Editor's Note: I don't even know if NWLA Tournament articles are a thing anymore but here's ours for this year.

I’M BAAAAACK. It seems like every few years I have to write one of these. The Magnum Opus for this column is the 2014 version of this article where I said “if you don’t like walks, throw strikes” and then WILL actually won a title doing just that. I honestly enjoy writing these because there’s very rarely been a good response to this article.

I’ve been monitoring the player surveys like I do every year. Generally, scores for everything are pretty high. 95% of the player body thinks things are fine and are just happy to play wiffs.

But I’m petty, so I’ll address the 5%. I won’t mention any names, but you know who you are.

Below I’ll talk through some of my favorite complaints about the tournament. There are three categories: valid complaints, open debates, and people who absolutely missed the boat on what this tournament is about. Let’s start with that last one, where I won’t even provide commentary. Just sit back, laugh, and move on.

People who missed the boat:

  • Multiple teams from leagues

  • Any lessening of the league requirements (these are so easy to follow, even AWAA can do it)

  • Baserunning

  • Yellow bats

Again, no commentary.

Legitimate complaints:

  • Umpires

I’ve heard mixed reviews on the umpires. These guys were first year guys that had a month to learn the entire sport of wiffleball. Our rulebook isn’t that long, but it can get complicated at times. There were some missed calls and some controversy, but overall, I never saw anything that was that horrible. There were some really funny comments on the umpires but my favorite was that umps shouldn’t be used because “wiffs is a gentleman’s game”, while not one line later saying “they don’t understand how seriously we take this game”. Those two statements contradict each other.

Honestly, for first time umps I thought they did fine. There’s some finetuning that can be done to both the ump training and the rules. Those will both be looked at. For anyone who is complaining please ask yourself: were these guys any worse than the guys we used for 8 years prior to this? The umps aren’t going anywhere.

  • Fields

Not even going to debate this one although I will say that Davey set everything up in less time than anyone has before. This is a non-issue for next year.

  • Scorekeepers

I spent 8 hours putting the stats in this week. I’ll say that things weren’t great on this side. Another thing where more training and time to prepare will be extremely helpful.

Side note: the guy on Field 1 talking about the ‘Stillers was a great commentary during wiffle games.

  • Bathrooms

Okay, the toilets were clogged, but I blame all of you. I’ve been doing this for 9 years and I’ve never seen a bathroom capable of handling wiffler’s massive shits. Next field we will try to have a bathroom that has a jet-engine as the flushing mechanism. Still not sure that will help.

Up for discussion:

  • Pool Play mattering, the Bracket, and the Pool Play Draft

I was going to address these separately, but I’ll roll them into one. First off, let me start by saying I would LOVE to have meaningful games all day. That being said, one thing remains true about the NWLA Tournament: THIS TOURNAMENT IS FOR THE COMMON PLAYER. Sure, this tournament has its share of dominant teams and players but the other things this tournament has is camaraderie, opportunity, and parity.

Here’s the main issue: certain teams are really crying out for pool play mattering. I’ve heard a bunch of ideas for how to make it matter, and I’ll address every single one of them because I want this to be very clear: with 16 teams, there is no viable way to make pool play matter.

Let’s start with the easy one: eliminate teams after pool play. The short answer is no. The long answer is if you eliminate the bottom teams after pool play you will 100% lose teams. No mid to lower tier team is going to travel and pay to play 3 games. The Dangerfield is dead and meant nothing anyway. In short, everybody who is in favor of this wants to play a 12 team tournament. Not really in our best interest.

Here’s another popular idea: let the top seeds pick their first round opponent. Now I’m not ridiculously opposed to this, but there’s two reasons why it won’t really work. First, how does that change anything? This year for example: Ridley would’ve picked Boneyard, OCWA would’ve picked Colonie. Maybe people avoid WSEM? It doesn’t really change anything. Second, ask 95% of the Golden Stick Fast player body how they feel about it. James Stein in particular HATES callouts. Most people do. It’s not realistic for a bracket style tournament.

Let’s face it, with 16 teams and the way this tournament is set up, you can’t really make pool play matter. You’ll most likely get an easier game if you go all out. That’s about it. Once again, I’d love for pool play to matter, but in order to do that we need more than 16 teams. I promise if we get 17+ next year we will do some cool shit.

I’d like to also address the people saying that the bracket split was unfair. This year we tried something different. It drew mixed reviews and we’ll talk about where to go from here. But some of you seem to not understand how a bracket works. Teams are seeded 1-16, and in both formats (our format this year, and regular 16 team DE) there are two brackets. For our purposes we’ll call them a top and bottom.

Now, let’s look closer. If you take a second to actually look at a standard DE bracket, there is ZERO bracket crossover until the second-to-last DE game. Sure, playing the same teams a lot gets repetitive but that’s how this works. The only difference between a standard DE bracket and this year’s split format is the crossover is postponed until the very last game. That’s it. So the team that’s complaining about the format never would’ve gotten to said game ANYWAY.

Now to bring in the Pool Play Draft: a certain team (nameless) says in the same breath that the top seed should not have that much advantage in the draft but wants Pool Play to matter. Make up your mind. I have more comments on this but I’ll reserve for said team to reach out. Let’s just say their pool was hard, but the team that picked said pool was not the top seed. Looks like your point is not only contradictory, it’s just plain bad.

In Conclusion

I don’t want to discourage change. The are certainly things that this tournament needs to improve upon. However, this format has been the exact same for 9 years, and in 9 years we’ve crowned 6 different champions. It seems like the system works.

I’ll quote the co-founder and former organizer of the tournament Chris Gallaway: “Pool Play is practice. These games are meant to be warm-ups for the real thing”. I’ll take his words one step further: Pool Play is the area where your guys really get to shine. Throw that pitcher that might have some good stuff and needs reps to get better. Bat the rookie who needs some practice. Play your 5-8 guys. This tournament is for the common player, and some people have lost sight of that. Time to get back to that idea, gentlemen. Otherwise, we’re the same as every other tournament.