SAN DIEGO — To Old Mission Beach Athletic Club members, jovial hosts of the World Championship Over-the-Line Tournament each July, the gestation period for a myth is about 10 years.
Before that, a potential myth is merely a rumor. And before that, it's probably a lie.
"OMBAC is full of myths," said Mike Scheuch, the organization's head court monitor for the 38th annual World Championship OTL Tournament this weekend and next at Fiesta Island.
Take this Olympic thing.
It has been rumored for at least 10 years that OTL will be an Olympic sport. So according to OMBAC's criterion, the story is now a myth. Whatever its basis in fact, it stood the test of time.
And now that it is a myth, it might even become a reality.
OMBAC was informed this week that OTL indeed will be a demonstration sport at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
"It's beyond the myth stage," OMBAC member Phil Herr said. "We're going to Atlanta."
Take that for what it's worth, as we look briefly into OTL history.
Remember, too, the OMBAC motto, "We never have any fun," and the words and wisdom of tournament announcer Don Peterson: "This tournament is a dinosaur. And it's probably the last dinosaur alive I know of."
In a myth that could be titled The Sky is Falling, the inevitable crash and burn of the satellite Skylab in 1979 lent itself to some of the craziest gags in OTL history.
"Now that was a spectacle," Peterson said. "Grant's Grill (one of the four hot dog stands on the island) made a telescope from empty Pepsi cans and charged 25 cents for a glimpse at the (falling) satellite. They even offered a guarantee. If you, in fact, were hit by the satellite or any debris, you would receive a free hot dog and Pepsi at the next year's tournament.
"They also had all kinds of T-shirts, and a few guys made hats with radar dishes on top.
"It's a shame we'll miss the eclipse."
Last year, the Australian America's Cup crew asked OMBAC if it could arrange for someone to show them around.
No problem. OMBAC dispatched Grant Simpkin--who is a dead ringer for Dennis Conner. Simpkin even won a look-alike contest at the Del Mar Fair, impersonating the Stars & Stripes skipper.
And since Aussies, in general, don't care much for Conner, they weren't exactly tickled about meeting him at OTL. They were upset--until Simpkin doubled over with laughter.
Queen Elizabeth II was invited to one OTL tournament, but she turned it down. She did send a letter, however, apologizing, which is more than Ronald Reagan did when he was invited.
Pranks have made for some good myths and rumors.
There are no telephones or cigarette machines on the island, but that hasn't stopped OMBAC from putting in fake ones and juking thousands of would-be users.
A collapsing stunt chair and a portable restroom rigged with a hidden speaker also have gone over well.
"Most of the things that go on here are spontaneous," Peterson said. "It's hard to judge what's going to happen. The Skylab thing was just a stroke of luck."
But making light of such events is tradition.
The tournament began at Old Mission Beach on July 4, 1954. It was Tourist Day in San Diego. All 24 players dressed appropriately and, like tourists would, bungled the schedule and never actually finished the round-robin draw.
A team called Lizards--Mike "The Father of OTL" Curren, Bill Rice and Jay Gutowski--probably won the most games over a three-weekend span and were declared the first World Champions.
Lizards legitimately repeated in 1955, again in '56 (with Delmer Miller replacing Rice), again in '57 (with Dan Prall replacing Miller), and for a fifth time in '59 (with Jim Prather replacing Prall) after the '58 tournament was canceled.
As the tournament grew, it moved to South Mission Beach, then to Mariner's Point and in 1973 to Fiesta Island.
This year, a record 1,137 teams signed up in three men's and three women's divisions. Another 32 will battle next Saturday in a new Military Division.
The rules of OTL are the same as when Curren wrote them, and Ron LaPolice steps off the official court measurements each year just as he did for the first tournament.
It is about 55 feet from the batting apex of the triangle to the "line" and 60 feet between the foul lines bordering the rectangular playing court.
The object of the game is to hit a softball over the line in fair territory without the other team catching it. Three hits in an inning scores a run. A home run is any ball hit over the last defender's head.
The object of the tournament is to have fun. Other than city, state and national laws, OMBAC places only three other restrictions on visitors: no babies, no bottles and no bowwows.
Team names--sometimes raunchy but frequently clever and humorous--have been a part of the tournament since inception. There are only three exceptions to the otherwise anything-goes policy: no racial slurs, no making fun of anyone's mother and absolutely no references of any kind to The Duke, John Wayne.