Friday, July 13, 2012
I saw the movie Dodgeball back in 2004 when it first appeared. In subsequent years, I watched it again (and again) on cable, so many times, in fact, that when Joyce would hear the soundtrack--and hear me laughing in bed for the dozenth time (or so) at the same stupid lines and situations--she would delay her arrival in the bedroom until I'd ... matured--i.e., stopped laughing, turned it off, picked up a book ...
I'm from the generation who played dodgeball in junior high and high school gym classes. Later, a teacher myself, I understood the pleasure our teachers must have taken in that activity. It had all the virtues a pedagogue would look for: (1) it required a simple lesson plan ("Play dodgeball"); (2) it required minimum equipment ("some red playground balls"); (3) the teacher had to do virtually nothing ("blow whistle to start and end games; sit in bleachers and watch"); (4) the students would hurt one another--a vicarious thrill, perhaps, for the teacher, but it was "all part of the game" (remember those kids in classes after gym? the kids with "dodgeball face"--the bright red, somewhat circular area caused by the collision of the red playground ball and the human facial skin?).
In these litigious times I don't suppose much dodgeball goes on in school any longer ... but I'm not certain. But I think the last school activity actually designed for students to hurt one another is football. We give football a "pass" for the most part because we love it. But I've often wondered what would happen to the drama program, say, if as many kids got hurt at practice? Or if the play directors talked to students they way coaches sometimes do? Never mind.
When we played, there was something very primitive and Darwinian about the game--ganging up on the most defenseless kids and blasting them first, preferably in the face (or groin), before moving on to the more worthy opponents--i.e., kids capable of hitting us in the face (or groin). Of course, one of dodgeball's greatest moments was when some kid got nailed in face and groin simultaneously. Sweet! And those are the moments of greatest hilarity in the movie Dodgeball, too.
A month or so ago, I wrote here about "What if?" moments--those moments in your life when something might have happened, if only ... I wrote about a young woman I met on a Greyhound bus nearly fifty years ago. How we got along so well. How we immediately liked each other. How I got off the bus at my scheduled stop, saw her wave from the window, then never saw her again.
A FB friend who'd read that piece wrote me a note about what she called "dodgeball moments"--those times you dodged one of life's red playground balls, perhaps skillfully and wisely, perhaps luckily. And she's right: We've all had those experiences, too. The road not taken--but with a difference: instead of a wistful sigh, a Thank God! Dates turned down; IM's not sent (or replied to); "friendings" not accepted; words not spoken to colleagues, employers, friends, family; deeds not done--but nearly done, oh, so nearly done. Jobs not taken. Those experiences you look back on, later, and think: What if I had done that?! Those times you stand there where the roads diverge; you take a step down one, and the moment you do so, you hear the whistle of a passing dodgeball just missing your face.
Sometimes, of course, you are the red playground ball that someone else dodges, and as you sail by, you hear their sigh of relief ...
But let's not dwell on that ...