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Dodgeball Army: Introducing the RTA — and Charlotte's wildest new pastime

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Occasionally, a game is paused to recover the balls -- purple, green and yellow (with a smiley face). During play, it's common for them to bounce behind the sound equipment or bleachers. Once bright, it doesn't take long for the kiddie balls to turn dingy. Some look deflated; they don't last long when -- game after game -- they're hammered into walls, rafters, players and, occasionally, an onlooker (which is undoubtedly one of the reasons why everyone who attends or plays must sign a waiver).

Players who get hit are sent to the Outbox. No bitching, whining or crying allowed.

After a round, if a team only has one player left, the ref will call a time-out. The ballsm are placed in front of the lone competitor in a cracked dip in the concrete floor.

In the midst of one recent game, Mojica was left to face six opponents on his own. When the ref said, "Go," someone on the other team yelled, "Attack!" Balls, hard thrown, bounced off the wall behind him. He smiled, charged the centerline and struck back. It wasn't long, though, before he was out. And it didn't bother him at all.

To Mojica, dodgeball is about having fun and being active. A former semi-pro soccer player, he admits he was pegged the moment he stepped on the court in Las Vegas, where he first discovered adult dodgeball.

Fight!

Not everyone who plays at Tremont is such a good loser, though. And if the refs make a bad call, the crowd lets them know about it. They've also been known to shame a player off the court if they're not playing by the rules, with comments like:

• "There's not a strike policy -- you're out the first time!"

• "Baldy has an attitude!"

• "How do you not know how to play dodgeball?"

• "He was the guy who was picked last in school!"

Fights were a problem at the bar last year, so management decided to take a several-month break. Things have reportedly tapered down though, says Howie, who sometimes referees. "The games are more consistent this year. A lot of the same teams are showing up."

"Some people take the game too seriously," says Lily Couture, who has been playing since Tremont started hosting the game. "They had to stop the games for a while because of the assholes. They'd come out here [to the court] inebriated and get into fights."

That's why, before each game, the refs recite this: "We have zero tolerance for fighting. We'll warn you once, then we'll ask you to leave. After that, we'll call the police and everyone will laugh at you."

"It's competitive and energetic, but it's just a game. We're not enemies, we're all friends," says Tony Kelley, aka Statyk, another RTA player. He used to play with a team called Thundering Cock, but they got tired of losing and quit coming. That's when he joined RTA.

John Belair agrees with Statyk. After one of the last games, which RTA lost, he grumbled to an opponent who hit him in the face during play. A few minutes later, when asked how he was doing, Belair said, "I'm good. It's just dodgeball. I might kick myself for one fuckup, but five minutes later I'm over it."

Recently, the refs have started assigning teams for the first tournament of the night. "This makes things a little more fair," says Barr, Tremont's manager. "It also creates a chance for everyone on the court to get to know one another. If someone shows up without a team, it's an easy way for them to get into the game."

Players can choose their own team for the second tournament. "This is when the two most consistent teams, RTA and Bomass, usually end up going head-to-head and providing entertainment for the spectators," says Barr.

In the end, everyone shakes hands. And the secret known only to those who stay until the end is this: There's rarely a winner anyway. Once the bracket is whittled to two teams, the refs are known to scrap the whole thing and start a new game.

A few weeks ago, it was three-legged dodgeball, where two players bound their legs to one of their teammates.' Another day, they played blindfolded. Slusher was impressively accurate blindfolded, says Belair, "He kept taking out the scoreboard." But when there are actual prizes, they're good, like free concert tickets.

The Big leagues

Believe it or not, there is a professional dodgeball league and a National Amateur Championship, held each year in Las Vegas. This year it goes down on Aug. 14, 15 and 16.


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