A Universal Thing: Dodgeball

Soccer Ball, Kid, Play

I don’t know what made me think about it, but I couldn’t help but remember the game of dodgeball from my elementary school days. In elementary school, we used to play dodgeball during recess and sometimes during the afterschool program. I used to play this game often. Two kids stood on opposite ends of a playing area. Everyone else, whether it was 10 or 50 kids, would fill the space between the two players on opposite ends of the playing area. The two kids on the opposite ends would usually each have a ball and throw the balls into the mass of kids between them trying to hit them. If someone was hit with a ball, he was out of the game and had to stand on the sidelines. If an individual among the mass caught the ball, he could choose to bring someone else who was knocked out back into the game. If the last person in the middle could catch a ball, then he would be assured a spot as one of the throwers for the next game. This was dodgeball.

Years later in the eighth grade my family moved to a different city. We moved to a city that was basically just the next city over, though in a different county and different in many ways. I remember hearing that during one of our P.E. (physical education) classes we were going to play dodgeball. I was ready. On the day of the game though I was surprised by what I saw.

Several balls were placed in the middle of the gym. Then the class was separated into two different teams, and we were placed on opposite sides of the gym. The coach blew the whistle and the two opposing teams ran to the center of the court to be the first to grab the balls and throw them at the opposing team. If you were hit, you were out of the game. If someone on your team caught a ball thrown by an opposing team member, then you could be brought back into the game. This was a somewhat different version of the game than I was used to. I had never seen or heard of it before. I enjoyed the game, but I couldn’t help but notice that no one else at any point expressed the same sense of confusion that I had.

When I talked to other people about the version of dodgeball that I was accustomed to, people looked at me like as if I was crazy. My dodgeball was the normal kind and this one was a new version. No, not to them. This version of the game was the regular one and they had never even heard of the kind that I described. How could there be such a big discrepancy between something that was so basic to our childhoods? What other things had I experienced or learned that I thought were universal that others had not? To this day, I’m still fascinated and frankly sometimes angered, depending on what it is, when I learn that someone does not know something that I had learned years ago or when someone learned something at a much later age than when I did.

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