Todd Hartley: Freaking out the geeks |

Todd Hartley: Freaking out the geeks

I know I may be a couple of years behind on this subject, but I feel it’s finally time for me to weigh in on whether kids should play dodgeball in gym class or not.

The controversy, as you may remember, stems from the fact that dodgeball, also known as bombardment, consists of kids choosing teams, taking sides on a basketball court and then hurling big rubber balls at one another.

This, of course, proves humiliating to geeks (yes, geeks know they’re geeks by second grade) on many levels. So, naturally, former geeks don’t much care for the game and would love to see it banned.

First, when teams are chosen, geeks are forced to stand in shame in front of the whole class as everyone is selected but them. This ritual inevitably ends with the words “Whatever. We’ll take Spaz if we have to.”

Then, during the game, geeks typically cower at the ends of the court, hoping not to be drilled by a throw from one of the athletic kids in the middle of the court who is actually having fun playing the game.

The game ends for a geek when they can’t elude a throw, and since they never seem to be able to actually catch or ward off throws, geeks somehow wind up with an inordinate amount of big ball-sized red marks on their chests and backs.

Once they are out of the game, geeks must stand on the sideline doing nothing while the game goes on. In some versions of dodgeball, if a kid on the geek’s team catches a throw or makes a half-court basketball shot the geek is allowed, or rather forced, to go back in the game and suffer through another painful beaning.

As you might guess, athletic kids love this game because they get to fling big rubber balls at geeks. This is why former athletic kids wish to see dodgeball in every school in America.

There was a time, not so many years ago, that I actually might have sided with the former geeks on the subject. But times have changed.

During the Internet boom, when the nerds running the planet were in the spotlight, it was easy to disparage dodgeball. (I suppose I should clarify; all nerds are smart geeks, but not all geeks are nerds.) Hurling a big rubber ball at a guy you will likely be working for in a few years is probably not a great idea.

The dodgeball controversy changed, however, when all the dot-com companies went belly up and a certain Texas yahoo moved into the White House.

If you’ve watched the news lately, you may have noticed that our new thing as a country is apparently war and other assorted military missions. We staged an entirely justified war in Afghanistan, and we have an ongoing and still unjustified war in Iraq. There are hints that perhaps a little war in Iran might be next.

American soldiers are dying at a rate of about two per day in Iraq, and there’s no telling how long that conflict could go on. You know how it is with war and all. If we want to keep making war and winning friends in the Middle East, we’re eventually going to have to replace all those dying soldiers. So why not start training kids in the art of war as early as possible?

In fact, given that even the stupidest person can become president, I think that some academic time in school should be sacrificed in favor of more gym time. I mean, who really needs to know math, anyway?

That extra gym time should not be dedicated to dodgeball, however. Dodgeball isn’t really enough. I say we go whole hog and start making kids have paintball wars at least once or twice a week.

This would help kids learn valuable skills they might actually use one day, like how to fire a weapon or dodge a bullet. Kids could be schooled in the finer points of combat throughout their formative years, making them perfect candidates for a tour in the Middle East before they even finish high school.

Even sadistic gym teachers and school administrators would still get their fix, as losers in paintball would suffer through the ignominy of having a giant red paint splotch on their clothes the rest of the day.

But best of all, since it requires little athletic ability, paintball would finally give the geeks a fighting chance.

[Recovering geek Todd Hartley writes this column on Fridays in The Aspen Times. E-mail at]

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