The year was 2012. It was my first dodgeball game in 25 years. I entered the gym with as much swagger as a grown man wearing matching Cookie Monster boxers and t-shirt could muster. We were the Undie Dawgs after all—Hollywood Rec Center's newest dodgeball team.
When Cookie Monster comes out to play ... Image courtesy of the author, Brian Roth
WHACK! BOOM! The game began and we were terrible. Beyond bad. We lost every game. All season. No matter though, because losing never felt so good. I had unearthed a passion that was literally pounded into me. It was the best part of middle school recess all over again, except now, I could play in my underwear.
If you're up for getting involved in the silliness, there’s no better place than the Motherland, Los Angeles—where dodgeball beyond the playground first began.
In 2003, a full year before the movie DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story debuted, Michael “Handsome” Costanza founded the Los Angeles Dodgeball Society—the nation’s first adult recreational dodgeball league at the Hollywood Rec Center. Since then, the group has blossomed into the World Dodgeball Society, with 11 leagues throughout the city at various levels of competition and inspired leagues worldwide, from Australia to Singapore.
Since Handsome hadn’t even heard of the Globo Gym's Purple Cobra team (featuring White Goodman played by Ben Stiller) for inspiration yet, what did spur him to start the world’s first adult recreational league?
“‘Winning is for losers’ was the mantra we were founded on. We branded ourselves as an anti-sport ... an anti-activity,” says Handsome. Apparently, Peter LeFleur's (played by Vince Vaughn) team, Average Joe's, was more what he aspired to.
Michael "Handsome" Constanza—balls bow in honor of adult DB rec league founder. Image courtesy Allison Knight, World Dodgeball Society.
Watching someone get hit in the nuts is funny at any age. Image courtesy of Allison Knight, World Dodgeball Society
Teams of 15-20 line up on opposite ends of the gym with seven balls in play at once.
If you get nailed by a ball, you’re out.
If you catch a ball thrown at you, the thrower is out and someone from your team comes back in.
The game goes until one team is completely eliminated. In most leagues, you play as many games as you can in an hour.
Smile - When you’re about to pelt someone, smile at them. No matter who it is, chances are they’ll smile back. And it’s awfully hard to throw too agro with a big old cheesy grin on your face (and vice versa!).
Throw Low - It turns out that most people don’t like getting smacked in the face. In most leagues, hitting someone in the head doesn't even count. So, aim below the belt.
Don’t Cheat - Remember when you were eight years old and snuck downstairs to the kitchen late at night and raided mom’s cookie jar? And then denied it to no end? Well, here’s your chance to prove to everyone that you’re an adult now. Some leagues have refs, some don’t, but it usually comes down to players' integrity. Don’t cheat, otherwise we’re telling mom.
FIND YOUR MATES: DODGEBALL LEAGUE GUIDE
Your tribe is out there. Image courtesy of Allison Knight, World Dodgeball Society.
WeHo Star Whores team ready for a galatic battle. Image courtesy of WeHo Dodgeball
No Boyz Allowed team gives 'you throw like a girl' a whole new spin. Image courtesy of Allison Knight, WDS
Friday is kids night. Image courtesy of Michael Wilsker, Eagle Rock Yacht Club.
And the games continue. Image courtesy of Allison Knight, WDS.
Image courtesy of @gymbarweho
What other sport can a man boldy rock a pink tutu? Image courtesy Allison Knight, WDS.
Here are some places to put together the winning look, on
or off the court:
Tournies = a good excuse to play dress up. Image courtesy of WeHo Dodgeball.
Top 6 Reasons Why You Need to Try Dodgeball
You’re tired of spending your nights swiping left and right. Plenty of my friends, especially girls, sign up to meet someone. And I know of a couple of dodgeball first dates that led to marriages. (Or course, I also know of more than a few that led to awkward breakups, but hey, that's your risk to take.)
You like exercise, but hate the gym. Turns out that running, jumping, and throwing non-stop for an hour is an intense workout. No matter your skill level, you’ll be surprised at how much you sweat.
You like making lifelong friends. Most folks I know who play dodgeball have ended up making some of their closest friends as a result.
You’re most at home in full costume. You can literally wear anything (see hotdog and dinosaur suited players below) and will be welcomed with open arms.
Even if you have the althetic prowess of Tina from Bob’s Burgers, there’s a place for you in dodgeball. “It took some time to accept the fact that I can’t catch and I can’t throw…but I can dodge!” says Sonie Haneline, a frequent LA-based dodgeballer.
Brian J. Roth has been dodging balls in Los Angeles since 2012. You can find him smiling through a game in a sweaty gym near you, in a merman suit or at Santee Alley on one of his cool, quirky dates he likes to plan and on Instagram / Twitter @brianjayroth.
Header image of Ben Stiller in "Dodgeball:The True Underdog Story", courtesy of Fox 2000 Pictures / Red Hour Films.