Many years ago, when I was still bartending, I got a phone call from my friend Aloysius asking me if the Halfmoon Bar would want a skee-ball table. Without hesitation, I proclaimed, “YESSSS!” Little did I know, I was going to make a forever friend with the dude that was rehoming this thing. Within a week I was renting a U-Haul, with a guy named Jason Mangone I met about 10 minutes before that, and lifting a skee-ball table into the back of the truck.
How It Formed
In September of 2002, Jason had a trip planned to the Jersey Shore. That trip got cancelled due to a hurricane coming for us in New Orleans. Luckily, he didn’t lose power or internet during it, because he had an amazing idea. If he couldn’t get to Jersey to play skee-ball, he would bring it to New Orleans. A few clicks & $400 later, Jason was the proud owner of a skee-ball machine. For seven years he invited people over to play, but in the back of his mind he hoped it would make its way to a bar. Then he met me & we formed the official New Orleans Skee-Ball & Drinking League. (I am now retired & Jason is running the show completely on his own. I’m still not sure how…)
How It’s Changed
When the league first came in existence, they had to find people to join. These days, people are asking to be a part of it and sometimes they just don’t have the space. The league just kept growing & growing – to the point that a second lane was needed. Currently, they have two lanes for the league – the classic 50 ring & a new 100 ring table that brings a whole new challenge to the competition.
Jason has created t-shirts, koozies, stickers, & cups for league members & friends. Each year the league has a Christmas party where they collect toys and donate them to a local charity. This past year, all proceeds when to the Covenant House.
They have also had a screening of SBK the movie – THE #1 movie about skee-ball. Writer, director, & actor Aaron Re came to New Orleans for a screening & answered questions.
Aaron Re is coming back for an inaugural event for the Professional Rolling Association on February 1, 2018. It’s open to everyone & there will be trophies given out.
I asked Jason what his favorite team name has been. He responded with, “For some reason, skee-ball players have dirty minds & their names always make me laugh. You have basic New Orleans puns too like Fleur de Skee & Big Skeezy, which I like. I think my current favorite name is the Heebee Skeebees.”
Early into the league, people would end up stealing the skee-balls on the weekends. So, when it came time to play, we didn’t have enough balls to roll. Jason used to go to the Westbank Chuck E Cheese and flirt with the staff to borrow extra skee-balls. He always brought them back the next day!
One of the skee-ball lanes was acquired from Kentucky, where Jason & I took a road trip to go pick it up. The family there thought it would be easier to remove a wall than to move it out of their house. That’s right, they removed a wall.
During the movie screening of SBK, the actor insisted on getting a key to the city. They gave him a crowbar covered in glitter.