This is going to be a different topical approach, but I think it’s going to be fun after you give it a read and think about it.
I wanted to write a column that tied the Boston Celtics to one of my favorite TV shows, LOST. I wanted to write a short-story column that starts with the school-days friendship between me and Dorsey and ends with my Boston Celtics triumphantly defeating his Philadelphia 76ers. I wanted to walk around smug all day.
I can’t do it. We played so bad in Game 6 and missed a great opportunity. I don’t want a Game 7. The very thought makes me sick/mad/anxious/nauseous. Time to call an audible. Let’s talk about something that needs to come to fruition. Something we can all enjoy.
If you’re older than 25 and NOT actively preparing for Olympic tryouts/trials… or playing semi-pro baseball (and getting paid something, anything… sorry, your local Legion team doesn’t count)… or suiting up for some “minor league” football team…
I got some bad news for ya.
The prospects of you becoming a fulltime PAID athlete… they don’t look good. And by extension, don’t count on ever holding the Stanley Cup/NBA/MLB/NFL championship trophy unless you’re visiting a Hall of Fame. Or a good thief. A REAL good thief.
Sorry. That’s them breaks**.
**Not picking on ya… I’m in the same boat. The same sinking boat.
And it sucks. Because winning a “gold” medal for your local ages 25-55 basketball league is within reach. It should still be quite an accomplishment.
You can put 392 hours into determining what lineup gives your local softball team the best chance; you can create a 6,239-play playbook for your backyard football team. But your “highlight reel moments” are only going to be recorded on someone’s cell phone. Unless it’s really good. Then it might get seen by 32 people on YouTube. And 28 of those people are going to tell you that you suck anyway.
At 25 years old, your body will start to betray you. The throw from home plate to second base might seem a lot longer than you remember. That same throw might also cause you some discomfort in your shoulder later that night. Maybe you tackle someone in a football game… except you’re still the one on the ground calling timeout. Or you could be calling timeout because the 8 yards you sprinted to make said tackle felt like a mile uphill.
It’s gonna be more subtle for some people than others. But it’s going to happen.
We need an even playing field that serves as an outlet for our competitive swag. A way to gain legit bragging rights.
I’m not talking about video games. If you suck at video games, there’s no way you’re gonna have fun trying to come back from a 60-point deficit in Madden. Especially if your best offensive play is to punt.
I present/suggest: the National Board Game Association.
Why board games? Easy. Anyone can play.
FACT: board games were invented for kids**. FACT: the more fun a game is, the easier it is to play***.
**I have no basis for such a claim.
***I also have no data that shows this correlation.
It’s easy to set up. All you need is a few people (2 or 3 or 5… maybe 11?), a couple games, and a place to play. That’s it. Don’t worry about the male-female ratio. Don’t worry about age. You only need to worry about having enough chairs and having the best strategy.
You need a diverse selection of games. Which is good because there’s a billion to pick from. No right answer. No need to play the same ones over and over. Build up a cache of 10 board games and randomly rotate them. I’ll even toss you a few suggestions:
- Guess Who (you’ll need to set up a bracket)
- Apples To Apples
It never stops. Personally, I enjoy Battleship and Hungry Hungry Hippos. But do NOT choose Candyland. It’s not as fun as you think/remember. Trust me.
You can even make things interesting and add alcohol. Turn Chutes and Ladders into Shots and Ladders. Yup. Everytime you land on a chute, take a shot. Or Battleship into Battleshots. Good luck—everyone wins and loses at the same time!
Other than finding a mutually acceptable location for your participants, the only administrative action that needs to be performed is a way of deciding a winner. Maybe you do a round-robin Guess Who tournament to decide seeds. Then you do a Guess Who bracket. Four people playing -> four placements > 4 amounts of points. Then you can divide into two teams for some Pictionary. Change the teams up for some tag-team Battleship. Make Apples To Apples a free-for-all challenge. And give the last-place player a chance at redemption via extra points for winning a last-man-standing game of Monopoly.
I’ve got another one for ya. Start with Scrabble. The Game of Life. Round-robin Connect Four tournament. Operation… elimination-style. Team Catchphrase. Top two face off in championship Backgammon. Losers battle it out in Jenga.
That’s how it’s done, people. At the end of the night, one person can claim a game night victory. Let them defend the title the following month. Maybe give the champ something to tangibly add to his swag—a gold-painted tennis shoe… your TV remote control… a pizza… a stuffed bear doll. Keep records among your game group. Form alliances or start rivalries. It’s all there. What we love about competition. And it’s realistically in our grasps!
I’ll give you three examples… one involves actual events; one happened where you might not expect it; one is probably happening to you even as you read this:
I’ve attended three separate Game Nights at my friend Detroit Dan’s house. The usual participants are myself, my sister, Detroit Dan, our friend Eric, our friend Little Tuna, and her boyfriend Tommy. We often have 1 or 2 others. We play everything. It takes up a few hours. And it comes with bragging rights. At Game Night 2: Electric Bugaloo, I became the champion of Tornado Rex. And I talked shit about it for over a year. Until I lost my title at Game Night 3: Revenge of the Machines. To my sister. Goddamnit**. Game Night IV will probably happen this summer… and it’s just as anticipated, for me, as the MLB homerun derby or the Summer Olympics.
**I am, however, the reigning Hungry Hungry Hippo champion.
- For several nights while I was in Louisiana, you know where you could find me and my Army buddies late at night? In the cafeteria tent. Playing hand after hand after hand of Uno. And finding pleasure in every hand that I wasn’t the last one out. They played by some rules I never heard of, but it made it even more exciting to me. We even played for like 3 ½ hours one night. And our only source of light was chem-light glowsticks. We should have kept track to see who won the most.
- WORDS WITH FRIENDS! Duh. I’ve got 5 active games going right now. I’m 8-2 in my last 10 games. You don’t think I’m keeping track? I’ve been epically battling Smit for almost 3 years. I just had a 5-game win streak against just him. And you don’t think he won’t talk shit about having just ended it? It’s basically a traveling version of the NBGA. 24/7.
Maybe this is already a “thing”. I know there’s Scrabble championships and stuff. I’m sure someone somewhere owns the title of Greatest Rummikub Player Ever. But no such “league” offers a roulette-style subject. No “league” allows you to suck at Don’t Break the Ice, yet make up for it by being outstanding at Bananagrams. You would never walk into an NBGA event knowing which games you might have to play.
The NBGA needs to happen. Utilize age divisions. Have sudden-death tournaments. Make it a team competition. Whatever. It’s instant satisfaction and it fills our competitive needs. And there’s little to no risk of bodily harm. Start it up in your hometown. Or at your next family function. Then challenge your friend’s family champ or your old college roommate’s hometown champ. Set up an event at work.
When you can honestly say “I am the best board game player in all of [insert your division]”, it instantly makes someone think “I can beat him”. Make them prove it.