Arizona Rampage, the Valley's World Champion Dodgeball Team, Defends Its Title Next Weekend in Las Vegas

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Professional sports championships are a rare and precious thing in the Valley. Outside of the Arizona Diamondbacks' epic upset of the New York Yankees a decade ago -- and the odd title win by fringe sporting squads every now and again -- Phoenix hasn't had the opportunity to experience the heady glory of having hometown heroes bring home a trophy. 

But while the Suns, Coyotes, and Cardinals still can't call themselves "world champions," the members of the Arizona Rampage most definitely can. The local professional dodgeball team smashed its way to the top of the mountain at last year's National Dodgeball League's Open Division World Championships in Las Vegas.

The nine-member team's hoping to repeat this accomplishment when they travel to Sin City next weekend and take on teams from around the world while defending their title. 

The Rampage are champions of a schoolyard sport that's mostly played by sixth graders, but that doesn't make championship win any less noteworthy. 

Much like Vince Vaughn and his buddies in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (the 2004 comedy flick that inspired the NDL and the adult dodgeball trend), the Rampage defeated squads from around the country and worldwide, including Canada, Austria, and Denmark.

According to team captain Bill Fair, the Rampage has also been featured on ESPN and international newscasts, and has traveled across the globe to New Zealand and Australia to compete.

"The teams overseas saw the same movie we did, but have wildly different interpretations of the game," he says. "When we went to New Zealand and they were playing with basketballs, which are made from thick rubber that really hurt."

It's a tough and painful sport, to be certain. Like many of his teammates, Fair has had plenty of bruises and injuries to prove it.

"I've broken the bursa in my elbow, dislocated two toes, rolled my ankles pretty severely, and fractured my hand once," he says. "There's always broken fingers, concussions, and other injuries. It's definitely a high-impact sport. The ball feels like a wrench when its moving that fast."

There are also tactics and brinkmanship involved in big-league competitive dodgeball, Fair explains, unlike the games you played as a grade-schooler.

"After you play for awhile, you start realizing there's actual strategy to the game. As a kid, you just toss the ball as much as possible. But now we have to run plays, fake people out, cover each other, and throw from all these different angles."

Even if they don't emerge triumphant from Sin City, Fair says that his team is still planning on taking trips to Southeast Asia and the U.K. to battle teams from those countries.

"Hong Kong looks like they're completive and Malaysia's teams look pretty organized and tough," he says. "We're not afraid of them though. We'll take on anybody that wants to come at us."

But only if they can save up enough scratch, that is. Fair says the team's entirely self-financed and members have held car washes and other fundraisers to help pay for their professional-looking uniforms and trips overseas.

"The challenge with dodgeball has been that it's still not a fully recognized sport. So it's been hard to find sponsors and we've had to pay for things out of our own pocket," Fair says. "You'd think that if you're the world champions of something, then sponsorships would be easy."

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