Dodgeball: Not All Fun and Games

Free coupons, apparel and entertainment are frequently thrust upon us as UC Irvine students, for which we should be grateful. But at what point do we stray from parsimonious and move toward downright cheap? At what stage do we turn from courteous to inconsiderate?

Last week UCI broke two records pertaining to attendance, one at a soccer game and another at a dodgeball game. The behavior of our student body at the respective events was night and day. There’s much to be proud of, but certainly a need for introspection.

The No. 21 UCI women’s soccer team set a school record with 1,611 fans in attendance last Thursday in the team’s 3-1 victory over No. 25 Portland. For the first 200 students in attendance Thundersticks, noise makers and UCI coolers were provided as promotions. “X-Men: First Class” was screened on the practice field directly outside of Anteater Stadium after the team’s victory. Family-oriented and school-spirited, the event was a success.

Not only were the stands packed, but the Thundersticks were banging and the crowd was alive. Mike Wilder and Daman Starring of the men’s basketball team were covered in body paint and led an energized Antourage crowd.

The overwhelming support women’s soccer has received is refreshing, because school spirit at UCI has been questionable in recent years.  It’s truly a shame that many students show up to a basketball game, for instance, snag a free T-shirt and bounce without even one “Zot!”  What’s the point of wearing a spirit shirt if you’re not passionate about your school? The next time you throw on your Antourage shirt ask yourself whether you truly deserve it. Just because it’s in your wardrobe doesn’t mean you know who Kaba Modern is, who starts at point guard for UCI or where Winifred Smith Hall is.

And then, of course, there was the dodgeball game at the Anteater Recreational Center. On Sept. 21, UCI reclaimed the Guinness Book of World Records title, organizing the largest dodgeball game ever recorded. The 4,488 attendees broke a record that was set just three days prior by 3,975 people in Thanksgiving Point, Utah. After beating the University of Alberta’s record in 2010 with 1,745 participants, UCI showed up in full force last week.

ASUCI has come a long way since signing Kevin Rudolph for Shocktoberfest 2010 and watching crowds bolt for the doors. Their hard work and organization was apparent at the dodgeball game. Hordes of students walked over and bussed in for the occasion. Not that any of us born in the late ’80s and early ’90s were alive for it, but it looked like the footage of Woodstock, as crowds seemed to never stop; people poured in from every direction as lines created a maze around the hundreds of yards of ARC field property.

The associated student body, security guards and volunteers’ efforts are certainly worth noting. Booths set up just outside of the impending dodgeball warzone were perfectly placed to help clubs raise money for the 2011-12 school year, and offered refreshments to students on a hot day. If UCI hadn’t broken the record for the largest dodgeball game, we certainly may have challenged the world record for “most sun-burnt participants in a dodgeball game.”

As the game drew near, participants lined the southeast ARC field. With yellow shirts on one side of the field and navy blue on the other, students sported  tees reading “BRING IT ON … AGAIN” with a figure of Peter the Anteater looking like he was about to throw down.

Just when amped-up students with war paint thought they would get their hands on orange and purple balls, the focus shifted towards a stage at the southernmost point of the ARC fields, where UCI alumna Jennifer Chung began to sing. At a university which was estimated to have approximately 27,500 students in 2010, there was a rare family atmosphere. There wasn’t a guy on stage waving his hand and asking someone to pass him a joint, this was just a time of sober unity.

But once the game started, we got a little carried away, which is understandable because as the 2004 film “Dodgeball” states, “Dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.”

It’s impossible to police a game of such magnitude, but the referees in orange did their best. The game lasted longer than it should have. The brigades continued to rain down rubber balls upon each other for hours. Students were coming back to life faster than Mario does after free-falling to his death. Many were getting pelted left and right, their throws were being caught and their dodgeball lives were being taken over and over again, yet very few students took it upon themselves to step away from the game, even after receiving glares from referees.

Now, it may just be a game, but there was an apparent lack of integrity strewn throughout the dodgeball field that was disappointing to see. One student was pelted approximately 20 minutes before the enormous game’s end and he persisted to complain. The referee responded, “You’ve been out four times!”

Students continued to sneak their way into the back of the warzone after being knocked out continuously. Hundreds of balls flew simultaneously from both sides, yet students lacked the maturity to admit defeat. A microcosm of life, an enormous game of dodgeball says a lot about character. To those of you who cheat your way through games or exams, good luck to you.

Thousands of onlookers lined the edge of the playing field as a few hundred players remained, many of whom had been knocked out hours before. ASUCI students warned that those who left the ARC fields to go home would not be counted in the record books as having participated, so the anticipation mounted.

Referees began scrambling and one said, “We need all the referees we can get out here to start whistling people out.”

In the interest of time, the officials chose approximately 10 players from each side to compete in a final head-to-head matchup as ASUCI students lined the back of the warzones, finally controlling students from sneaking their way back into the game. At the end of the day, the blue team won.

Although nothing could spoil the sheer impressiveness of a world record, it’s worth noting: UCI, the next time we do something like this, remember that we’re all supposed to be winners at the end of the day. Compromising your integrity for a meaningless dodgeball game is embarrassing and pathetic. Much more appreciation should have been shown to the referees who were pelted relentlessly and tireless volunteers who made the afternoon a success.

A sport that many of us grew up playing during recess was made famous by Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and company in 2004. How surreal is it that after it became such a phenomenon, UCI has now broken the record for the largest dodgeball game, twice?

Dodgeball for some reason or another seems to unite UC Irvine, a school that hardly supports a men’s volleyball team that has won the national championship twice in the past few years.

We’re not USC. We don’t have a rich tradition of athletics, but we have the second-best football-less Division I athletic department in the nation. School spirit that was shown at the dodgeball event could be channeled to help inspire our performers on campus. It sure is encouraging to hear a crowd filled with spirit shirts shout “Zot Zot Zot!” after a free throw, scream displeasure at a referee after one of our own young ladies on the soccer field is dragged down by her ponytail, and roar when Kaba Modern takes the stage annually at Shocktoberfest.

The afternoon of dodgeball had the feeling of a homecoming rally. Remember those days in high school when the freshmen and seniors wore different colors and sat separately, disliking each other as competitiveness resonated in a basketball gymnasium? But when it was all said and done, if a freshman scored a touchdown or knocked down a 3-pointer against your cross-town rivals, he was a god, because he was one of your own. Whether Mike Wilder of the men’s basketball team was on your team (yellow) or not last Wednesday, he and several other personable Anteaters are the ones who students should rally behind this year.

Earth to UCI: Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara are called rivals, treat them as such. High school was “childish and stupid,” (Ferris Bueller approves this statement) but it did teach us to take pride in our territory. You may have wanted to attend UCLA, UCI may have been your dream school, or you may have just ended up here on a whim. Whatever the case, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a degree on your wall 20 years from now that says UC Irvine on it. Support these performers like you’d want to be supported.

We might be cheap college students, but that shouldn’t stop us from having Anteater pride and maintaining our integrity.

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