Just got back from a massive Michigan road trip, and I do believe I've seen the best Gus Macker Tournament yet.
Ludington is located on Lake Michigan about an hour north of Muskegon. It is a beautiful town with a huge summer tourist season, all because of that big hole in the ground full of water.
People around here just sort of give me a blank look when I tell them about Lake Michigan beaches. There's really nothing around here to compare it to — let's face it, swimming in the Mississippi River is like taking a toxic waste bath.
Anyway, Ludington has its Macker in a big park right in front of a mile-long beach near downtown. I had sound stage duty and I literally looked over the Top Men's and Top Women's Courts to see the beach and the lake sparkling under sunny skies. It was warm but we had a breeze the whole time, and the local organizing committee couldn't have been better to work with. Both Saturday and Sunday afternoons I jumped in the lake to cool off. On Sunday I took over a court after we had some parent troubles and I did five or six games with 13-14 year old boys and everybody was great. Before the final game I got my suit on and ran into the lake to cool off, then officiated the championship game and it was a beautiful thing.
To put it politely, the scenery was, uh, spectacular. And, like Forrest Gump puts it, "That's all I'm gonna say about that."
Man, I just had SO MUCH FUN. I got to run my mouth into a microphone and be silly and I actually got paid to do it ... actually there's a lot more to it, with such a big tournament we were busy making announcements ("Bill from Saginaw, your ride is leaving NOW" or "D-Town Baller to Court Red E NOW"). We charged $1 for birthday and good luck announcements, and we gave away more than $100 to the skate board park project and the HELP (Hands Extended Loving People) program. The vendors kept bringing us incredible food and I made friends with Chris Boykins and his Outlawz team from Lansing, great guys (and Pam, too!).
This tournament has 900 teams and 60 courts, similar in size to our Quincy tournament. That's a lot of volunteers and a lot of hard work to plan and execute a a big tournament. There were a few minor issues and the usual three or four idiots who made trouble, but I think playing by the beach has a calming affect and personally, except for one moronic parent, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.
I was sad to leave the sound stage Sunday night. It was two of the best days I've ever spent, and I hope I can go back next year.