The NWLA Tournament is one of the main events on the wiffleball calendar. I’ll just go ahead and say that and let anyone who wants to argue think about what they have to say. To put it in even better terms for the haters: an event whose third installment has just come and gone is now one of the biggest events on the wiffleball calendar. Think about that: four years ago, this was merely talk. Now look where we are.
The fact that something that was just created can be built up so quickly is the main point here. Did I get that across yet? This success was the product of many hardworking individuals who labored to make this the best experience for everyone involved. When I say “many hardworking individuals”, I mostly mean Chris Gallaway, but we have to give credit to the rest of the organizing committee (except myself, I refuse to give myself any credit for the work I did).
But now it seems that the tournament has reached its cap. 16 teams is a huge amount for something that requires this much travel and planning. Not to mention there’s been more interest, as we could’ve had 19 teams this year if we wanted. But 16 teams is a good limit, and now, we have to start thinking about rotating teams in and out of this tournament. How we plan to do that has been confined to the NWLA Organizing Committee until now.
About a week before the 2014 NWLA Tournament, Chris came up with an idea for this. Basically, the 12 teams that didn’t play in the Dangerfield Bracket (i.e. go 0-2 in the DE on Saturday) would automatically qualify for the 2015 NWLA Tournament. The winner of the Dangerfield Bracket would also qualify for said tournament. That leaves three spots for any interested team to take. Instead of just a pure rotation, Chris came up with the idea that we have the teams “qualify” for the tournament by playing pre-tourney games. I’m in love with this idea and if that’s where we leave it then I’m fine with that. But I want to take it further.
Chris, in the same email, then posited the idea of playing “regional games” as a part of the 2015 NWLA Pool Play. This would not only cut the cramped style of the tournament down, but also provide something else to look forward to, as far as the NWLA goes. One league from each region would host the other teams in their region for one weekend, where they would play round-robin style. I’m in love with this idea and if that’s where we leave it then I’m fine with that. But I want to take it further.
People that have tried to do this in the past have been called “crazy”. Several organizations have come and gone, and it seems like the only one that stuck was Golden Stick. Golden Stick tournaments are some of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and their brand is legendary. I don’t want to mess with that. However, there is a large level of fast pitch talent that they aren’t reaching. I want to reach those talents.
The NWLA is a huge organization, consisting of (at the moment) 72 leagues, with 523 teams. Some are huge leagues (PWL, KWL, HRL), some are small leagues (TBW, NWBL, HVWBL). Some are fast pitch and some are slow pitch. Some run bases, and some don’t. It doesn’t matter, because we’re taking what the NWLA Tournament is all about and applying it to something bigger. We can take the NWLA and turn it into something that it represents: a huge, nation-wide wiffleball league.
Before you call the insane asylum and say “There’s some idiot with a computer and I think he’s gone nuts”, hear me out. We already do this once a year. 16 leagues travel to Dublin, Ohio to play in a weekend long tournament. It’s a freakin’ blast. Now let’s expand on Gallaway’s idea. Let’s take any NWLA Leagues that want to participate, split them up into regions of 4 or more, and play some regional games on weekends. Let’s keep national standings and stats. And then when it is all said and done, let’s take the 16 best teams from across the nation, bring them to Ohio, and battle it out for a true National Championship.
This wouldn’t be overly complicated either, and it wouldn’t require any league to dissolve. All it requires is a little time and effort from everyone. Let’s say each region has 4 teams. Each team hosts a “regional day”, where the rest of the region comes to town and plays round robin. Hell, let’s say they play double round robin. That’s either 6 or 12 games a day, and either 3 or 6 per team. As Gallaway put it, “6 games takes one field for a day.” 12 games just requires another field. There would be 4 of these regional days, which means we’d either have a 12 or 24 game schedule. That’s not bad if you ask me. If you’re worried about travel, don’t be. In this scenario there are very few teams that would have to travel more than a few hours to reach their goal. The West might be tougher, the South might be tougher. But with enough interest, it can work. For instance, let’s use a graphic that Chris Gallaway came up with:
So the OCWA’s region would be Wasshburn (30 minutes away), HVWBL (about 3.5 hours), and SRL (about 3 hours). Those are all overnight trips at worst. Yeah the South is spread out. Yeah the West is non-existent. But if more leagues (Wiffle Atlanta, ETW, any Western League) can fill those voids and is willing, we can make this work. Plus, add in the fact that only 3 weekends would be used. Are you telling me you can’t swing 3 travel weekends? I don’t believe you.
So after a 12 or 24 game season (you guys can figure out what you want), we bring it all back to the place where the idea began: Columbus, Ohio. We can move the tournament to the end of the year (Ohio still has decent weather). We can keep it all the same. It’ll just mean a little more than bragging rights. It’ll be a true national championship.
I think this idea is the goal of most people in the wiffle world. We want this to expand. We want to grow the sport. We want to be taken seriously. We all want this game that we fell in love with to be more. I think this is the next step. There’s a lot of logistical stuff that goes along with this, but if we all put in a little bit of effort, we can do this. It’s not crazy, it’s the future of wiffleball. Together, we have a chance to take this sport to levels it has never seen. I want this. I know some of you do too. So what are we waiting for?