"Why would I ever join a fraternity?" This question is asked often among GDIs, "God Damn Independents" or people not in Greek Life, and is greeted with a myriad of reasons that support joining the fraternal organizations by their members. Among the philanthropic and social explanations, none is convincing enough to reverse the ostracism Greek Life causes, except when brothers mention the athletic activities. I am among the GDI population and did not understand the benefit of joining a fraternity until I visited an InTheRough staffer's frat house for their annual dodgeball tournament.
I entered the house's basement to find 20 brothers with a bunch of colorful, rubber playground balls tossing them against the wall or at each other to warm their arms. A basement which once had beer pong tables, chairs and couches was now empty and taped off to create a playing field. The white walls, part-hexagonal shape and concrete floor made the room look like a rink, the brothers sitting on the countertops and lining the walls were the audience banging on the glass.
Each team had two members who could use a total of three balls to get the other team out. Games began with one ball on each side and one in the middle teams could retrieve once play started. Round Robin competition kicked off the night, as each team got acclimated to the environment. Teammates strategized when to take their kill shots and timing on their throws, most people were eliminated trying to reach the free ball, one step too quickly or too close and pang there is a ball to the leg. If a foot crossed over the taped lines the player was shamefully out.
I participated in striking my opponents out and cheering wildly when the particularly athletic brothers were thrown out by the kids more interested in protecting the environment or who threw a ball like they were doing the breaststroke. They would turn and look at my host, also screaming cheers, and myself proud to deliver in a trying, competitive moment. Anytime the games broke down to one-on-one, especially in the tournament's elimination round, yells of comradery filled the room and when somebody made that clutch play everybody rushed the floor to celebrate with the victors.
Losing even came with a surprising pleasant feel. I remember I was caught in a one-on-one situation in the first round of elimination. I dodged my opponent's attempt to get me out, but the ball I threw in return sailed on me and he caught it, I was out and my team spectated for the rest of the night. The guy who caught my ball clenched his fists and screamed until he was red in the face, I ran towards him and we chest bumped each other in his moment of triumph.
The tournament MVP, appropriately named Harley after the workhorse motorcycle, wowed onlookers as he dodged ball after ball and seemed to get everybody out without ever leaving the game himself. While his team won the championship he was not met without a challenge. One player, who appeared irrelevant, caught Harley's rocket at the last second on his shoulder, mimicking one of the pretty boys who also caught the MVP out. Each time anybody's competitive spirit was met with adversity or failure they responded in an overwhelmingly supportive manner to the entire group. After all it was just a game.
I left the dodgeball tournament with the smiles and praises passed around the basement that night. I appreciated that the brothers relished in each other's companionship and rivalry, in that house they put their differences to the side and interacted on a common ground that included everybody and strengthened bonds.