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Monday, February 6, 2017

Annual Meeting of the National Mah Jongg League

Larry and David Unger (left/right in suits) joined by colleagues and members at NMJL headquarters
Today I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the National Mah Jongg League, to mark the beginning of its 80th year.  The annual meeting is held on the first Monday in February and all members are welcome to attend.  I understand that back in the day, the League would rent a meeting room in a hotel, as the office couldn't handle the crowds.  Attendance has been sparse in the last few years, but this year's meeting showed an uptick in interested aficionados.

Those who attended represented many the many sides of mahjongg.  There were tournament directors, teachers, tournament goers, organizers and just plain players.
The theme of the meeting, as put so eloquently by Larry Unger,  President, was "Friendship and Charity," and the many ways the League has provided opportunity for just that - through its donation program and by giving so many of us the chance to take the card and run with it, so to speak, and create spaces, virtual and concrete, that allow us to connect with others of like mind.

An interesting discussion ensued about issues that have been brought to the forefront in online forums, rec rooms and classrooms.  One such topic was the distinction between tournament rules, "official" rules, and what the League considers "recommendations," i.e., good practices that are not enforced.  An example of a recommendation is that you not look at a blind pass.  There is no penalty if you do, but it is good practice not to.  After all, you may see a tile that you need, but must give away, and that is penalty enough.  However, in tournament play, directors are unanimous that looking when you "steal," is a mandatory 10 point deduction.

A question came up about demographics and it quickly became apparent that the exact number of players is difficult to determine.  The League keeps records of those who order online or by mail - indeed, to be considered a member, you need to purchase your card from the League.  If you buy through an organization, in order to register as a member the organization should provide a list of each person buying.  The League keeps a database of registered members, but as there are many retail outlets (both online and brick and mortar) it is impossible to say for sure how many players are out there.  A few things we know for sure:  Mahjongg is spreading into more towns and cities than ever, particularly in the south - Texas and Tennessee were two states that came up.  And, of course, as more people retire and move to communities across the country, this trend will continue.  There are even expat retirement communities in places like Ecuador that are seeing an influx of players.

The League has a busy, very structured year, as the boxes all over the office could attest to.  (Sadly, we were not treated to a sneak preview of the new card).  Orders are coming in and it's time to ramp up to get ready to mail!  The League is every bit as excited to send the card to us as we are to receive it - and they look forward to our reaction.  We know they will not disappoint.