For some reason, I have to cleanse my system of a lingering anxiety about dodgeball. It’s not that I’m scarred for life or anything by the experience of being stalked by the strapping, sadistic elementary-school gym teacher, Mr. Martin, on the other side of the line powerfully wielding the red orb of death at the end of his hulking arm. And that’s not why I’ve avoided seeing the film, Dodgeball, which by all accounts sounds delightful. Let’s just say that, as a nerdy quiet type in those days, I was always an easy target for bullying—and dodgeball struck me as adult-sanctioned bullying. Ha, ha, let’s burn the nerd. Look, ha ha, we burned the nerd (everyone in the gym laughs; gym teacher smiles in satisfied delight).
Actually I was never hurt or injured playing dodgeball because my main objective in the game was always to get out of it early. I’d intentionally throw myself in the way of the ball if the thrower seemed weak. Relieved, I could then sit it out and watch some other poor unfortunate practice “fight or flight” back and forth on the waxed wooden court.
But one day, Mr. Martin decided he would take on the entire gym class: he on one side of the line and the rest of the kids on the other. One ball in play. No kid hit him. For Martin, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. For some strange reason that I cannot fathom, I really tried to play hard on this occasion, so who do you think ended up being the last kid standing? Me, of course. Did I really think I could beat Mr. Martin? The very idea of it, the fantasy of being christened, (momentarily anyway) the coolest kid in school if I could actually pull it off, was too powerful to resist.
The game went on for what seemed an eternity. Somehow I was able, throw after throw, to dodge the ball. Martin’s red comets hit the back concrete wall with a fearsome thwack that must have been heard down to the end of the school hall. In classrooms up and down the hall, there must have been a buzz: something special is happening in the gym.
But my own weak throws got weaker. The tension of outrunning the fireball grew greater. Martin was not tiring.
I had had enough. I threw myself in front of the ball.
Luckily, it only grazed the back of my leg. My timing had been nearly perfect.
Occasionally, I wonder whatever happened to Martin. He must be in his late 50s or early 60s now. I know I’m in a lot better shape now than I was then.
Whaddya say Martin? What about a rematch?
Oh, and Britney.
So far I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping this a Britney and Anna-Nicole-free blog, but I just had to mention something I saw this morning on the WHAS Channel-11 news (in Louisville, Ky.; they used to hilariously call themselves: “WHAS-11 Action News!”). The morning anchor, backed by the now-infamous shot of bald Britney, prefaced his story about Britney’s release from rehab with a sarcastic rejoinder on the order of, “Now here’s something I know you all really have been waiting to hear about.”
I thought this anchor was a dumb shit, but now I have some respect for the man.