I just got off the phone with an Amish friend, “Alvin”, from Holmes County. I like to call Alvin, a furniture maker, from time to time, to check up on things in Amish Ohio. The big news? March Madness, or I suppose the Plain equivalent, is apparently heading to Holmes County.
I’ve written a number of times about Amish and sports. Sports and games are controversial among Amish. Some feel they should be meant only for children. Others see them as a healthy youth activity, preferable to the alternatives.
You can’t go far in Amish America without spotting signs of sports. Many Amish schools feature basketball hoops, as seen in this recent photo collection from Lancaster County. Softball is ubiquitous, and volleyball is a favorite at Sunday youth singings. One enthusiast Amishman has decided to take things a step further, and has launched plans for a Plain mud basketball tournament, with the blessing of the church.
“The guy had been wanting to do it for years,” explained Alvin. “I was kind of skeptical about what the bishops would say, but they worked something out.” As is typical with innovations, church leadership has agreed to allow the Amishman to hold the tournament on an experimental basis.
“Lancaster County gets all the attention this time of year, owing to the Mud Sales,” Alvin noted. “They’ve been talking to the Chamber of Commerce here, and they’re behind it–they think it could really bump up our tourist numbers.”
“Not everyone is for it, but hey, we’ve got businesses to run and we have to make a living. You just can’t get by on two dozen cows anymore,” explained Alvin, noting the reality of financial pressures. “Besides, these kids are going to play anyway, so why not tap into that.” Gung-ho Alvin, I’ll admit, is not your typical Amishman. What about skeptics in the community?
“The bishops felt that if we kept it in the barnyard it would keep it from getting too ‘worldly’. So I think they’re going to make the guys play barefoot,” Alvin explained. “I’m not sure how well dribbling will work in the mud, but I guess they’ll come up with something!”
“It also fits pretty good with the spring “mud” theme,” Alvin added. “We’ve really let Lancaster dominate all this mud business! Maybe this will pull a bit of that traffic back to Ohio.”
I wondered if this wasn’t on account of Holmes County being sore since losing the title of largest Amish settlement to Lancaster County last year. Alvin assured me it wasn’t.
I asked him if they had a name for the tourney yet–maybe something playing off the March Madness theme?
“Actually, since we’re holding it a month later, they’re thinking about calling it the April Fool’s Invite. So any April Fools out there, feel invited!”