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    Dodgeball: Calm Amidst Chaos

    By John Chen–

    Remember once upon a time in a hot gym when your heart pounded, your sweat trickled, your pupils dilated, your eyes focused and your body twitched? At that moment, time seemed to have slowed to a crawl, and then suddenly sped up beyond your recognition and capacity. You grabbed the rough, but soft, big pink ball and squeezed it, massaged it, and cupped it with your sensitive fingers and sweaty palm. You systematically singled out your victims. You assumed the dominant position and quickly and forcefully penetrated their defense, no matter the pain. They were at your mercy, but you spared none. There was no escape. You went for the kill!

    That once upon a time in a hot gym was me at ten years old. I was brash, and the unquestioned leader of my dodgeball team. I perfected The Matrix moves before the movie was even conceived. My body twisted, contorted, retracted and bended in ways Neo never could. My teams strategically created controlled chaos, severed our opponents’ leadership, and then picked off our scattered prey, one by one!

    Does this sound familiar? Of course not! No fifth-grade dodgeball team would have the patience, the guile and understanding of the art of war. What really happened was that a whole bunch of kids were wildly throwing balls at one another and were dodging whatever came their way. All the while we were giggling, laughing, screaming and having fun! There was one caveat: Some kids threw the ball much harder than the others, making the game a tad more scintillating and scary.

    Fast forward to the present and my friend Jackie Cruz, who is a true dodgeball enthusiast and has made this unique sport a huge part of her life. She is the inaugural San Francisco Varsity Gay League (SFVGL) Dodgeball League Manager charged with teaching and laying the foundation for her sport in our great city. Recently, the SFVGL Dodgeball League completed its first season with great success, thanks to Jackie and her fellow league manager, Kevin Jones. Now, only in its second season, VGL dodgeball has nearly 150 players and eight teams!

    Teammates Chris Biondi, Keith Hak and Ryan Wilson form a hot trio, or a trio of hot mess (I lost my notes, so I will include both), according to Keith. This hot trio of mess has a great time doing the “Matrix” and pummeling their opposition with rapid fire. While Chris illustrates the exhilaration of getting hit by a big bouncy ball in the crossfire, Ryan prides himself on a sense of accomplishment when beaming his opponents in a calculated move. Meanwhile, Keith just wants everyone to get along after he hits them with his balls of death.

    “It’s such an adrenaline rush hitting someone, but sometimes I prefer to get hit—wink, wink, hint, hint,” Keith excitedly told me, but in a coy and demure way.

    SFVGL Dodgeball League plays nearly year-round and on Monday evenings at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center in the Castro. Jackie said the staff at the recreation center was instrumental in helping the league get off the ground and reaching almost instant popularity. Dodgeball is about bringing a community together to do something collectively physical and fun. Keith loves how all of the teams have players of different shapes, sizes, ages, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identifications.

    He says, “Dodgeball is a place where we can come and forget about the outside world and just focus on hitting anyone in my path!”

    From my memories of childhood dodgeball, the game is about staying calm amidst chaos, a great lesson for any young or older dodgeball grasshopper. Before I end this article, I’d like to impart this wisdom onto you, the reader, who is so mesmerized by my words and now must sign up to play dodgeball. Simply open your browser on your smart phone or PC and type:

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.