Twist and throw: Thursday night dodgeball a hit
There are few spots more lonely than standing solo with your back to a wall, trying to anticipate what the dudes are going to do. There’s usually a silent, momentary lull before the balls fly, and in that moment the only thing to do is shift from foot to foot and prepare to dance.
So, with a crowd of six guys edging up to the boundary line, palming kickballs and eyeing him beadily, Shane Lawler tensed in anticipation.
The first ball came at him and he arched right, bull fighter-style. It missed him. Another ball and he arched left. Then it was a frenzy. He returned fire, but six against one are terrible odds. He was valiant, but couldn’t jump over a fatal ball-to-ankles shot. There’s no avoiding that one.
He was out. Point to the other team. His teammates rejoined him on their half of the gym floor, determined to avenge their honor.
Or, should revenge elude them, to just, you know, throw the ball really hard and heh-heh-heh when it connects: Dude! You’re out!
It’s Thursday evening in the basement gym of First Baptist Church of Grand Junction, when a core group of regulars with a fluctuating group of newbies start each round with the balls aligned at half court, each team touching the back wall of their side, and youth minister Kevin Walter yelling, “3, 2, 1, dodgeball!”
Like in the movie “Dodgeball?”
“Pretty much like that,” Walter agrees, laughing.
Walter conceived the idea for Thursday night dodgeball more than a year ago.
He and his friends played a lot of dodgeball in college just for a laugh, and he remembered how much fun it was. So, he thought, why not play it in the church’s gym? He posted an ad on Craigslist and got information placed on the church’s electronic marquee in front of the building, and the dudes came.
Because it’s mostly dudes.
“I’d say probably 95 percent guys,” Walter concedes. “But everyone’s welcome to play!”
Just ask Mark Mulcahy’s wife: “She got out here one night and ... she doesn’t come out here anymore,” Mulcahy says.
It’s not that it isn’t fun, because it definitely is. It’s just, some of those guys can throw really hard.
In fact, Walter says, most players tend to have one thing they’re particularly good at: some are powerful throwers, some are nimble dodgers, and some are the comic relief.
“We don’t want it to be too serious,” Walter explains. “We want it just to be fun and a place where anyone’s welcome. We have people who go to this church, and we have people who were just driving by and saw it on the marquee. You don’t have to go here to come play dodgeball.”
You just have to be a good sport and embrace the uniqueness of dodgeball Thursday. Like, for example, the fact that one of the balls they use features Dora the Explorer and pink flowers. It still can leave a red mark.
Or the fact that you never know what you’ll overhear:
“You better watch those shots. I want to have kids someday.”
“I am the Dodgeball King.”
“Never eat Taco Bell before coming out here. Makes you feel fat and old.”
“It’s just, like, what we do on Thursday nights,” Lawler, 22, says. “And I think it takes a lot of aggression out for males.”
And it’s just a place to hang with the dudes. On a recent Thursday, Kim Stevens brought her 9-year-old son, Landen, to dodgeball. They’d been once before, having seen it advertised on the church marquee, and ever since Landen begged her to return.
“He loves it,” she says. “At first, I was really worried because these guys are big, but they really welcome him. Plus, he’s fast and little.”
He threw some balls and dodged others, receiving praise and encouragement from Paul Ripplinger, 20, and Patrick Lenahan, 21 — who, it should be noted, was sporting an “I (shamrock)(beer mug)” T-shirt.
It was just your typical Thursday night, 7–9 in the church basement gym, when balls and players careen like electrons, and the “poink!” of a ball connecting with soft flesh is followed by “oof!” and “heh heh heh.”