Confetti rains down from the rafters as the Melcher Gym, full of fans, erupts into cheers. No this isn’t March Madness, it’s April Absurdity—welcome to Kinkaid Dodgeball.
Ten minutes. Ten minutes is all that separates the winners from the losers, the boys from the men. Ten minutes before the confetti releases and the crowd pours out their emotions and the game is in the history books; all that stands are two teams of six and a row of dodge balls between them.
Silence fills the gym as the two teams We’re Just Here to Have Fun (WJHTHF) and The Colorado Roli Polis (CRP) line either side of the court. The players’ hearts pound until they feel it in their ears. A nervous stumble causes the squeak of a shoe on the side of the Roli Polis. WJHTHF, on the other hand, doesn’t hesitate. They entered the tournament as the number one seed, securing a first round bye on the way. While one side drowns in the silence, the other revels in it—the referee slowly raises a whistle to her lips, blows, and the game commences.
Suddenly, the members of the CRP frantically sprint to the line to collect the balls, but WJHTHF knows better. They methodically send their two most agile players, Taft Foley (9) and Ryan Furlow (9), to throw all the balls back to their four strategically spread teammates. Despite the mismatch of bodies on the line, both sides acquire a relatively equal amount of balls to begin the showdown.
As the CRP straggle to get into formation following their all-out sprawl on the line, WJHTHF takes the opportunity to pounce early with their signature move: “The Airstrike.” The rest of the team members rain down balls on the CRP, as the team’s muscle, Trip “Shrimp” Horlock (11) hangs in the back, picking them off one-by-one as deftly as Ninja when he finds a gold sniper; he hurls the balls with so much power that the CRP stand no chance of getting out of the way. However, in all the chaos, Brian Shortt, one of the CRP’s scrappier players, catches a ball, eliminating a player from WJHTHF. After “The Airstrike,” WJHTHF maintains an early lead with three tangos already knocked.
A period of little action follows as both sides scramble to collect balls. The teams each shuffle around on their respective sides, looking for a weakness in the other. Every few seconds a member of either team tosses a ball, but they either sail over the targets or are blocked by them.
As the match rapidly grows stale, Horlock calls out to his teammates to capitalize on the mismatch, and chaos ensues. WJHTHF once again attacks, taking out two members of the CRP, while only capitulating one as the match falls to four-two.
But just before the teams begin their recoveries, “Shrimp” Horlock, in all his guts and gusto, commits a crucial mistake: he hurls a ball at the bent-over, ball-retrieving CRP member Payton Herleth (10), but his aim lands just too low. The ball flies through the air, but lands directly between the unsuspecting Herleth’s knees and sticks. The referee blows the whistle, signaling a catch, and calls Horlock out while a member of the CRP returns. At three to three, the players find themselves in a brand new ballgame. The CRP have earned themselves a second lease at life while WJHTHF are left without a star.
Once more, each team shuffles to recover. The CRP excitedly bounce around preparing for the next bout while WJHTHF frantically strategize without the strength of their star. After a makeshift, lazy huddle from either side, the CRP rapidly emerge, firing, and WJHTHF hardly expect it. The CRP eliminate two members of the opposition, leaving only Taft Foley alive. During a final, brief period of peace, the giddy crowd begins to rumble, knowing full well that the end of the match draws near.
With the three-one mismatch, the action begins. The CRP amasses the majority of the balls in the meantime, and now they fire. Foley, expertly engaging his evasive maneuvers, swiftly eludes the onslaught. After 30 seconds of a stalemate, the CRP commits a fatal error: Eren Senyuva (10) throws at Foley, but he leads with the wrong foot, sending the ball on a rainbow trajectory rather than that of a bullet. Foley seizes the opportunity and snags the floater out of midair, thus eliminating Senyuva and reviving Ryan Furlow. As Furlow sprints back from the sideline, Taft has already tossed a ball precisely where Furlow stands on the court, arming them each with a ball. Without a signal, without hesitation, Foley and Furlow simultaneously launch at both members of the other team, eliminating them in walk-off fashion.
As the balls hit both members of the CRP and fall to the ground, the crowd erupts as fans storm the court. The confetti cascades from the ceiling and the gym floods with cheers. No, this is not the championship; it is not even the semis. It is just another day in April, and it is just an early round game of Kinkaid Dodgeball. But for this one moment, We’re Just Here to Have Fun are champions.