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06
  • The most common questions I received after the regional tournament were: “How did it go?”, and “What did you think about regional play?”. So I’ll throw out the answers I’ve been giving…

Nothing really came as a big surprise to me. Our “social event” kind of fell apart when a couple of teams couldn’t make it, and another had to follow their local hockey club through their Stanley Cup pursuit (as Minnesotans, we fully understand and support this), but it still worked out well enough for those who were able to attend, even though we never got to determine who NWLA’s best bowlers are.

In regards to the actual tournament, again, there were no big surprises. Most within our league as well as leagues across the country had essentially all picked the correct order of finish and the teams that would advance to Ohio, so with that, it also led to the question we all had when the regional tournaments were first announced last year… Is this really worth it? Three weeks after the event I’m still not sure I know how to answer it.  It was great fun having teams show up to our rink to play a different style of ball than we do, and it was cool for some of our league guys who aren’t on our NWLA team to see it in person. It was a lot of fun seeing a bunch of our friends that we hadn’t seen in a while and making new friends.

Was it all necessary? I didn’t think so going into it, and that opinion hasn’t changed. The travel, expense, and planning involved in eliminating only 4 teams seemed extremely unnecessary, particularly given the low level of “upsets”. Was anybody surprised by any of the 4 teams that didn’t make it? My guess is probably not. If we had 24 teams rather than 20, then maybe it’s a little different animal – but at only 20? It seems like the plans set back in August could have been easily amended when it became clear that we wouldn’t get to a level beyond the low-20’s, and probably should have. Getting everybody together was fun, but frankly, that could be done through the individual leagues and their tournaments. For example, our own Wifflin’ For Wishes in August or Wifftoberfest in October – both are open format tournaments that allow anybody to play, and a few other leagues around the country have similar events. Mandating regional attendance for NWLA to eliminate 4 teams didn’t feel like the right way to get leagues together. But again, I reserve the right to amend this opinion should we find ourselves with 24+ teams looking to get in next year. With more skin in the game, this could be the exact way to go about it.

  • A thought that kept running through my head during regionals ties in to my thoughts above… We need to find a way to get the west coast involved in the NWLA Tournament, but that’s obviously been proven to be difficult, and how far do we go to make it happen?

The most obvious issue is simply the lack of leagues recognized by NWLA out west. It is far and away the least populated region with only 5 recognized leagues, and really, only one – Crofton Wiffleball Association – has even vaguely expressed interest in participating. So what needs to happen? Well, it’s hard to fathom that in a baseball-mad state the size of California that there are only two organized wiffleball leagues in the entire state. There are more – they need to be found. How does the NWLA organization find them? Also, the expense in getting to Ohio once additional leagues are weeded out. That’s obviously been the main contributor to CWA not making an appearance yet, and it doesn’t feel right that a team that wants to play isn’t able to make it happen. Sponsorship is something that should be looked at… But at what level? Is it dependent on leagues to find their own local sponsors, or are there chances out there for the NWLA Tournament to find national sponsorship opportunities? Many questions, few answers, but hopefully an issue that can be addressed going forward.

  • It was about this time last year when I woke up on a Sunday morning in my room at the Marriott in Dublin, OH, and I wrote an article that included a paragraph about how Twitter was evolving into a tool that was bonding wifflers around the country and providing more exposure to the game than anything had before. Fast forward 11 months and we find ourselves with yet another tool that has the potential of spreading the game even more… Periscope. If you’re unfamiliar with Periscope, it is a smartphone app that will allow users to live stream video to users who also have the app, and will allow those watching (or filming) to interact with live chat.

HRL began using it when our 2015 season started, and immediately we began seeing more and more “outsiders”, people who didn’t know organized wiffleball existed in the country, let alone in their very own state, tuning in to check out what HRL was up to week after week. It’s allowed former players to keep taps on their old opponents and teammates, and it’s allowed current players to see what’s going on when they have a night off.  As poorly as we’ve done in terms of streaming full games on the tool, it has been fun seeing who tunes and what they think of what we do, and most seem to enjoy it, even going so far as to heckle players from thousands of miles away…

But when Chris Gallaway and his team made a last minute decision to stream NWLA Tournament regional games via Periscope, you could see and feel the tangible potential the app has. The number of viewers at any one time certainly wasn’t in any danger of crashing the app’s infrastructure (I believe the most viewers at any one time was about 28), but as one of those who spent the vast majority of 3 days watching end-to-end wiffles, it was a great experience to see. Excitement always builds as the NWLA Tournament draws near, so to be able to gather with your fellow long-lost wifflers from near and far in a common location and share thoughts on games from around the country (if you weren’t watching when SRL took down OCWA, shame on you), was a great experience and should only improve for the National tournament in a couple of weeks.

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