Whenever we hear something exciting about the equator itself, Following the Equator just has to follow through. After reading about the college students who played dodgeball at the equator, I tracked down the man behind the feat that nearly became a world record.
Bryan Wojtowicz, who just graduated from Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, concocted the idea for the impromptu game while filming a student video project during a university trip to Latin America. Bryan was one of about 50 Bryant students who traveled to Panama and Ecuador in January.
At the equator just outside Quito, Ecuador, Bryan (photo above) and teammate Matt Meehan competed against Rob McNell and Chris Walker in what Bryan dubbed “the world’s first interhemispherical dodgeball game.” Brendan Sysun served as referee and uttered the now-famous line, “Equatorial line infraction! You’re out!” Luckily, Raymond Mahoney filmed the game for all to see.
Bryan and I talked about playing dodgeball at the equator, trying to
certify a Guinness World Record and the possibility of another record
Following the Equator: Thanks for taking the time to talk. I was excited when I came across your story …
Bryan Wojtowicz: It definitely goes with your blog, too, pretty perfectly.
Equator: Did you know you were going to go to the equator?
Wojtowicz: We knew that that was one of the excursions we were going to do,
but I didn’t come up with the idea to have a dodgeball game until the
Equator: Was it your idea? Were you the impetus behind it?
Wojtowicz: Yeah, it was my spur-of-the-moment idea. I don’t know if you saw
the nine-minute video we made, but the whole premise of this
documentary was follow the bouncing ball around Latin America. We were
going to use it as a promotional video to get other Bryant students
excited about the trip. The study-abroad office could use it or
something. So we had these little red balls with us, and I got the
spur-of-the-moment idea to use them for a dodgeball game. It was three
other members of my group that played in the game, and one member of the
group videotaped it and there’s one
Equator: Brendan was the referee, right?
Wojtowicz: Yeah, and he had the famous line (“equatorial line infraction”), which is a riot.
Equator: Did Brendan just come up with that on the spur of the moment?
Wojtowicz: I told him to say it. I don’t want to take all the credit, but …
Equator: That’s you in the video stepping over the line, is that right?
Wojtowicz: Yeah. That was staged.
Equator: Did you know
you were going to have only a very short amount of time to play the game?
Wojtowicz: It was a very narrow area to work with, and there was little
concrete pylons, I guess, sticking up every few feet, saying, “This is
the equator.” So we had kind of limited space to work with, and there
was other guests around us, not from Bryant University. We were afraid
that people would say, “Oh, these stupid Americans. What the heck are
they doing?” So we kind of made it quick, just to say we did it.
Equator: Did you have to get people to give you some space?
Wojtowicz: Yeah, there was 25 Bryant students there, because they split the
group in half. And we kinda just told them
to move around. We kind of timed it so there were no other guests
around. And one of the tour guides, we tried to explain to her that we
wanted to have a dodgeball game, just to make sure it was OK. We didn’t
want to get in trouble. There could have been delicate plantlife around
that a ball could hit. She didn’t really understand, but she just said
go ahead. So we went for it.
Equator: Did the rest of the Bryant students know what you guys were up to?
Wojtowicz: We told them, and they were actually cheering us on, which was nice.
Equator: Did you get any kind of reaction from other people afterward?
Wojtowicz: People from the Bryant group just thought it was the most
ridiculous thing they’ve seen. Other guests weren’t really around to
Equator: When did the whole Guinness World Record thing come up?
Wojtowicz: When I got back from the trip, I had the idea to send it in to
Guinness immediately. There’s steps to go through Guinness so that not
anyone off the street is emailing them record ideas. So I had to print
out a 27-page document, basically agreeing that if someone got hurt in
the record attempt, Guinness isn’t liable. They don’t endorse any
attempts. I mailed that to England, and then usually it takes four to
six weeks for them to get back to you. But in our case, it took almost
three months. …
The reason behind that is because Guinness likes people to tell them
of their record ideas ahead of time. So that they can set the
parameters for the record, like saying, “No, you should have at least
three people per team and you need to have the mayor of the town where
the equator is present to kind of verify.” They want someone of local
distinction to be at the record attempt. So maybe if I knew that ahead
of time, I could have done some research and contacted someone.
Equator: Do you have any plans to go back to the equator and try it again?
Wojtowicz: I don’t, because I don’t have that kind of money to travel
there. But I did become pretty good friends, I guess, with the
professors who are going back next year. So, again, students will
probably do a documentary, and I might suggest that they see if
students want to do that because it’s great PR for Bryant University—not only to be in EF blogs and in the Boston Globe but to actually have
a world record is pretty cool.