Kickball in the City

Monday, July 31, 2006

Rating the Bar

As most of us get ready to start our next season of kickball, I thought I would do a review of some of the kickball bars I have frequented in my many seasons. Someone on kickball365 asked what makes a good sponsor bar, so this is where the idea comes from. Here they are in no particular order with ratings and comments:

The Exchange Saloon - If you play on the Monument grounds it is walking distance, which is nice. There is a large outside area which is cool when it's not blazing hot. The staff is okay, the owner is a little testy, but for the most part you do as you please. The bathrooms are not that great. Specials are nothing out of the ordinary. Overall: B

Kelly's Irish Times - Small upstairs area, the staff is fairly rude. They lie to you and tell you you can't buy pitchers at the bar. When you go downstairs it's a million degrees, but at least it's all kickballers. Bathrooms are gross. Food is blah and the specials are on the low end of the kickball spectrum. NOT easy to get to. Will NOT lest you split your bill! Overall D-

Mc Fadden's - Very large. Nice specials, the staff is very slow with food, but the bartenders are nice. Lots of flip cup room. Bathrooms are the best of all the bars on the list. They love football watchers more than kickballers, so it's not great in the Fall. Close to the Monument fields, Overall: B+

Tom Tom - Decent size, very close to the fields. Service is poor. Usually only one or two bartenders and they seem overwhelmed (with just half the teams playing on one night). Good specials. MAJOR DRAWBACK: If you make noise during flip cup they close off half the bar due to complaints. The bathrooms are nice but you have to climb through a maze to find them. Not great when drunk. Overall: C+

Bottom Line - Not far from the fields if you play on the Monument. Service is ok, specials are nothing great. Tiny bathroom, small bar. They have an ice luge during the week which would be awesome for kickball. Overall: D+

The Ugly Mug - Staff is the friendliest around, however the food takes a long time and is not great. Specials are average. Bathrooms are the WORST! One of the women's toilets is broken every week! A little too small for a full compliment of players. Separate flip cup room which is pretty cool, though small. Not a bad drive from the fields. When they let us DJ that's cool too. Allows for each person to have own tab. Overall: B-

Wonderland - By far, the worst bar on this list. They care more about Bohemian dance and Bring your Baby to the Bar nights than kickballers. We are an afterthought and annoyance there. Specials suck. Staff is rude and slow. Really, it's not a kickball bar in any way. Overall: FFFF

Angry Inch - Very small, tough two levels walking distance from the fields though. Flip cup friendly. Specials are okay. Staff tries to be helpful but is slow. Bathrooms reek pretty badly. Overall: C

Asylum - Okay specials, walking distance from the fields. Really, it's a biker bar, not a kickball bar. Bathrooms are not great. Staff is okay, but seemed overwhelmed. Specials are ok. Not a lot of flip cup room, but nice for a small group. Overall: B-

Adam's Mill - Lots of levels, walking distance from the field. Upstairs gets a bit cramped and VERY hot. Flip Cup friendly. Staff is nice. Food is not great and specials are average. Bathrooms are decent. They have an outside area which is nice. Overall: B

That covers 'em all for me I think. If you have others, please feel free to add.

What makes a great sponsor bar? A lot. If I was designing the bar it would consist of this: cater ONLY to kickballers on the nights/days they play. Have a large area that is just for flip cup. I'm talking four long tables for people to play on. Lots of tvs for football, etc. A dj or equipment that someone can use to dj for the kickballers. Decent sized bathrooms (three stalls for women, two urinals and a stall for men) that are CLEAN! More bartenders than waiters. Maybe 4 bartenders, 2 waiters; people can order food through the bartenders. Fast food turnaround. Decent menu (sandwiches and salad specials plus a percent off entrees). $2 beers, $6 pitchers. A $1 shot special. Owner or bar manager there all the time to make sure everything runs smoothly and respond to concerns.

I know it's a lot to ask, but the benefit would be LOTS of money, loyalty to the bar, and a "that's our bar" feeling that will make people want to go there even if they're not playing kickball. That's what makes a great sponsor bar.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Prohibition lives!

Last night I was leaving the Mall area from seeing some kickball games and noticed a group of softballers congretated by some policeman. Then I noticed a cooler or something that read "Rolling Rock" and the familiar red Solo cups and knew this was bad. As I got closer I noticed the unmistakable smell of crappy beer and then heard one of the softballettes relaying on her phone, "I'm getting a citation". My first thought was: How can they be so dumb? Solo cups? Rolling Rock display? Were they BEGGING to get caught?

But then as I walked on to the Metro, I started to get mad.

What the heck is this crap with no alcohol on the Mall area? So I did a search and with the help of Sideshow Bob found this on the National Park Service's website:

Possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited on the Washington Monument grounds. Alcohol is also prohibited in East and West Potomac Parks and on the National Mall, except within specifically designated concession areas which sell alcohol.

I'm sure the same line sticks out to you as it did for me: except within specifically designated concession areas which sell alcohol. Seems the National Park Service is willing to bend the rules as long as you are a concession guy willing to fork over a sum to the DC government to sell alcohol. Then on the little kiosks there is about a 5x5 area in which you must consume the purchased, overpriced beer. I wonder if the cans have Lojack in them to tell if someone walks away from the designated Gettin' Your Drink On Area. I can see it now, you step over the line and "Swarm, Swarm" is heard as Park Police tackle you.

My question is how is this right? I'm an adult, old enough to go fight in wars, old enough to get married, have babies, drink in a bar or in my home, drive a car, and do much more. Yet I can't bring a beer or 12 for my friends and me to consume while playing some kickball on the Mall? Of course I can, in between innings, go over to the government approved vendor drink them there and return to the game - because that's MUCH safer.

And it's not only the Mall, we found this for Rock Creek Park:

In 1953, Congressional legislation (67 Stat. 495) established a specific category for those park areas within the District of Columbia as National Capital Parks as opposed to National Parks or National Monuments. In making a separate category, Congress was verifying that the parks within the District of Columbia, including Rock Creek Park, have a particular mission to preserve not only the resources but also the character of the Nation's Capital.

Ok, let's take this one at a time. First, the law was made in 1953. Seems to me that many laws we had in 1953 were pretty bad and we changed those (ahem, Jim Crow), maybe we should take a look at this law too. Second, preserving the "character of the Nation's Capital"? PUH-LEEZE. This is the murder capital of the country and the mayor was caught ON TAPE smoking crack and was RE-ELECTED for goodness sake! I'm not asking for crack to legalized, just to drink a few beers during kickball. I think that's quite in line with the character of the Nation's Capital.

According to the CDC almost 55% of US adults had a drink in the last month. The number is much higher among kickballers. So just let us drink while we play; it makes the games more fun, we help the economy, and we promise to be good. Here's my letter to the powers that be:

To Whom It May Concern,

Let adults be free to drink on the National Mall. Most of us promise to take the Metro or other public transportation to go to the bar after games or to go home. Those of us that do not should be ticketed if our BAC is too high. We'll even buy the beer from your pre-approved vendors. Just give us the freedom.

Can I get a witness? Somebody say Amen.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cash Cow Champions?

So, after many months of speculation and bickering, the WAKA championship is finally over (even if some of it's divisions are still not finished playing yet). But what really does it mean? I don't think very much.

Sideshow Bob reports from Miami that 10 teams took part in the "biggest kickball tournament ever" as the WAKA guys boasted it would be. To put this in context: my WAKA DIVISION has more than 16 teams! Hell, the last party I threw represented at least a dozen teams. That seems a little ridiculous and would be embarrasing to me if I owned WAKA. I mean, their spokesman recently stated that they had 50,000 players - and just 10 teams showed up for their "World Championship" tournament?

This could have been forseen though; as I correctly predicted the regionals around the country were a failure. Please recall most of them were canceled due to a lack of interest from teams. So this was the first sign.

Sign two was the asinine idea of moving the finals to Miami of all places! The reason given for this was the growth in that area, and that sounds plausible. Until you find out that only 2 teams from Florida even bothered to show up! Half the teams were from the DC-VA-WV area and a few from some other places. So all of this to promote kickball in an area where hardly any of the teams cared enough to show up to play. Great move genuises!

WAKA must be making tons of money though, and I believe that's really what it's all about. And listen, I am all for capitalism, make money if you can and lots of it, but how about providing your people with something aside from promises? Please note that you could buy - for $100 for people playing KICKBALL - a tent with your team's name on it. Or if you are not a captain of a team, you can buy a $15, 2 hr open bar booze cruise (okay that one I like). Ooorr a Bloody Mary Brunch for $30, wtf? Kickballers don't drink Bloody Mary's! Well, I'm sure the WAKA guys got a nice cut.

I guess the bottom line here is this: I feel cheated. When I first started playing with WAKA it was fun to meet people, be able to drink at a discount, and have a few parties. My team won a decent amount and made it to regionals a few times and that was cool. Now it seems like WAKA is all about being a cash cow and claiming the "World Kickball Champions" title. I don't think that's why most of us fork over $60 or $65 to WAKA to play. In fact, I'm sure of it. And I'm glad that the Miami people are happy that they held the championship there, but the turnout was the lowest ever, and the travel made it impossible for many of us to go. And really, what was it for? The same teams that won still won, just with less of an audience to see it.

Maybe WAKA has outgrown itself. Certainly it has outgrown it's original intent, a fun way to meet people and play a goofy game. Now people argue on message boards about how great they are at WAKA and if you just want to play to have fun you should go play elsewhere. Amazing. I guess WAKA will need to change the rules about not being able to play if you are a professional kickball player, because it seems like that's what they want their league to be.

Sad because most of us just want to have fun. Seems like the WAKA founders are out of touch with the majority of their customers. In any event, the guys who won are the "Champions of the 10 who showed up" I guess. Or the "WAKA Cash Cow Champions". And that's hardly the world.

CORRECTION: 11 Teams showed up, Sideshow must have been too drunk to count.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A plea for Help

Sorry I've been gone for a while, some things came up - but all is well now. I received a rather odd email last week that I need to share with everyone, as it is kickball related:

Dear Kickball in the city,
My roommate and I just graduated from UM: College Park and we are interested in joining the kickball league so we can get our drink on with some good washingtonians. However, we are struggling finding a place to live. I was wondering if anyone who is a member of the leagues would know of 2 bedrooms places hopefully around the Adams Morgan area, that aren't too expensive. Thank you so much for your help, and I look forward to joining ASAP!
E (name erased so you don't stalk her)
If anyone can help these poor ladies make their dreams of kickball and a place to live come true, please email me. Serious offers only.
In other news: there are pickup games every Sunday starting this one at 3pm on the Mall sponsored by NAKID if anyone is interested. Check their site for all the info.
I am still gathering info from Sideshow Bob's report on the WAKA "biggest kickball tournament ever" in Miami this weekend and will post on that tomorrow or Wed. Suffice to say, it was not great, only10 teams.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rain, Rain, GO AWAY!

More rainouts for me this week. I hate this, it cuts down on kickball and more importantly, social time at the bar.

Generally speaking I like the rain, it's refreshing and in these hot and humid months around here it's a nice relief but this is getting old. I think I've had about 5 rainouts this season between all my teams and it really sucks. I'm not sure the best way to handle this though, but I'll give it a shot:

FREE BEER at the bar - This is to entice players to come out and make both them and the bar happy. However, as previously discussed, this is not done uniformly so doesn't work. Although I think it could.

Play anyway - Really, what's a little rain? The odds of someone getting hit by lightning are remote so we should just play. If people slip and fall, hey it's a game. We used to laugh at that stuff. then everyone can head to the bar wet and drown their sorrows and play flip cup.

These are both okay I guess but run the risk of injuries, some divisions NOT getting free beer, or some other drama, so here's the perfect solution: Flip Cup! The teams convene at the bar and the ones scheduled to play on the field play flip cup at the bar. You can do it as innings, where each team gets to flip in their half of the inning. More than one flip to get the cup over is an out. One flip and that's a run. So if my team is up and I one flip we get a run, but if the next three people two flip, we only scored one run that inning and the other team is up. I think that would be fun and it would get people to go to the bar. Plus it might get those few teams who don't play flip cup or socilaize to learn to.

I think it's a grea idea... or at least better than nothing. And it's better than Rock/Paper/Scissors

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I am a champion!!

This weekend one of my kickball teams was named "Champions of the Universe" and I couldn't be more proud! Yes, I know it's only kickball, but still...

Winning is fun, certainly more fun than losing. I know this sounds common sensical when I write and some people are thinking, "Well DUH" but I think it's worth noting. People who lose a lot whether it be in kickball, some other sport, or in things that really matter tend to take the attitude of "Well losing is fun too", but really, it's not. I have been on winning and losing teams, had my share of wins and losses in life - and winning is waaaaaaaaaaaaay better!

Having said that, being a competitive jerk is no fun either. I watched a few people this weekend in my NAKID league's playoffs get mad and yell at people even when they made it on base! That seems a bit much to me and certainly takes much of the fun out of winning. Unfortunately this is found often in WAKA where these guys seem to think they will soon be on the World Kickball Tour or something. I know it's a fine line between being competitive and being an a-hole, but many people need to find that line.

Also, watching people clutch their medals and trophies like they were the most important things in life to them was funny; but also a reminder of how important rewarding people for winning is too. There was one girl last night offering to flash anyone who would give her a medal - and it STILL took her about an hour and a half to finally get one (no, wasn't mine). I think many leagues, WAKA and DC Kickball especially, forget this. I mean, a trophy costs what, like $20 - but it makes people really happy to get them. I was at the DC Kickball flip cup tournament Saturday and the winning team got nothing. And there's not even a mention of it on the website.

In any event, now I can write mom and dad and tell them that their little Homer is finally a winner - even it is only in kickball.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Shameless Plugs

I never do this, but will now because I consider these worthy causes - one for you and one for the homeless.

Tomorrow night is the World Series of Flip Cup in Baltimore, Maryland. The guy who is running it sent the info to me, and it sounds like something kickballers would be in to. The basics are that you have a team of 6, play best of 7 bracket style flip cup, and the $15 per player registration fee goes to the beer being used for the tournament completely! How cool is that? Get all the info here. There are already 15 teams on board and the organizer anticipates 25!

Secondly, a few friends have sent me links for the Arlington/Alexanria Coalition for the Homeless Kickball Tournament. From their site:
On August 12th, the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless will hold a Kickball Tournament to raise funds for its work with homeless families and women in Arlington County and Alexandria, VA.
We hope you'll join us for this unique opportunity to have a great time for a great cause!

If you can't play and just want to help out they also need people to sit at the tables, organize, and referee too. It's a great chance to get out and have fun AND it helps make you a good person too. All the info is here.

I don't know if I will be at either of these, but they both sound like lots of fun.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Independence Day Observations

Now that the fireworks, beer, and burgers are all gone, I have had time to think about a few things regarding Independence Day and (what else) kickball and how they are intertwined. I know it sounds ridiculous, but indulge me for a few minutes.

I awoke about about 7am (as always happens when I'm off) and flipped on the CBS Early Show and caught, much to my surprise, a piece about KICKBALL! It started out as a rah-rah everyone is playing it again, WAKA has 50,000 members piece and then, inevitably, focused on the lawsuit. So here again I have to listen to the WAKA spokesdork Tiffany something spout lines like, "We just want to protect the kickball experience". Then when pressed by the interviewer, "But suing the other kickball league?" she responded, "We just want to play kickball". No Tiff, I just want to play kickball. Many others just want to play kickball. WAKA wants to get rid of the competition, that's why the sue.

Then the DC Kickball founder Carter somebody is on the air stating that despite the fact that it's a fun game there is still ALOT of money involved and that's why he's being sued. No "Local Celebrity" shirt, as another blog noted, for this interview. Odd, there's a lot of money involved, but not enough for a $250 bar tab - interesting, but I digress.

So instead of this being a cool story covering a fun thing I do, once again it's about lawsuits and how much money these guys make. Great, just what I wanted to see. Luckily, most kickballers are not up on a non-work day to see this crap that early (probs hungover) so most did not have to be disappointed as I was.

Later, talking to some fellow kickballers (and non-kickballers) at a party I heard that the DC Kickball guy has been accepted to business school and now I am left wondering what will happen. Will DC Kickball shut down? Will it be passed on to someone else? I got to the DC Kickball site when I got home ready to pose these questions and found that Mr. Founder has disabled anyone's ability to post a comment on his blog for the league. Is this his way of dealing with controversy deriving from his "free beer" inappropriate responses? Cut off all debate?

In any case, I hope people who play in the league will find out soon. Maybe this will mean an end to the lawsuit? If so, hopefully other independent leagues will survive, as despite Tiffany's implications, competition will only make the WAKA experience better for those of us who play with them, as it does throughout America.

Hope you all had a great 4th of July!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Wow, are these guys for real?

Last week's post was linked to the Washington Post Express and this led to many hits, which makes Kickball Homer happy. However, as with anything, this also allows those that are not yet as evolved to get through too. In this case the underdeveloped life form I am talking about is male softballers.

For some unbeknownst reason male softball players have some sort of anti-kickball stance that is part of their makeup. It's as if they think that playing softball somehow makes them real athletes as opposed to kickballers who I guess in their view are not. This of course leads them to denigrate kickballers in ways that have pretty much gone the way of separate water fountains and sitting at the back of the bus everywhere in America, except with these dolts.

Before I get in to some of the "comments" that I received from these creatins last week in regard to the post about how to treat customers, let's review a few facts for the softball Cro-Magnons:

* Last time I checked neither kickballers nor softballers get paid to play their sport.
* Both of these sports are played by kids in elementary schools
* Both sports consist of playing as an excuse to head to a bar and drink
* Unlike kickball, after about the age of 15, softball is mostly played by ladies

I bring these up because some of the comments I received last week would make you think... well I'll let you read:

"KIckball, that's for fags."

"I'd like to meet these people who play kickball, they probably are all old and fat."

"Kickballers are gay, softball is a real sport."

You get the drift.

Of course none of these well thought out, penetrating comments are germane to the blog I had written. Maybe they are just so impassioned about softball that they had to write. But I doubt it. It's more probable that these jerks have serious below the waist size issues or that they know they are playing a sport whose most popular and well known players are ALL female that they have to call kickballers names to make themselves feel better. Well, I have a message for these real men, these studly dudes:

In the future, if you want to leave these comments softballers, attach your name, address, and phone number and I'll post it. Better yet, just go burn a cross or whatever it is that people who think like you do for fun.