Dodgeball championship hits O.C. Fair

Dodgeball has evolved since elementary school, says Jon Bohrer, a 28-year-old Newport Beach resident who will be hurling and dodging rubber balls this week at the Orange County Fair.

"This is a game that has so much strategy it's going to blow your mind," Bohrer said.

On Saturday, 16, six-person teams will duck, weave and pelt each other with 8-inch balls in a cage-match during the Ultimate Dodgeball Championships at the fairground's Action Sports Arena.

"There's just this primitive and really classic feel to a cage battle," NLA Sports co-founder Sa Dao said. "It hearkens back to the days of the gladiator arena."

This is the second year in a row that the tournament has come to the fair, courtesy of NLA, an Orange County-based adult recreational sports league.

Last year, about 1,500 to 2,000 people showed up to watch dodgeball at the fair, Dao estimated.

Orange County and Southern California as a whole are a haven for dodgeball, with up to 10,000 players participating in events across the county, Dao said.

He credits the 2004 Vince Vaughn movie with raising the game from grade school to the adult level. Dao even uses "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" as a reference for people learning the game.

"The basic rules are the same," he said. "You peg somebody, they're out. You catch a ball, and the other person's out, and you bring somebody back in."

Lisa Duncan and her team, The Dodging Dead, will compete dressed as zombies.

When she played for the first time in October, dodgeball hooked her with the right mix of physical competitiveness and social interaction.

"It's a lot of fun because everybody in the dodgeball community knows each other," Duncan said.

They also know who is in it to win it, she said, adding that some competitors take it more seriously than others.

Bohrer from Newport is one of those people.

"I think that if people understood the depth of the game, it would explode," he said.

He'd happily sit on the sideline of a game and parse every throw in a match.

"It's a game of ball control, meaning whoever has more balls always has an advantage," he said. "The worst thing you can do is give them all the balls."

Bohrer is a member of the Orange County-based team The Gun Show. They were a runner-up last year at the fair, and they're hoping to beat an L.A.-based favorite this year to keep the title in O.C.

"There's definitely a bit of Orange County-L.A.-San Diego rivalry," he said.

He's not over-confident, but depending on how the balls bounce, Bohrer says the home-team has a shot.

"Let's just say that I chose to play with this team because I'm in this to win this," he said.

If You Go

What: Ultimate Dodgeball Championships

Where: OC Fair Action Sports Arena, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $12.55


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