A Northwoods Geographical Sports’ ConundrumJune 11, 2012 No Comments
By: Josh Gurgel, Technical Support Specialist
It may be a week or so away on the calendar, but the crack of the bat and the sun on your face tell you that summer has arrived. People from the Upper Midwest have been enjoying Northwoods League baseball since 1994. The Northwoods League is regarded as one of the better collegiate summer leagues in the nation. The players in the league hail from across the country and regularly get drafted by Major League Baseball clubs.
Geography and sports go together like spaghetti and meatballs, yet some people still can’t get it quite right. There are plenty of examples I can give of poor geography standards in sports, some have their reasons, but still…
Just a few examples are:
-The Dallas Cowboys in the NFL NFC East division.
-The University of Missouri joining the South Eastern Conference.
-The Winnipeg Jets in the NHL South Eastern division (yes, Winnipeg Canada).
Ok, back to the Northwoods League, which presents its own sports geography snafu. The league is comprised of two divisions, a “North” division and a “South” division. I’ll give my reasons for the double quotes in a moment; in the meantime here are the divisions:
NORTH DIVISION: Alexandria Beetles – Alexandria, MN; Duluth Huskies – Duluth, MN; Mankato MoonDogs – Mankato, MN; Rochester Honkers – Rochester, MN; St Cloud Rox – St Cloud, MN; Thunder Bay Border Cats – Thunder Bay, ON; Waterloo Bucks – Waterloo, IA; Willmar Stingers – Willmar, MN.
SOUTH DIVISION: Battle Creek Bombers – Battle Creek, MI; Eau Claire Express – Eau Claire, WI; Green Bay Bullfrogs – Green Bay, WI; La Crosse Loggers – La Crosse, WI; Lakeshore Chinooks – Mequon, WI; Madison Mallards – Madison, WI; Wisconsin Woodchucks – Wausau, WI; Wisconsin Rapids Rafters – Wisconsin Rapids, WI.
You can quickly see from the map that the league has seven teams located in Wisconsin, six teams in Minnesota, and one each in Iowa, Michigan, and Ontario. I do believe that the teams are divided pretty well to try and keep the league geographically balanced, but STOP the charade of calling the divisions NORTH and SOUTH! Maybe in the beginning of the league it truly was a north and south balanced league, but not anymore. A change should be made to EAST and WEST immediately!
A simple divisional name change to East and West would almost make the league perfectly geographically accurate. (Thunder Bay would be the one exception, but Lake Superior creates a boundary that forces Thunder Bay to be included with the Minnesota teams.)
If they really wanted it to be North and South, get this: the North would be Thunder Bay, Duluth, Alexandria, St. Cloud, Willmar, Eau Claire, Wisconsin (Wausau), and Green Bay. This would mean teams like Wisconsin Rapids and Wisconsin (Wausau) wouldn’t be in the same division even though they are the closest together geographically speaking. Arguments can often be made for the breakup of how teams should be divided up, and clearly the Northwoods League is no exception.
The league has an interesting schedule; teams regularly play at home one day and on the road the next. This leads to a lot of bus travel. The schedule has made more sense in recent years, giving some teams “series” in which they play multiple games in the same location on back-to-back days. This helps teams like Battle Creek and Thunder Bay stay in the league financially speaking. If they had to travel every single day back and forth, it just wouldn’t be feasible. For example, the drive time from Thunder Bay, ON to Waterloo, IA is almost 10 hours, and they are in the same division; from Battle Creek, MI to Eau Claire, WI is about eight-and-a-half hours. That is a long bus ride for inter-division travel. The drive time from Thunder Bay to Battle Creek is almost 15 hours! Those teams are thankful that they only play within their division this year, meaning the only time they’d meet is in the playoffs.
Let’s put it this way, one of the closest cities to Thunder Bay and Duluth, MN is Eau Claire, yet they are not in the same division. Sometimes that’s the way it goes I ‘spose. But c’mon Northwoods League, drop the ruse of this North and South business.Share on Facebook Tags: Josh GurgelGeneral, Uncategorized