BEAVERTON, Ore. (WBOY) — Kids love making up games. When you’ve got nothing but a ball, sometimes the best thing you can do is throw it up on a roof and wait for it to roll down. A game with similar origins has been making the rounds online in the past few weeks with a simple but fitting name, Roofball.
The video above contains a clip from the 2008 Roofball World Championships and explains the rules of the game.
The origins of such a game come from Adam Willis of Beaverton, Oregon—who 12 News was able to interview via Zoom. Willis explained the origins of the game had ties to when he and his family visited England in 1989. Willis said that his father had bought him a rugby ball while they were overseas. However, once they returned to the U.S., he had little to do with it given rugby’s lack of popularity in North America, especially in 1989. That summer, he said that he threw it up onto the roof of his house a few times in an attempt to hit and bounce it around the chimney, but then put it into the family ball box and essentially forgot about it.
Ten years later, in the summer of 1998, Willis’ sister had her friends over and they were all looking for something to do. The group dug through the old ball box and found the forgotten rugby ball leading Willis to explain how all he ever did with it was throw it onto the roof, a story the group took as inspiration.
Shortly after, four or five guys were then throwing footballs up onto the roof of the Willis house in an attempt to recreate the objective Adam had set out to do 10 years prior. The game was simple and yet took root so quickly. Willis described that within “half an hour, the entire scoring system for Roofball was created.” The first tournament was held in January 1999, and they’ve been playing ever since.
The sport of Roofball remained a phenomenon that mostly stayed within the circle of Adam’s friends and family as the years progressed. Adam worked for ESPN until 2006 and when he returned home to Beaverton, he decided to “pay his dues” at his local Public Broadcast station. In 2007, after working there for roughly a year, he used his knowledge of broadcast and equipment from the station to finally bring Roofball to local airwaves via the 2007 Roofball U.S. Open.
After that, Roofball went from being a closed-circle sport to a local phenomenon. The event’s public airing attracted attention from both people watching at home and neighbors walking down the street. The public broadcast became a yearly event in Beaverton, complete with on-screen graphics, live commentators, a quick breakdown of the rules and even singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of play. Roofball had become a bonafide sport.
The yearly tournament remained an event that rarely strayed from the streets of Beaverton, remaining a locally broadcasted event that brought the community together each year. However, in February 2023, a Reddit user shared the YouTube link to part one of the 2008 Roofball World Championships to the subreddit r/videos, leading the sport to have unexpected, international popularity.
The videos had been uploaded to YouTube about six months prior, after Willis spent time ripping old videos from his DVD copies of the yearly tournaments and uploading them. A Reddit user took notice and Willis said that within a month, his channel went from 13 subscribers to more than 5,000. The video posted to Reddit also has more than 500,000 views. He told 12 News that he’s in disbelief at the sport’s recent popularity and still has a feeling that the recent rise in popularity is one elaborate joke.
Willis said that future plans for the league include expanding it to outside of his mother’s neighborhood and inspiring people to play Roofball on their own houses. He mentioned that he and his “group of trusted advisors” have plans to release informational videos such as “How to Create a Temporary Moveable Target” so as to not create a risk to any part of your house by throwing a ball at it.
Willis said that he hopes to see videos from all around the world of people demonstrating their own spin on Roofball. He said, “with any luck, we’ll start getting videos from people in West Virginia saying ‘hey, we’re playing Roofball here too!’ and then figure out how to turn that into a league-like organization.”
12 News also interviewed Adam’s mother, Susan, who owns the house and gave her thoughts on the game and how she’s watched the game develop over the years. She said, “I think that when guys see an opportunity to compete, they’ll compete. We had taken down the basketball hoop so there was nothing to aim at…and it just kind of morphed from there.”
Susan said that Adam and his friends have always been very respectful and helpful to her and her house while they put on this yearly production. She said that there have never been any negative feelings from her associated with the game and as she said, “it’s always been a feeling of ‘Roofball is on Sunday’.”
When asked about her favorite moment, she said that there were too many to choose from but she emphasized her desire to meet and serve the people who come and watch and participate in the event each year. She often makes food for those visiting and said, “It’s just an amazing feeling to know that this is going on and that people still love it.”
The 2023 Roofball Championships are set to take place on Saturday, March 18 at 4 p.m. EST in Beaverton, Ore. If you’re unable to attend the event in person, the Roofball Federation of America will be streaming the event on their YouTube channel. You can also visit their website at roofball.org.