Dodge Ball: A Modest Proposal

Sometimes, when something makes me mad, I write a strongly worded letter. It's so bracing. Like splashing cold water against my cheeks. Or like drinking a Diet Coke in one greedy sip. Today I needed to do just that. Write the letter that is. I'm not quite desperate enough for soda.

And remember! If you ever want to receive a strongly worded letter of your very own from me, try throwing a ball in the face of a child. My child or anyone else's ... I'm not picky. Also? A ball is sometimes just a ball. Sometimes, though, it's a metaphor for other things.

Dear Principal H.: 

In the olden days, physicians used to treat certain diseases with mercury, which made the patients insane. Or physicians would slice open veins because everyone knows you feel better after a good bleed. Unless it's killed you.

In the less-distant olden days, people used to think it was OK to let kids throw balls at each other’s faces until there were no more faces left to hit and a victor was declared. And yet, because this sick and strange ritual was happening during gym class, it was healthy. They call this game dodge ball. I call it nuts.

Yesterday, my 45-pound fourth grader came home early from school, dizzy and in pain after being hit in the head during a school-sanctioned game of crazy. The hit was especially unfortunate, as she had already been knocked to the ground, and while this made her an easy target, she was, according to the rules of the game, off-limits. Oops!

My daughter is very concerned that I am going to get her beloved PE teacher in trouble. That’s not my intention. I don’t even want to get the person who threw the ball into trouble, although I would like him to know that I have excellent aim, and if he’d like to go mano-a-mom-o, I can make time in my schedule. 

In all seriousness, though, the school needs to stop playing dodge ball, at least during gym class. 

First, there are a lot better ways of getting exercise and developing hand-eye coordination. Anything that involves running and throwing balls at places other than heads and other body parts is better. 

There is also prancercise. Have you seen it? Here's a link.
I’d love to see the kind of boys who throw balls at the faces of 45-pound fourth graders be required to prancercise instead. It would make for excellent yearbook photos.

Second, an overwhelming amount of evidence now exists that shows getting hit in the head is bad for the head--and not just in the short term. It can cause permanent damage. If anyone claiming to be reasonable wants to argue that dodge ball is worth brain damage, I will ask if he’s ever played dodge ball. The answer will be yes. And then I will rest my case.

Third, dodge ball is mean, especially for kids who are socially vulnerable. In this category, I do not include my daughter, who is a ninja, a wizard, and a unicorn all in one package. But I do think about kids who feel unloved at school, and who dread having their bodies used as targets for the kids who are already targeting them in other ways. On their behalf, I would like to lob a metaphorical red ball at the game’s face.

So, to summarize: Dodge ball is archaic. There are better alternatives. It’s dangerous physically and damaging socially. Let’s give it some mercury, open its veins, and kill the bastard.

I thank you for reading and hope I’ve been persuasive. 

But, just in case, please be warned that if I ever hear of dodge ball being played in class again, I will show up with a ukulele and an anti-dodge ball anthem, and I will not leave until the game is officially dead at school. It should be noted that I am a very bad singer.