I find myself shocked and saddened by the following report from the New York Daily News’ Jennifer Birin. If items like this continue to appear…Phil Mushnick’s redundancy seems a foregone conclusion.

There are few physically beneficial aspects to the game of dodge ball, a game that can be socially and even physically damaging. Dodge ball-related injuries have even led many schools to take the game out of their gym curriculum. On Nov. 18, 2002, the state of New Jersey banned the game from public schools. New York followed suit soon after.

Although it’s banned, some schools have found a gray area to continue the game. In its place is a game called gladiator ball; the only difference is that the balls are softer. According to an affidavit from nationally recognized dodge ball expert Steven Bernheim, the game of gladiator ball is actually dodge ball, and not appropriate for children to play.

Personal injury attorney Eric Richman said, “In a poorly disguised attempt to insulate themselves from liability, school districts have changed the name of dodge ball to gladiator ball. Besides the obvious poor name choice, changing the name of an inherently dangerous, degrading and humiliating sport doesn’t absolve a school of its legal responsibility.

“Gladiator ball or dodge ball, or any sport that involves throwing multiple balls at 9-year-old children within a confined area, is simply school-endorsed bully-ism,” said Richman. “It degrades the weaker children and promotes no athletic skills. Some school districts have banned this sport while others, like South Orangetown [N.Y.], where Timmy Zinna goes to school, still just don’t get it.”

No beneficial aspects, Jennifer? Tell that to the guy who majored in Smear The Queer at Hampshire College. OK, it was really Ultimate Frisbee (easy to confuse the two), but I think the same point applies. Dodge Ball is a gateway sport, if you will, one that opens the door to many other complex pursuits (eg. paintball, or the game where you try to walk all the way to the back of a Radio Shack without being asked for your name and address) and I can only hope that New York’s incoming Governor — a man who undoubtedly took many balls to the face while growing up — will see the folly of such changes in the curriculum.