taking a hit. Dodge ball was his domain. Is the class fat guy destined not to have an outlet to show his excellence, his reason for being? Is his self-esteem not as important as those who go into the fetal position around the red rubber ball? What about the class fat guy? Yes, what about him?
Alas, more and more educators see a greater good. They see the red rubber ball speeding toward the chorus of squeals, in all its frightening fury, promising to perform untold damage on the innocent. They are trying to spare the next generation of schoolchildren years of expensive therapy and potential crippling injuries.
We have not come here to quibble with these self-evident truths. We have come here to mourn the passing of an American institution.
Its power was undeniable. Its place on the American psyche was indelible. It was raw. It was primitive. It was the way of the world, the first lesson.
In a different time, dodge ball might have been the subject of a documentary by Ken Burns, no doubt a victim of the game himself, if ever there was one.
Instead, dodge ball is dying a slow, ignoble death, hardly befitting its previously iconic status of the schoolyard.
It was the game of the masses, boys and girls alike. No special skill or understanding was necessary.
Now the red rubber ball has tubes sticking out of it, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian has taken up the vigil.
Poor dodge ball. You were all right. You were a friend, despite the stinging sensation. Here's to you one last time. Rest in peace.


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