Grace, guts, and glory at the annual Dodge Bowl

Saugertiesians know how to play. Whatever your age, whatever your sport, Saugerties has a team for you. For those with the guts, and a flair for the dramatic, the annual Dodge Bowl offers a chance to compete in a caged dodgeball tournament.

In a way it’s like pro wrestling. Producers create storylines involving deception, animosity, and misconduct. There’s no shortage of hype. Teachers meet for a pre-game trash-talking session, and school newspapers carry rumor-filled stories alleging misconduct by administrators and coaches. These invented storylines carry over from year to year.

The tournament itself features more trash talking, costumes, video clips, and theme music for each team. Children in the audience hold up cardboard signs supporting their favorite teams and players.

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“I call it WWE meets ACDC,” said teacher Joe Defino, one of the event’s organizers. “Mr. Turner is a huge wrestling fan, and he really eats this whole thing up and puts his whole creative energy into it.”

Teams shrouded in controversy return to the tournament year after year. School newspapers are accused of printing misleading information, and students are accused of airing “doctored” videos on school websites. Teachers and administrators spend the weeks leading up to the tournament arguing and finger-pointing, but it’s all in good fun.

“Laughter can break down a lot of barriers,” said Defino.

The Dodge Bowl offers adults in the community (mostly within the school district) the chance to revisit their youth and raise money for the school. This year’s ten teams played for the Morse and Riccardi PTAs, the Junior Senior High School PTSA, and the Saugerties High School Booster Club. Though represented in past years, Cahill and Mount Marion elementary schools did not enter this year’s competition.

Turner, the self-proclaimed Dodge Bowl King, opened the tournament by announcing that students had failed to manipulate him into letting them play. After the third match of the evening, though, students marched onto the court and led fans in chants of “Let them play!”

Turner answered with his own chant of “Just sit down,” but was overpowered by the crowd, and ran from the court, turning it over to the Dodge Bowl’s first student match.

Six student teams took the court throughout the evening, culminating in a three-game championship round with Vicious & Delicious named the first student champion team, securing a $500 prize for the school group of its choice, which was the Saugerties High School Key Club.

Ten adult teams squared off throughout the evening, with SLAM (Super Legendary Alumni of Morse) emerging as champions for the second year. The $500 prize will go to the Morse Elementary School PTA. SLAM squared off against the Morse Mustangs in championship, beating them in two games.

“It was a win-win for us, since we were also playing for Morse,” said Samantha Wamsley, a member of the SLAM.

Historically, a runner-up has been awarded a smaller prize. The runner up prize was replaced this year by a Fan Reaction Award of $500 to the team best able to get fans behind them, and to create the biggest audience reaction. The Hildebrandt Hillbillies took home this year’s fan reaction prize, and are currently deciding how to use the money.

One controversial team, the LOD (Legends of Dodgeball), was replaced at the last minute by Ladies of Distinction, also using the acronym LOD. The team, comprised of all women (and Mr. Turner) was supposed to enter the court, look at the opposing team, and run from the cage in fear. Instead, they played.

“This opens up a whole new storyline for us,” said Defino with a chuckle. “Now, the team that beat them can be berated for beating the poor little girls.”

He continued, “We need to make these connections with the community however we can. We love that we can do that in a farcical way, with an evening of light-hearted fun.”

 

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