If You’ve Got Them by the Balls…

Original Post Date: October 23rd, 2012

There comes a time in a person’s life when they have to stop playing video games and join an adult sports league. Or, so I’ve been told. I work for a living, but all work and no play makes me a dull man-boy. I haven’t ditched the games, but I did notice that I was not getting the physical exercise I was accustomed to before entering graduate school a few years ago.

To be honest, I think Cap still had a few pounds on me when this picture was taken. At the very least, he had a cool helmet.

To that end, I began to look around for activities that coincided with my spare time. My town is packed to capacity during the summer months of the year, but experiences a drop-off in the winter months as most people with any sense seek out warm places where the sun actually shines and snow is only something you see other people shoveling on The Weather Channel. In other words, there was not an abundance of wintertime activities for me to revel in, short of building my own snowman army (I had them executed for insubordination) or sharpening my icicle collection (Too pointy. I almost impaled myself).

 As it happens, I learned that several of my friends were taking part in a weekly dodgeball league. Although I was unable to play due to work commitments, I was often able to drop by after work and catch the end of the games. The people who came out every week to hurl balls at each other seemed like a fun group, and the league was sponsored by several area restaurants and bars that provided food & drink specials for socializing after the games. After a few visits, I realized this was definitely something I would be interested in joining, but it was not in the cards for me just yet.

Flash forward a few months, after the yearly “Deep Freeze” had ended and spring was upon us once again. Since a human being cannot play dodgeball for an entire year without risking their heads exploding and/or demonic possession (Seriously, there have been studies. I’d provide the links, but I lost them. And they don’t exist), the league had shifted to kickball. This sport is also known as “Get your asses outside and get some fresh air, you bums-ball.” Fortunately for me, my work schedule had cleared by then, allowing me to join the league and play two seasons of kickball (the most recent of which as team captain).

What followed was an exciting spring and summer of bumps, bruises, blood and balls. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. When the sun sets on the warmer months, fall and winter dodgeball rear their bruised faces and say “Hiya, pal!” Which is how I now find myself captaining a dodgeball team, of which I know as much about as I do quantum physics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Which is to say, nothing. Nothing at all.

 At this point, you may be asking what sort of people a sport like this attracts. The answer to your question is, pretty much, everyone. PR professionals, lawyers, reporters, entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, members of the military and yes, even a librarian or two. All of these souls, at one point or another, decided that (deep down inside) they yearned to engage one another in a mighty Colosseum (gymnasium) with whatever makeshift weapons were available to them at the time (foam balls).

To a lesser extent, adult sports leagues are the “Fight Club” of our time. Show up, pay your dues (financial, physical and mental) and, in the process, learn a thing or two about yourselves. Who you are on any given weeknight may not be who you are the rest of the week. You may befriend your competition and make a friend for life, or maybe someone will just rub you the wrong way and you will spend your nights dreaming of defeating them on the field of battle. Whatever works for you, just keep it civil.

Ed Norton and I like ourselves.

Like a Fight Club, any sports league worth its salt…err, soap…will have rules to follow. However, they may differ slightly…or noticeably:

1st Rule: You do not talk about Fight Club.

A good member of a sports league should spread the word to their friends for the purpose of increasing membership. More members means more revenue for your club, more participation and more press. These are good things. In other words, a ridiculously chiseled Brad Pitt will not take a break from his soap making to berate you savagely just because you convinced a coworker to get a little exercise. The more the merrier.

2nd Rule: You do not talk about Fight Club.

Really? I…just explained this. What’s wrong with you?

3rd Rule: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out…the fight is over.

I know you’re signing an injury waiver in the event you are maimed by an inflatable ball or an inflatable teammate, but serious, horrible injuries are pretty rare in these parts. I suppose, if you were prone to spontaneous combustion, there could be a brief pause in the action while someone swept up your ashes. We wouldn’t want anyone to slip, now would we?

4th Rule: Only two guys to a fight.

Not only would this be incredibly boring, it would also be incredibly sexist, you filthy pigs. Nobody wants to watch two guys play dodgeball for an hour. It’s boring. For maximum enjoyment, you need a ragtag team of determined men and women who will learn to put aside their differences and hone their skills, preferably through a musical montage.


5th Rule: One fight at a time.

 I see where they are going with this, but due to time constraints, there will occasionally be multiple games being played simultaneously. Nothing personal, it’s just business. Some people have to work in the morning and if two simultaneous games spell the difference between going to bed at 11pm and going to bed at 1am, you know which option I’m going to choose.

6th Rule: No shirts, no shoes.

OK, first of all, that’s just gross. Sports are sweaty, and the people who play them have a tendency to sweat and, therefore, become sweaty also. And, cleanliness aside, playing sports while shirtless/shoeless could lead to injury…or at least distraction. So, suit up. Especially if your league is sponsored. They’re not paying good money for you to go streaking, even if you’re Frank the Tank.


7th Rule: Fights will go on as long as they have to.

While this is a great rule in principle, it’s not exactly practical. And it goes along with Rule #5. Schedules are important in order to ensure all the games proceed as planned. If your game takes too long, you’re going to hold everyone else up. And we have beers to drink and numbers to exchange. Finally, no one wants to watch you play all damn night long. It’s boring.


8th Rule: If this is your first night at Fight Club, you HAVE to fight.

If this is your first night, you don’t have to play. But why would you part with your hard earned money to sit and watch? No one ever got better that way. Get out there, even if you have no clue what you’re doing. After all, 90% of life is just showing up.


Now then…

“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to go look for your shirt.” – Tyler Durden

Currently, my league has not yet reached the “Project Mayhem” stage, in which we are given homework assignments that involve losing fights and vandalizing symbols of commercialism. Needless to say, if that ever happens I will probably be searching for a new, safer hobby. Like juggling chainsaws.

If the sporting life sounds like something that may interest you, I challenge you to get off your couch and seek out a similar league. Unless you already have a physically demanding job, make twice my salary or are just naturally in better shape than I am, in which case I tip my cap to you. If, however, you are none of these things, do some research and find the league that’s best for you. Some are strictly casual, while some are for “professionals.” Some leagues welcome newcomers, while others make you walk over hot coals before you’re permitted to join. The bottom line? If you’re not comfortable, walk away and try something else. There is always something else.

Recreational sports leagues are a great way to make new friends and have fun playing games you may not have enjoyed/hated since gym class. So, go ahead: become Jack’s Smirking Revenge. And by all means, tell your friends.


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