Red rubber balls bounce off bodies and battle cries are belted. The annual Students’ Association sponsored tournament proves dodgeball is no longer a playful playground sport. Last week, Release the McCracken, the infamous team of teachers, returned to the court to make a second run at schooling their students in a whole new classroom.
Release the McCracken made its dodgeball debut at last year’s tournament, an idea stemming from what Dr. Vic McCracken describes as “harboring pent-up feelings of aggression borne from hours of watching our students play Words with Friends while we were trying to lecture.”
Inspired to take out his student-directed rage in a more socially acceptable manner, McCracken, assistant professor of theology and ethics and team captain,Â contacted a group of other able-bodied athletes or similarly enraged faculty members to take up the cause and step onto the court.
“What better way to release these feelings than by tossing underinflated red balls at our students?” McCracken said.
Professor David Kneip, an instructor in the Department of Bible and Missions, borrowed the name, “Release the McCracken,” from an old Honors College t-shirt, which the team adopted as its team uniform.
With all odds against it, the 10-member faculty/staff team made for worthy competition, reaching the quarterfinal round of last year’s tournament before falling victim to the GSP team, “Average Joes.”
The team of teachers knew the offseason would need to be spent in dedicated training if they expected to seriously compete this year.
“Our team dreams of dodgeball season year round,” McCracken said. “Students seem to think this is some diversion, some light triviality to relieve them of Spring Semester stress. Not us. In those 10 minute battles with our foes, our team intends to make those moments the most intensely stressful moments of our students’ lives.”
A few weeks prior to the tournament, the team filmed a promo video titled “Release the McCracken,” inciting student participation for a chance at revenge. The video showcased the team’s offseason training: dosages of deer antler extract, one-finger pull-ups and daily cardio conditioning.
With the video causing some student stirrings, Dylan Benac, SA vice president, said a few of the teams competing in last year’s tournament knew Team McCracken’s chances of winning were probable.
While students may initially feel it inappropriate to compete against their professors, the classroom courtesy commandment, “respect your elders,” goes out with a peppering of ball ammunition from Team McCracken.
Release the McCracken was more favored by students this year, inspiring cheers and jeers from those in the audience. After defeating a GSP team in the first round, Dr. McCracken said audience reaction was encouraging.
“It was a delight to hear the cheers of approval from the gathered crowd when our entire team looked to the fans in the upper deck of the rec center and yelled, Gladiator-like, ‘Are you not entertained?’ And they were.”
This year, the rag-tag teach team made it to the second day of competition and fourth round of the tournament, finishing with a 3-2 record, after being eliminated by the Bro-jan Trojan team they played last season.
“We made it to round four last year, so we consider this season an improvement, though by no means where we expected to be, on top of the dodgeball mountain looking down on all of our vanquished students,” said McCracken.
Even with three impressive victories, team members still feel their performance was crippled by internal team factors.
“We were somewhat surprised that there were two student teams that were able to defeat us,” said Dr. Ryan Jessup, assistant professor of marketing. “Prof. John Camp, may have been somewhat hindered by playing in his complete academic regalia. Â We were also without our captain, Prof. McCracken, for our final day of matches, probably contributing to our ultimate demise.”
Benac said students should not underestimate the team of ever-aging adults.
“I’ve heard rumors that they might be training in the basement of the Chambers building,” he said. “With that being said, I think next year’s students need to be prepared for a faster, stronger and wiser team.”
McCracken said the team’s next promo video is already in the works, “an ESPNesque mockumentary about our team’s humble beginnings, our quick ascent and calamitous crash brought on by years of hard living.”
But above all, spectators can expect one thing from Release the McCracken 2014 team: payback.
Dr. McCracken offered words of warning to their competition, “Bro-jans, we are coming for you.”
Though the team was created out of teacher-to-student spite, Benac said he feels it vital for students and faculty/staff to be involved in nontraditional activities so students may see their professors in a light other than the office or classroom.
“To say in plainly, students need to see faculty members in their true environment,” he said. “At times I think students forget that professors have families, children, hobbies, and want to have fun. The dodge ball tournament provides students with a quick glance at who these professors really are.”
Many members of Release the McCracken have taken to a new arena on the soccer field, creating an intramural team populated primarily of faculty and staff named “Sunflowers of Death.” Like their dodgeball brethren, the current 2-0 record soccer team plays on intimidation for what they lack in youthfullness.
“The team is exceptionally competitive,” said Dr. Andy Little, assistant professor of business law. “As an example, consider our name: ‘The Sunflowers of Death.’ Â Notice the level of fear the name strikes in our opponents. Among all sunflowers, which one is the scariest? Obviously, it’s the Sunflower of Death.”
As for the dodgeball brotherhood, balls were dodged, no golds were won, but Team McCracken proves yet again they are a team to be reckoned with.