Handsome Costanza: Living the Fifth-Grader's Dream 

Thursday, May 19 2011

For many people, being at the top of your game means having a corner office or a flashy car. But if you're Michael "Handsome" Costanza, and the game in question is dodgeball, you know you've made it when you're surrounded by hordes of adults in elaborate costumes hurling rubber balls at each other.

That's a typical day in the life of Costanza, founder of the World Dodgeball Society. On the court he goes by "Handsome," and if you're into skinny, scruffy-faced guys in '80s aviator eyeglasses, you'll fully endorse his moniker. But don't let his slender physique fool you. "On a good day, I can throw as hard as anybody," he says. "Kids used to ask me, 'How do you throw the heat?' If you're going to use me as a benchmark, stop working out, don't do anything."

Costanza started the WDS in 2003, when he was working art department jobs full-time. Back then, dodgeball was merely a hobby. It wasn't a sport he believed anyone could take too seriously, since most people stop playing after elementary school. "Nobody was a varsity dodgeball player," he says.

click to enlarge Handsome Costanza
  • Handsome Costanza

Related Stories

  • Real Estate

    @ The Fonda Theatre
  • Comic Book Theater

    In 1954, the massive, and popular, comic books industry changed forever. Those heavily visual narrative tales provoked outrage amongst the grown-ups who believed these books would lead to the ruin of a generation of youngsters. Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham condemned them in his book Seduction of the Innocent. The U.S. Senate...
  • 5 Things to Do in L.A. This Week For Less Than $10

    5. See Nick KrollStand-up comedian/writer/actor Nick Kroll landed his big TV break playing shameless lawyer Ruxin on FX's The League. Last year, the comedian became a bona fide star, thanks to Kroll Show, his very own, pop culture - skewering sketch show on Comedy Central, where Kroll and a cast
  • 2014 JBF Noms

    The James Beard Foundation announced their 2014 award nominees this morning, in a livestream from Chicago. (Fancy stuff! One wonders what Beard himself, a Portland, Ore., native who started his career in the theatre and was one of the pioneers of food on television, would have thought about that one.) The award...
  • Electric Haven

    You smug rich people with your Teslas and energy draining mega-mansions should be proud. Los Angeles is the nation's leader in electric car sales. ChargePoint, the company that runs the nation's largest network of charging stations, says Angelenos bought 5,000 of the plug-in cars in the third quarter of 2013. That's...

It was always meant to be about fun. As an old man in a bar, who claimed to be a pal of Charles Bukowski, once told him, "L.A. is a cool place in the sense that you can live the life of a child but make a grown-up's living." That struck a chord with Costanza. When it came to dodgeball, "I think that was always in the back of my head."

And they do have fun. Dodgeball players almost universally wear short shorts, and their teams have bizarre names, such as Cabbage Snatch Kids, What Would Jesus Dodge? or Ball-N-Oates.

Many are themed out. The first team to go extreme was the West Coast John Cougar Mellencamps, who wore all denim: cutoff shorts and vests without shirts underneath. "Maybe not sanitary, but it was a lot of fun," he says.

Costanza's favorite? He once played on a team called Tijuana Si My Balls and the Great Wall of Vagina.

From the beginning, it was important to its founder that the WDS be a creative, community-oriented program. He loves that it brings people into community centers and gyms. He loves the social aspect of it — the comedy nights, drunken spelling bees, bingo games, junior high dance parties — and uses members to help deejay or photograph an event.

Instead of cash, Costanza prefers to put together prize packages of donations from community businesses. "I don't want someone out there bringing negative energy because they're playing for their car payment or rent or, since we're in L.A., possibly cosmetic surgery," he says.

About two years ago, riding high on WDS' success, Costanza decided to run dodgeball full-time.

Today 14 leagues play all over Los Angeles, with new divisions forming in New York, Chicago, Baltimore and Mississippi. It's become a dodgeball empire — the dream of many a fifth-grade gym class hero — and the novelty is nowhere near wearing off.

"Seeing somebody get hit in the privates, whether it be a nut shot or a vagina buster, is still as funny seven years in as it was the first day," he declares.

Click here to see all our Best of L.A. People 2011 profiles.

And click here for more photographs of the Best of L.A. People 2011.


Reach the writer at atrachta@laweekly.com

Related Content


  • Onch Movement for Hello Kitty Jewelry Launch @ JapanLA
    Hello Kitty and designer Onch Movement collaborated on a new line of jewelry just in time for the holiday season. The launch party and trunk show showcased a limited number of pieces for purchase and gave fans a preview opportunity to try the collection on for size. The event also featured art work by Malcolm Stuart, The Pocky truck and a visit from Hello Kitty, who stopped by for photo opps. The limited edition Onch Movement for Hello Kitty jewelry collection is available exclusively at Sanrio.com starting November 20. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.

    See also: Lina in L.A.- All Aboard EVA Air's Hello Kitty Jet!
  • WeHo Gogo Appreciation Day
    West Hollywood paid tribute to the male gogo dancer with a little friendly competition Saturday night in Boystown, featuring plenty of pecs and very little clothing. All photos by Matt Baume.
  • Lina In L.A.- FROCK YEAH at FYF Fest!
    Dressing practical didn't mean plain at this year's FYF Fest. The hot and dirty grounds brought out bandannas, combat boots, and loose get-ups, from overalls to sundresses. Knee socks, DIY denim, colorful hair, band and statement tees and still-bold boho accessories made for a style mix that meshed multiple eras, though grungy '90s statements rocked loudest!