OK, so NBC won’t be covering the Rotary-sponsored dodgeball tournament this Saturday at the Park District’s soccer field in addition to covering the Olympics in Rio, but there could be just as much excitement, and front-row seats will be available to fans at no cost.
Imagine the soccer field divided up into four dodgeball fields with eight teams trying to bombard the opposition all at the same time. Mark Hosty, one of the organizers of the event for the Forest Park Rotary Club, said he had to buy balls in four different colors, so when they stray onto other fields, the teams will know which field to return them to.
The excitement begins with the opening whistle, or what’s called the “opening rush.” The six balls used in the game are placed in the neutral zone which is like the space between the blue lines in a hockey rink. When the person officiating the game gives the signal, the six players on each team can run from behind their end line to get the balls, which makes them quite vulnerable. The player who retrieves a ball must retreat behind the blue or “attack” line before throwing it at an opposing player.
As you may remember from gym class, the way you get an opposing player out is to either hit them below the neck with a thrown ball or to catch on the fly a ball thrown by an opposing player. Hitting an opposing player in the head automatically puts the thrower out of the game.
Twenty-four teams had registered as of this week. Represented on game day will be teams from the Forest Park Little League, Forest Park Soccer, McGaffer’s, Doc Ryan’s, Brown Cow and the Boy Scouts among others. Asked if he thought young men from the Boy Scouts could compete with adult players on other teams, Hosty responded, “When is the last time you played dodgeball? They might be the best team out there.”
Hosty added that winning is secondary to raising money for charity. He explained that after expenses, every remaining penny will go to charitable causes. He also noted that the event is meant to be fun. There will be awards for best costumes and best cheering section.
The Forest Park Rotary Club has been in the village for just two years. Organized by Hosty and Tom Mannix, it is categorized as a satellite of the Oak Park Rotary Club until it grows from its present 13 members to a total of 20.
Dodgeball has made something of a comeback in recent years. The National Amateur Dodgeball Association official rules will be followed at the tournament on Saturday. In addition to posting rules there is also an NADA Code of Conduct:
1. Understand, appreciate and abide by the rules of the game.
2. Respect the integrity and judgment of game officials and NADA staff.
3. Respect your opponent and congratulate them in a courteous manner following each match whether in victory or defeat.
There are also, believe it or not, professional teams that play in the National Dodgeball League, the original teams being the Chicago Vendetta, the Seattle Bluedogs, the Oregon Avalanche, the San Diego Crossfire, the New York Epic, the Texas Shade, and the Georgia Scorchers.
There was even a movie about dodgeball titled DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story which came out in 2004 and was a kind of David (good guy) vs. Goliath (bad guy) film starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn.
Hosty said there are national tournaments held for amateur teams, but in this inaugural tourney, the goals are modest: raise money for charity and have fun doing it.
“There won’t be a jumbotron at the end of the soccer field doing replays,” he said.
Maybe next year.