Since the dawn of civilization, humans have come together to fight for eternal glory. In days long past, it has been decided at gladiator fights, duels, and dinner with the in-laws. Last week, University students added their annual contribution to the list: the Princeton Dodgeball Tournament. The premise? Team vs. team, single-elimination dodgeball. The battlefield? Dillon Gymnasium. The stakes? One thousand dollars in cold hard cash (or possibly a check).
Teams from across all campus groups, from Whitman College to Tower Club to heavyweight crew, faced off against each other in celebration of America’s last great blood sport. Staffed by the Colosseum Club, the tournament began at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, and slogged it out until the wee hours of the morning. Teams squared off at precise intervals as three brackets — small, medium, and huge —- gradually sifted out the wheat from the chaff, the dodgeballs from the dodgeballers.
It wasn’t all fun and games, however: For some, this tournament resulted in devastating defeat. Bilal Mubarak ’20 recalls the stress that preceded the tournament, citing “threatening emails” sent out to Princeton Debate Panel members to show up to the tournament or face being “kicked off the team.” Unclear as to whether these threats were made in earnest, Bilal found himself staring down another team across the partitioned basketball court.
At game time, his first throw was caught and PDP was promptly defeated, crushing any dreams of dodgeball victory. Still, Bilal hopes to train hard for next year’s tournament, but remains wary of the competition. “I’m low-key convinced that Princeton recruits for dodgeball,” he said, in awe of the dodgeball prodigies who dominated the court over the course of the tournament.
As the day progressed, certain trends became apparent: Residential colleges were almost unanimously swept by the eating clubs, while sports teams prevailed, perhaps unsurprisingly, over other student groups. But, buoyed by the bright lights and a bumping party playlist, the players continued on. As teams came closer and closer to the coveted prize money, tensions ran as red-hot as the color of the dodgeballs themselves. At 12:20 a.m., the final three were decided.
Combining the previous three brackets, the championship round consisted of Forbes College, varsity football, and varsity volleyball. The first game was football vs. volleyball at 12:50 a.m. Stadium cheers rang out along with accusations of unfair conduct. Football accused volleyball of having an extra member on its 20-person team, to which the other team responded, “You’re football; you can’t count!” Unfortunately for volleyball, football could indeed count, and the referees promptly removed a player.
After a tough game and a sudden loss of several volleyball players, it appeared as if football would take the first round, but volleyball rallied to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for a clutch first win. Football proceeded to take down Forbes, whittling down the team from the 08540 to a single player who perished in a brutal firing line. In the final match, Volleyball faced an ultimatum scenario: beat Forbes, or lose on a point system to Football. The referees began the game at 1:20 a.m. and then all bets were off.
Volleyball opened with a bold strategy, allowing Forbes to take all the dodgeballs from the start. Failing to pick off any players from volleyball, however, one Forbesian was called out for stepping over the line. The kinetic energy of the game picked up until the scuttles of players matched the cacophony of whistles and pop music. In the end, it came down to the moment every hero dreams of: one volleyball champ versus the world.
For a while, the lone wolf held out against the overpowering odds. As time went by, the referees closed in the white fences and the odds became longer. The noise reached a fever pitch as the volleyball player knocked one Forbesian out, but a moment too late: The volleyball player was taken out by an attempted catch. Football had won. And like that, the dream broke and reality set in. It was 1:40 a.m.
Classes would begin on Friday unimpeded. But the cheers, the mania, and the heat of dodgeball are forever.