WE INTERVIEW OURSELVES:
BOB ALMAN is one of the principal organizers of the San Francisco Croquet Club and the tournament manager for the highly regarded San Francisco Open in May, now in its twelfth year. His experience in organizing and teaching led to the publication, in 1994/95, of the Croquet Foundation of America's three-volume MONOGRAPH SERIES ON CLUB BUILDING, ORGANIZATION, AND MANAGEMENT. A lifelong career in publishing and corporate communications includes a co-editorship (with Mike Orgill) of the short-lived independent Croquet Magazine in the late eighties. Current interests include development of practice and drill manuals for beginning players as a complement to a USCA-managed program of training and development for local coaches. Although his handicap is a lowly 3, he has earned a reputation as a giant-killer on the greens.
MIKE ORGILL, president of the Sonoma-Cutrer Croquet Club, is one of the best-known croquet writers in America. Over the last decade he been writer and/or editor for Croquet Magazine, and the National Croquet Calendar. He has created and organized many annual events in Northern California. As Tournament Director of the renowned Sonoma-Cutrer World Croquet Championship, he is well known to many of the world's top players. He has won the doubles title at the Arizona Open (with Phil Arnold), and his USCA handicap is 1.
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
Bob Alman, editor, Croquet World: Well, here we are again, Mike, courtside in San Francisco....
WHAT IS CROQUET WORLD?
Mike Orgill, editor, Croquet World: It's deja vu all over again....
Alman: ...talking croquet, plotting unlikely projects.
Orgill: But we're actually doing it.
Alman: Yeah, and why are we doing it?
Orgill: For the money!
Alman: Ha! If there were any money in this, somebody would have already done it, believe me. Get serious, now, why are you doing this?
Orgill: Beats me.
Alman: Come on, now. I know why you're doing it, and so do you.
Orgill: Oh yeah?
Alman: Yeah--at least I know the history of it, I know the psychology of it.
Orgill: Okay, Dr. Freud, explicate.
Alman: Unfinished business, for one. We were just getting started with Croquet Magazine, back in the eighties when croquet was "the fastest growing sport in America."
Orgill: Three big, beautiful, glossy, expensive issues.
Alman: It was getting pretty good. We had all the best writers, we covered everything, and by the third issue, the design was looking really good.
Orgill: We didn't have much good photography.
Alman: That's always hard. But here's the point. We did a good job, we set a standard, and it didn't go anywhere. It's like, now, we can pick up where we left off.
Orgill: And we don't have to cut down any more forests...
Alman: Yes, that's too expensive, so we can do a magazine on the web on a shoestring budget, and it can be really good. It'll be the only true magazine in this domain, it'll have all the best writers, the entire world of croquet will be reading it, and the medium is the biggest thing to happen in communications since crystal radio, so...
Orgill: Our time has come.
Alman: Yeah, and the psychology of it is, that you don't have much choice about it, Mike, because this is what you do best. See, it's a competition thing. You're a highly ranked player, but you know you'll never be a world champion on the greens. In WRITING about croquet, on the other hand, you have few peers.
Orgill: I know when I'm being flattered. You're just bragging, in not a very subtle way, about what a good editor you are.
Alman: Well, yes, I like to win, and if I can't beat somebody, it's great to have them on my team.
Orgill: So much for the sports psychology paradigm. Now let me tell you why I'm doing this.
Alman: Be my guest...
Orgill: The World Wide Web is an exciting medium, but I don't think anybody understands what it means. My take on it is that it's going to supplant the traditional ways that people communicate with each other. One way it's going to have an impact is on sub-groups like our croquet community. Up to now, we've had to rely on newsletters and gossip to keep us current on happenings. Clubs and associations had to send out mailings to announce events and news. This works after a fashion, but it's a top-down phenomenon. The WWW gives everybody the power to communicate on an equal footing. Our on-line magazine could be the focal point for the development of a truly international croquet community.
Alman: That's all very high-sounding, and I agree with it. But for me, it might come down to something as simple as playing out the history of our personal involvement in writing about croquet and in organizing croquet, and taking part in a struggle, against all odds, to popularize the sport locally. You and I know what that's like, because we were there in the beginning, looking for croquet lawns, deciding to convince the city to build them, adopting a "public courts" strategy, putting together an Introductory Course, organizing a curriculum...
Orgill: Which you've put into three books already, the CFA Monograph Series.
Alman: Yes, and it hasn't made much difference. Some, but not much. I am still hooked on the notion of seeing croquet acknowledged in America as a mainstream sport, covered on ESPN, written up on the sports page rather than the "lifestyle" page. It's such a great sport. Why not? This medium gives us a chance to reach people with OUR version of the story, not the one the press loves to tell, about Aunt Emma, and Alice in wonderland, and all the rest. I mean, we have just about the strongest club in the country here, and we do get lots of press, and very little of it is about the sport. That's been true from the beginning, from the first press coverage we got for the first San Francisco Open. Remember? You were the guy who insisted that we invent a San Francisco Open, back in 1985, which is now a very big deal...
Orgill: And I can't play in it this year...
Alman: Because we're back-to-back with the Sonoma-Cutrer World Croquet Championship, and you're the tournament director. Playing, organizing, writing, winning. You want it all! Why don't you just quit your job, and live a total Croquet Life.
Orgill: Fine with me! I'll just have to win the lottery.
Alman: Oh well, then forget it.
Orgill: The croquet world is just a part of the real world, after all.
Alman: And we don't even know what the "croquet world" is. We're doing a magazine called Croquet World, and we don't know what the croquet world is.
Orgill: We're going to find out, presumably.
Alman: I'm going to be even more presumptuous: See, I don't think there IS any croquet world, yet. Is there any real international community of croquet players--except at the very top of the stratosphere, where they dream of beating Robert Fulford and doing multiple sextuples in competition?
Orgill: "Multiple Sextuples?" Sounds like a manual for group sex.... We get a lot of travellers from overseas who show up at our courts, and we enjoy them and treat them well. That proves there's a croquet world out there....
Alman: From Australia, especially. We have two visiting members now, one from Perth and one from New South Wales. We've done okay with Walter, because even though he's been puzzled by the American Rules, he's hung out with it like a good sport. The better player, though, from Perth, finally decided he just couldn't crack the strategy, and gave it up. Very amusing fellow, very bright, a philosophy professor in fact, but after the first month, he only played International Rules. He gave up on even learning the American Rules.
Orgill: That could be a problem for the magazine. Americans play the International Rules game on their own home courts, but who ever heard of the American Rules being played in Ireland, or South Africa, or New Zealand, or Australia?
Alman: I've heard of it, and it didn't have a happy result. This one chap went back to Australia with a deadness board, with all good intentions to learn the game well so the next time he came back to America he could compete well. But the Greens Committee wouldn't even allow him to store the deadness board in the equipment shed! It was forbidden, taboo!
Orgill: Don't overstate the case: We have people in this country who are just as violently opposed to the International Rules. And the truth is, America couldn't compete with other countries at all if our top players did not play the same rules played all over the world. So we had no choice, and everybody else does. Nothing is forcing them to try out American Rules.
Alman: We can't force them, either. We might end up just annoying people in other countries if we have material in the magazine about American Rules tactics and strategy.
Orgill: It wouldn't mean anything to them. I think they would just skip it. We can't limit ourselves, editorially, to material that everybody could understand or that everybody would like. There is no international homogeneity, and we shouldn't pretend there is.
Alman: We report the diversity, then. We leave out nothing, we give people a choice. Croquet World tries to cover whatever is new, interesting, entertaining, informative, or strikes our fancy. It's as democratic and wide-ranging as the medium.
Orgill: I hope it's a little better organized and edited!
Alman: Naturally! So, Mike, why are you doing this?
Orgill: Beats me!