Monday, July 02, 2007

The Scholar Athlete

Sometime in the early spring, one of my classmates was inspired to start a dodgeball league for our class. He sunk hundreds of dollars and an unseemly amount of time into running this league in the gym underneath the school's dorms. As ridiculous as it may sound, by the time the first whistle was blown, our league had eight teams of 7-10 people each. In a class of a hundred neurotic science geeks, that's not so bad.

Slowly over the course of the spring, I began to realize exactly why the neurotic science geeks flocked to the dodgeball courts. As it turns out, the students in my class are some of the most wildly competitive people I've ever seen. The idea of beating someone else at something - anything - is like heroin to these folks.

It should be noted here that I am purposefully not including myself in this description. I've been working fastidiously for the last four years - since The Monopoly Incident - to prove to the fiancee that I can be trusted to control my competitive instincts during playtime. For the purposes of this post and for the sake of my upcoming marriage, let's say that my behavior on the court never wavered from that of a good-natured sportsman.

The games varied pretty widely from a rollicking good time to endlessly frustrating. Even while watching other teams play from the sidelines, I would see the same guys get hit, sometimes three times in one game, without ever leaving the floor. Competition's one thing, but doesn't the face-rubbing lose a little bit of its joy when you're the only one on the court who believes you won?

You wouldn't guess it from the victory dances.

In some ways, the unbridled competition was impressive. Even inspiring. One of my classmates, K, absolutely sucked at throwing the dodgeball. It's clear that, though K keeps himself in good shape, he did not grow up playing baseball. Actually, it's unlikely he threw anything at all, though even that couldn't explain the motion of K's arm when he throws a ball. I imagine that K probably grew up with his elbows sewn to his nipples. Nonetheless, he seemed to spend hours each day down in the gym working out with the dodgeball. His progress was remarkable. By the end of the season, K was one of the better players on his team. He threw reasonably well and nobody could get him out. No matter how many times they hit him with a dodgeball.

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