• Jason E. Fort

The Ethics of Dodge Ball



Ethics are typically referred to as moral principles that people are to use to govern their behavior. And it's come to my attention that today's politically offended and soft culture has declared one of my favorite learning tools from life, 'unethical'.

I thought I might take a deeper look into this blatant attack against one of my favorite childhood games... taught to me in grade school, no less.

Now first of all, don't get me wrong; we do have to give a game context and relate to life the right way, if we want to look at this as a learning tool. But there are some principles that I know for a fact stuck with me from playing variations of dodge ball - and teaching it; from moral code, rights and wrongs, rules of conduct, virtues, to even dictates of conscious.

But think about it. In order to manage a game of dodge ball, you don't want a random, free-for-all, throw the ball at who you will, if you want to determine winners and losers. And before anyone starts to complain about having to learn about losing, let me stop you right there: LIFE IS NOT FAIR, AND NOT EVERYONE GETS TO WIN. Might as well accept it. But... perhaps you can make an impact on your chances of winning or losing. And here is where we can begin to learn lessons.

If I want to determine a winner, or winners, then I have to set forth rules. If someone doesn't play by those rules, they either win because they don't get caught cheating; or they are disqualified because they didn't follow the rules, or even consciously chose to break them. Gosh; this already sounds like some people we know in powerful positions or formerly powerful positions missed out on that important lesson. But moving on...

What about the moral obligation to protect yourself... or a comrade? Let's play dodge ball. I remember in team games of dodge ball, when I just knew I was about to be crushed by one of the strongest kids on the opposing team - when out of nowhere, one of the other popular middle school jocks came sailing in to the rescue, blocking the ensuing large red ball with his own ball, as the initial ball thrown came barreling in on my head. And then our hero would chuck his own red missile right back at the same opponent. And he vanquished our common enemy, and came to my defense at the same time! The moral principle of defense of others, in action.

There are rules of conduct that players must follow. Sometimes adherence to the rules is even by honor code. In large games of prisoner dodge ball, for example; if one was hit by a ball, and the teacher or coach didn't see it, you were still supposed to go to the other team's prison behind them, and 'earn' your way back to freedom by capturing a ball lost by that team, subsequently hitting someone on the very team that imprisoned you. Vice versa, if you are on the team and get hit by a prisoner, you were to take yourself over to the opposing team's prison. Come on people; these simple examples followed me through life.

Honesty.

Following rules.

If you master just these two principles in life, you can get pretty darn far.

Taking up for others, especially weaker or not as athletic as you? Another valuable lesson.

What about creed? Ok, ok, this one is a bit satirical... but if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. This is a physics principle in athletic perspective... and there is some merit to it.

Then there is the most fundamental principle of all, teaching ultimate survival skills. And isn't it your moral obligation, regardless of your line of work or station in life, that if you have loved ones who care about you, and your life is in danger - you try your darndest to save it. And how do you do that?

DODGE IT!

A friend of mine had a more succinct but less cordial way of putting it, that sounded a little like 'get the heck out of the way '.

But playing the game, it didn't take too much persuasion to see the importance in avoiding the ball! What happened if you got hit by the ball?

Basically, in that moment - you lost. Sometimes, you were permanently OUT. Hmmmm, wonder if things like that ever happen in life. Sometimes, if the ball hit you - it hurt! Wasn't it Rafiki in the Lion King that said sometimes the past can hurt? And he said you could either run from it (spend the rest of the other games, too, running away), or - learn from it! You learn to catch the ball someone throws at you, or find another ball, block the ones thrown at you, and deliver some blows yourself.

This is life. Life is not fair. Sometimes dodge ball wasn't fair; sometimes the teacher or coach stacked a team. Sometimes, there were more boys than girls - and yes, it MATTERED in middle school and high school. In life, you're going to come across some tough challenges. And some of those challenges, you can choose to spend a lot of your life running from those tough challenges.

But maybe, just maybe, you learn to adapt, embrace the challenge ... and thrive.

Then, when life throws you that great big, red, rubbery playground ball - you catch it, and throw it back harder!


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