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For a few hours on Friday evening, several hundred undergraduates—and a few deans—unleashed their inner fifth graders to compete in Harvard’s first dodgeball tournament.
Sixteen teams from the upperclass Houses, the freshman dorms and University Hall competed for a $100 cash prize—and dodgeball bragging rights.
Dunster House came out on top, beating Currier House in an intense championship match that the announcers dubbed an “epic battle between two powerhouses.”
“I think that dodgeball is the best sport ever invented, and this is the best early Friday night activity that’s ever happened,” said Josh C. Phillips ’07, sporting a yellow jersey for Adams House, which lost in the first round to Cabot.
The tournament was inspired by this summer’s movie “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” which has made dodgeball something of a national craze since the movie’s release.
“Without a doubt, the movie revitalized a feeling for a pastime that had been lost,” said Josh S. Debuze ’06, wearing Cabot’s red jersey.
But Assistant Dean of Harvard College Julia G. Fox, who also played on the dean’s team, said that she hadn’t seen the “Dodgeball” movie.
“Look at me,” she joked. “Do I look like I would go see a movie about dodgeball?”
The dean’s team members, many of whom were sporting a shirt and tie with shorts, lost in the first round of the tournament to Leverett House, but not before putting up a fight. At one point in the game, Assistant Dean of Freshman James M. Mancall hit Clifton G. Dawson ’07, the starting running back for Harvard’s football team, with a ball, knocking him out of the game.
“I haven’t played dodgeball since grade school, but I was ready to go,” said Associate Dean of Harvard College Thomas A. Dingman ’67. “I’m disappointed in myself. But we’ll be back soon.”
Announcers John P. Blickstead ’06 and W. Trey Kollmer ’07 called the shots over the loudspeaker and referees regulated throughout the bracket-style tournament, which was sponsored by the Undergraduate Council, the Dean’s office, Harvard Christian Impact’s Athletes in Action and the IM Program.
“A lot of people have passion for the sport, and people have really turned out,” said Council Campus Life Committee Member Lauren P. S. Epstein ’07, who helped organize the event. “There’s so much spirit.”
Rallying the crowd, announcers, in the spirit of this summer’s movie, dropped catchy, somewhat corny one-liners throughout the action. Quips that included “That guy will never have children!” and “He’s striking out like every Saturday night” were heard from the announcers’ booth throughout the evening. And when Pforzheimer House took the court, because they are the northernmost house on campus, the booth played the Canadian national anthem.
Dunster House’s hopes of victory came close to being shattered by Cabot House in a semifinal game that the announcers called “one of the greatest games in dodgeball history.” As the theme from “Star Wars” blasted over the loudspeaker, Cabot was on the brink of moving on to the championship round. Dunster House, however, made some key catches and held on to come from behind and eliminate Cabot from the tournament.
“Oh, wow,” yelled Kollmer over the loudspeaker in a night characterized by superlatives. “That was the greatest comeback in sports history.”
Currier beat Lowell in the other semifinal match.
“Dodgeball is a man’s sport, and when I say man I mean both men and women and not animals, because you need hands to play the game,” said Blickstead. “But the tournament was hard-fought. Some teams were competitive, some were non-competitive, and then there was the deans’ team.”
Council President-elect Matthew J. Glazer ’06 of Winthrop House failed to capture a second victory for the week when his team lost in the first round to Dunster.
“The tournament was a great, great idea,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
Fifteen people played on each team, and IM points were awarded to winning teams. Several times throughout the tournament, organizers of the event threw t-shirts into the crowd, and some faculty members even showed up to cheer on their Houses.
IBM Professor of Business and Government and Dunster House Master Roger Porter watched as Dunster made their way to victory.
“The level of excitement here is extraordinary,” he said.
Despite the enthusiasm, some students complained of minor instances of cheating. In Cabot’s second-round defeat of Kirkland House, Cabot players who had been eliminated reportedly ran behind the Kirkland players and threw the balls back to their teammates.
Still, organizers of the event were impressed with tournament’s turnout.
“The dodgeball tournament is maybe the greatest event Harvard has ever seen,” said Director of Social Programming for the Dean’s Office Zachary A. Corker ’04, who helped organize the event and played on the dean’s team. “It’s a great sport, and takes several important skills: strength, coordination, speed, intelligence and good looks.”
K.C. Cleary ’05, who first came up with the idea for the tournament and was one of its head coordinators, said that he hoped to bring the tournament back. “We’re going to try and do this again in the spring,” he said. “We’re going to make Harvard-Yale look like a picnic.”
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