Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wallyball and group mentality

On Wednesday nights, I take the campus bus over to the student recreation center to play a game with some friends. The game is Wallyball. Like most large universities, Indiana University is equipped with dozens and dozens of racquetball/squash courts for stressed out students to get their wiggles out in the winter time. A few of these courts have tiny holes in the wall at the court midpoint. These holes are for eye bolts to which the ends of a volleyball net is secured. Get four for each side and a ball, then you have Wallyball. The rules are the same as volleyball except the side walls are in bounds. Thus, a carefully placed bank serve could play to your advantage. The most successful type of spike tends to hit low on a side wall. The back wall is out of bounds. It's also the most common way to lose a point since the court is much smaller than a regular size volleyball court. The ball is blue and has a sticky rubber shell that grips the wall, increasing contact time, accentuating any spin you put on it. It's a game of finesse, cleverness, reaction time, and luck. Even with my busy grad school schedule, I carve out time for Wallyball.

Typically, at least eight people come to play Wallyball, but tonight there were just six. After two quick games of three-on-three, one had to leave. The next game was three on two. Even though the court is small, it is much more difficult for two people to defend than three, considering how fast the game is and how a good portion of hits are executed purely by reflex. I played on the team of two with my friend Brijesh. Man, on every volley we had a lot of ground to cover. It wasn't easy, but we won 15 to 6, a large margin by Wallyball standards. With just two people, your alertness rises and you're ready to pounce the moment the ball is hit. When you get to the ball you know you have only two choices: hit it to your teammate or hit it over the net. Thus, you become a more focused and a more decisive player than if you were part of a larger team where you constantly rely on and miscommunicate with your teammates. In this case, the group mentality seems to cripple larger Wallyball teams. "I don't need to get that volley -- Joe's got it."

Coincidentally, the group mentality came up again after the game in a different form. The racquetball court we reserved this evening was one of the special "viewing" courts with a glass wall that spectators can watch through. Thinking it was an open doorway, a girl walked into the glass and bashed her nose - she wasn't wearing her glasses. She dripped red blood all over the white tile floor. Brijesh and I saw what happened and quickly guided the injured girl to a Rec center employee at the card-swiping entrance down the hallway. "Excuse me, do you have a tissue or a paper towel or something? This girl's nose is bleeding." The employee stood there contemplating what I said, then got up and paced in a circle fondling his fanny pack, searching for something. Meanwhile, Brijesh knew there was a bathroom up past the daily-use lockers with a paper towel dispenser for drying hands. Rather than fumbling for a walkie talkie or looking to depend on someone else, Brijesh fetched the towels and the girl's bloody nose was plugged. He did not succumb to the group mentality that someone else will do it. Turns out, the Rec center employee decided to call the goddam ambulance to stop the bloody nose. Now this poor girl is going to have to pay ambulance dispatch charges and endure more complications. If it were me, well, I don't have the health insurance to pay for ambulances, but that's another story...


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