Not Just For Kids Anymore: Los Angeles Dodgeball Society Revives Schoolyard Classic
The day was still and bore the faded yellow tint of a dreamy Los Angeles summer. It was the kind of weather where sitting on a porch drinking Kool-Aid would suffice as productive. Sweat came regardless of movement. All types of people lackadaisically plopped along the lawn and the benches. Stereos held together with tape, bearing the marks of years seen were crudely blasting all the hip-hop radio stations. Shirtless and shoeless children chased after each only until their new target, the ice cream cart, arrived. Even the basketball players moved haphazardly.
It was a chilled scene in a scorching setting. The most trite cliché of Los Angeles. This was the scene at the Hollywood Recreation Center.
Soon enough something wild broke the status quo. Closer and closer to the indoor courts, the sounds of heart-wrenching screams partnered with obscenities became the lifeline of the neighborhood. Stepping inside the nearly misty arena, it was not hard to be shell-shocked by the constant and extreme action of nearly 20 people dashing and dotting through the invisible aisles of pain zipping around them. The crowds on the sidelines took breaks between gasping for air to yell and shout in favor of their teams. The particularly good plays would warrant a group jump-up. The glass of the building rattled as they all came crashing back down to Earth, and sat once more at the bench, waiting nervously for the next pulse pounding play.
No, the Lakers weren't practicing in a Hollywood recreation center. This is the Los Angeles Dodgeball Society.
The six-year-old organization that is growing faster than swine flu plays in four different courts around Los Angeles and boasts over two hundred participants. It is a fun approach to the sport that was once the bane of gym class.
The Eighties-based games feature a stereo blasting an abstract of music. From the Wu-Tang Clan to The Cure, even ABBA was an essential to playlist. Players shuffled from side to side, some in full kneepads and running shoes, some in corduroy pants and dress shoes. Headbands, mustaches and indie shirts were definitely not lacking in attendance either. It was clear from the start that this is more then a sport, it's an underground movement of like-minded individuals who have finally found their sport niche.
For the full tank of gas price of fifty dollars, a player gets a full season of play, or nine weeks. Following the regular season, there are playoffs, and finally, like with all sports, a championship game.
There are two types of leagues for players to choose from, Stay Puft leagues, and Bronson leagues. The former is the more popular of the two leagues, it uses a much softer ball, and play is generally slower. "The Puft Leagues are for social people who just wanna date of whatever," said Justin Hill, a Bronson player, and LADS veteran.
The Puft leagues are much more common though, with branches in four LA locations. In Hollywood there is the aforementioned Hollywood Recreation Center. The West Hollywood location is the Poinsettia Recreation Center, located conveniently off Santa Monica Boulevard. The Westwood location plays at the Stoner Avenue Recreation Center. Finally the Silverlake league plays at the Bellevue recreation center.
The Silverlake Puft team, the Fun Active Gentlemen Society, were the 2008 Winter season champions. The Bronson league exclusively plays at the Hollywood Recreation Center, using much harder balls and playing a much more competitive, respectable form of dodgeball.
Regardless of the type of play choice, fun is unstoppable once you step upon the court. There is a very large emphasis on the honor system, as it's nearly impossible for a referee to keep up with every play going on. The game is played much the same way it was played back in elementary school, except this time there are no bullies aiming towards heads or delivering malicious blows with balls.
It's clear to see that this association goes past the marquee floors, and is a group of friends. Timmy Gee, a player from Redondo Beach sets the tone with this enthusiastic statement. "The only part of me that's sore is my smile. I couldn't stop for an hour and a half. I had so much fun!"
Screams of curse words, and crude gestures were signs of friendship and the ultimate compliment to give to another player, and were welcomed with a foul retort right back and a high-five between the two players. Bob Marley on the stereo wasn't the only one preaching love, as everyone hugged and chatted it up after the game.
The players become so close that they also meet outside the gym for parties and other various get-togethers which range from Eighties theme nights, to drunken spelling bees. According to Ben Gee, the Memorial Day party was "out of control!"
With the numerous leagues, pages on every social website you could think of, and an organized system of play it's hard to imagine how any of the head honchos have time to breathe, let alone play.
However, this isn't the case as Michael Costanza, one of the founders of the organization, and candidate for "mustache of the year," makes his way on and off the court with ease. Battling it out from his heart. Costanza had this to say of his pet-project turned legitimate association:
"We were underground, then the movie came out, and then we blew up. We're trying to keep up with all of it. This past week we've been trying to get insurance for the players, and eventually go national with it."
Whether you're a 5-foot 1-inch geek, or a 6-foot 4-inch hipster with a pitcher's arm, this sports for you. It's only gonna grow from here on out, so hop on the bandwagon before you're supposed to! The website for the Los Angeles Dodgeball Society is www.Dodgeball4ever.com