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The Oregonian, January 18, 2007

Run and duck: Adults jump into dodge ball
Thursday, January 18, 2007
By Joe Fitzgibbon

Don’t tell that to the Decepticons, whose members show up at a community center in North on Thursday nights to run, duck, squeal, splat and groan as they volley big red balls at one another.

They’re part of a co-ed league that started three years ago as an occasional gathering of friends. Now the Portland league and a new one in Beaverton have 650 people on 48 teams—with a surge of interest after the movie “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” came out in 2004.

Colleen Finn started the leagues out of a hankering for childhood activities. “Recess was my favorite activity growing up,” says Finn, founder and director of Recesstime, the Portland organization that runs the leagues for dodge ball and other sports. “You know, after the eighth grade, they don’t give it to you anymore—so we have to make our own.”

The rules for dodge ball are simple: Get hit and you’re out. Catch someone’s ball and they’re gone. Be overly aggressive, and a referee nails you with a yellow or red card. And leave your ego on the sidelines. The 30-minute matches run between 6 and 10 p.m. at the Salvation Army Moore Street Community Center.

The Decepticons—named for cartoon action figures and geared in a hodgepodge of kneepads, goggles, cutoffs and T-shirts—charge up and down the court pelting one another amid cheers, shouts and high-fives.

“The first time I played, it was wild—I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing out there,” says Shelby Green. “That was a couple years ago, and I’m still out here having fun.”

Corey Maynard, a former Lewis & Clark College baseball player, says the game balances his competitive spirit with his desire for social interaction.

“You’ll find a few on the court who take it seriously, but for most of us, it’s just a chance to get out and make a few friends,” he says. “But I’ll say this, the girls who show up out here are tough.”

Beth Wills of the Decepticons won’t argue. “Occasionally, league organizers toss out a smaller ball (for women), but most of us like it the way it is—fair and equal with the men.”

After working up a sweat, players are encouraged to drop by the neighborhood bar that sponsors the league—this year it’s Spice Restaurant & Lounge (formerly Billy Reed’s)—for refreshments and bragging.

Kristina Pfenning, a member of the Army of Darkness team, says she hated the game as a kid. “But I started playing adult kickball and met some great people who talked me into giving it a try,” she says. “It’s kind of crazy but lots of fun.”

Finn says there’s a revenge-of-the-nerds factor.

“Remember when you were in school and there was that one guy who was bigger than you, who could beat you at everything—or maybe it was your older brother who pushed you around?” she says. “Well, now you’ve grown up and it’s redemption time.”