Zombies for an Olympic Cause

 

Calvin and Hobbes - best comic ever by Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes - best comic ever by Bill Watterson

I live in Vancouver, British Columbia — home and soon to be host of the 2010 Olympic winter games. And can you believe it — the other day, I suggested we get cable to watch the games.

In a little under four weeks, my city will be turned inside out for the event. Not that we haven’t been turned inside out already. Transport officials have already warned us that public transportation will look a lot like it does during the Celebration of Light, an event that spreads over four nights and manages hundreds of thousands of people on public transportation over the span of about 6 hours. So basically, we’ve been told it will be like that, only 2 to 4 weeks long.  Hip, hip.

I live on Commercial Drive, which will be turned into a semi-military zone with an ice rink that will host Olympic hockey team practices. I have friends who are dancing, acting, singing, and filming in the opening and closing ceremonies as well as in events throughout the entire length of the games. And I have no doubt Vancouver’s anti-games community will be represented across the city in it’s designated protest spots as well as outside of them. And then there’s me, right-smack in the middle of it all, on the phone, trying to negotiate a basic cable package.

It’s not like I’m a zombie who just sits and watches television all day. But like most people in the city, I will not be one of the privileged few actually sitting and cheering on our athletes in our host city venues. It doesn’t really leave me too many options. I can join the crowds and huddle in front of the jumbo screens they’re placing throughout the city and watch the ceremonies. Honestly, that’s not really my style.

While Vancouver’s top brass prepares for this once-in-a-lifetime event and the world descends upon Vancouver, the flame, so-to-speak, that is the spirit of this fascinating and beautiful city is left in the hands of those who traverse it’s streets everyday — Vancouverites, of which I am one. With this in mind, I’m strongly thinking about ditching the cable package and venturing out , yellow gumboots on and marching forward, in search of… what? If I’m lucky, I won’t find the Olympics, but rather the small moments that build the community that makes the city that’s part of the country that belongs to this planet that hosts this world event every four years.

Who’s with me?

Dodgeball: Building Community through the Pain and Degradation of Others

Sometimes communities need to band together in order to fend off and/or thwart an external tormentor. The external force could be anything. It could be aliens, the UN Gang, zombies, rabid raccoons, Hummer owners, ninjas, pirates, or Republicans. The point is, how can we – as a community – receive the proper training to repel external threats? The answer, my friends, is dodgeball.

On Tuesday night, my good friend Krista invited her brother (Kurt) and I to play a little dodgeball at BCIT. Kurt couldn’t make it because he is/was sick or dead, I can’t remember which, but I was happy to go along. And – wow – was it ever worth it. I got to play on a team that had fun, gave me some exercise and taught me some key moves to repel invaders.

I’ve played dodgeball a few times before, but never on a court/surface so big. There was a no-man’s land for crying out loud! It was totally possible for players to be trapped behind enemy lines, so to speak (again, I’ll point out that playing dodgeball, like any team sport, simultaneously builds community and prepares us for fighting zombies).

To be honest, during the game my high school athlete persona kicked into action, and I concentrated hard on dodging, diving, dipping, ducking, catching, and hurling balls with great vigor and no remorse. Given the size of the court, we all ran a lot too. Needless to say, I was looking out for myself and my teammates, and not really taking it all in. But in between games or after I took a few balls to the face and got knocked out, well, I had a chance to stand back and take it all in.

Wow.

Maybe it was because of the two teams playing, but there was little to no degradation, humiliation or pain to be seen. In fact, rarely have I ever seen such things on the dodgeball court. There was/is a lot of fun to be witnessed, though. For example, one of the players on the opposing team could not stop smiling for the entire game. Whether he got someone out, caught a ball, dodged a blow, or took one to the face, the kid just had this amazing, perfect grin spread across his face the whole time. It was contagious.

Speaking of the contagiousness of this particular game, just type “dodgeball” into Google and/or YouTube and see what comes up. This second-tier “sport” (let’s face it, people) has inspired a whole weird and amazing online community, with a litany of creative and entertaining “how-to” videos as well as some particularly amusing examples of hits, misses and spectacular outfits.

In conclusion, there are two main findings on which to reflect.

First, holy crap did we ever have a fun time of it last night. Thinking about the young man on the other team who couldn’t stop smiling if he tried is making me smile today. Dodgeball is ridiculous in every way (sorry to all the serious, balls-deep players out there). You can’t help but have fun whilst playing. The game represented social, cultural and ability leveling at its very best. It was a beautiful, inclusive experience!

Second, I will simply say that if the Roman Empire had played a little more dodgeball and done a little less gladiatorial spectating, they wouldn’t have crumbled so easily under the needling, constant attacks by the “barbarian” invaders from Downtown Germania and elsewhere. So, to you, the community, I challenge you to get involved, be active and start dodging everyday household items at your earliest convenience. Because, when the revolution/invasion* comes, it will be important to know how to get out of the way.

Good talk. I’ll see you out there!

- JCH

*I don’t mean to scare you, but the Work Less Party is actually much, much, more active and organized than you might think. Ironically, they’re working hard to change our collective lifestyle, and aren’t against employing ninja zombie robots to get things started. I’m just giving you a friendly heads-up. Good luck!