Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Trouble in Vegas - the lude

So, it is Wednesday night and I'm sitting in my room at the Hyatt in Baltimore with an awesome view overlooking the Inner Harbor. It is 7:30PM and I am EXHAUSTED. First, I take a red-eye leaving Vegas at 11PM Monday night arriving Boston at 6AM Tuesday. I can't sleep on planes, so I basically rest for the 5 hour flight with my eyes closed. Work at home on Tuesday, fitfully, then get to sleep around 11:30PM only to wake up at 4:45AM to catch a flight to Philly for the day. After work, then drive 2 1/2 hours down to Baltimore for two day meeting Thur-Fri. I woke up before I would have fallen asleep in Vegas. I will be shocked if I am not dreadfully sick by the end of the week.

But enough about me, let's talk about Trouble in Vegas. I can't add anything to the debate going on over at rsd regarding NYF versus TiV, but I can provide my slant on TiV. Unfortunately, I think Corey was talking more about the Open side, of which I saw almost nothing except for a little bit of the finals. And I suspect that the winner of NYF would have soundly beaten the winner of TiV, not that that in any way negates the quality of the tournament.

I flew in Friday night with a friend who I was going to meet up with on Sunday night. Fortunately I ran into a Metal player also (Paul Batten) as my friend ended up icing me on a ride into town so I grabbed a ride from Paul and co. Vegas does NOT cater to the rental car crowd, as it took us at least an hour to physically get into a rental car, despite the seeming simplicity of the transaction. We get to the Stratosphere at around 10:30PM, taking the longer way so that we can drive down and ogle the strip. The last time I was here was in '92 before San Diego Nationals, so you can imagine how much it has changed in the interim. It really is obscene when you get down to it. This kind of development has no place existing in the desert. Meanwhile, Princeton alums are trickling in as we meet in the bar in the middle of the gaming floor at the Strat. I realize that despite the fact that I only recognized one name on the roster, I have actually played for or against a few of these players in the last few years.

The key feat of the night is that I do NOT end up gambling. I had put aside a chunk of money for each night here, and tonight's was $100. Well, I put that back in my bag the following day, so here I am, starting 'up' $100. Nonetheless, stay up pretty late partying with Princeton, Metal, and Bright Squid (Brute Squad). Roll out to the fields around 9AM for a 9:30 start. I'm in a 'bus' of a Suburban with 5 other people (or whatever the vehicle was). We have no idea of schedule, pools, or anything, not having received a preparatory email other than that we knew we had a first round game. There were 15 coed teams split up into 3 pools of 5, resulting in 5 rounds of pool play on Saturday with one bye each. Our bye is going to be the third round. We are called Clockwork (from Clockwork Orange, the current Princeton team name), and are seeded 3rd in our pool, with games against 2, 1, 4, then 5. Frankly, I barely remember any of the teams we played, especially the players on them or where they were from. It ended up that the seeding was COMPLETELY arbitrary. The #1 seed in our pool was called White Rhine, so I figured it was going to include some Portland players and be a pretty good squad. Uh, not exactly. The first game we won maybe 13-8, going out early and staying up for most of the game. The second game was expectedly easy after watching the #1 struggle next to us the first round (I may be getting stuff slightly out of order here, but the ideas are solid). 3rd round is again similar, with no really challenging scores yet. During our 3rd round and 4th round bye, the 5th seed in our pool is playing next to us, featuring old nemesis Lou Burruss from Seattle among others. It is quickly clear that they will be the big challenge.

During our bye, a bunch of us play double disc court for at least an hour and a half with full size discs. Have LOTS of fun playing (haven't played in probably 15 years) as we try and reconstruct the rules. I think we were mostly right except the field was small, especially the distance between the scoring areas. Torwards the end, the wind picked up upwind-downwind, making it almost impossible to score upwind, and my partner and I started on the wrong side and got bagled 11-0 (we were switching sides at 11, which I'm pretty sure is incorrect, I think it is either every 5 or 10 points).

Finally it is time for the big matchup against the 5 seed. The game is close for most of the first half before we pull away in the 2nd for something like a 13-9 victory. Lou Burruss made a HUGE sky defense at one point, vaulting well over our best deep cutter to catch the huck. There is much celebrating as we have won our pool. This qualifies us to have a first round bye in the, wait. Ahhh, only the first and second pool winners have a bye to the semis. We have to play a quarters game against the #6 seed. Wonderful. Well, at least the 1st game is only at 10:30AM. We quickly get back to the hotel from the fields for a blissful shower in preparation for hitting the tournament party at the top of the Stratosphere, the tallest building in some large geographic region. My room gets dolled up and we get to the top precisely at 7PM to start the first round of drinks ($300 every hour at 7, 8, and 9). We are the first frisbee players there, so we are able to quickly down a few rounds of high quality bar drinks before the tab gets exhausted at about 7:40. We know the routine at this point, so we position 3 players at different spots at the bar to get the next round starting at 8PM. We get the equivalent of 3 or so rounds, but the tab closes within like 15 minutes. As a result, we end up actually buying a round (thanks Ryan/Bev) before the 9PM go around. We aren't quite as efficient this time, but that's ok. I'm really all set at this point. The team is making plans to go out to the Strip to a dance club and so on. At this point, after not gambling the night before and not really wanting to go out to the clubs, I bow out and settle down at a $5 blackjack table at around 10:15PM. A few of the Princeton players kibitz for a bit, then they are off to the club.

Well, at 2:30AM, they stop by to say hi before hitting the sack. I'm still at the same table, still playing with my original $100 stake. I played between up $100 and down $60 for eventually almost 5 hours before finally losing it all around 3:30 (6:30AM eastern...) and heading up to the room. Next morning is a little groggy. The dry weather in Vegas coupled with the alcohol dehydration combine to really dry me out, and even after chuggin over 7 glasses of water, I still don't pee until after 12PM. We get out to the fields for our 10:30 quarterfinal match at around 10:20AM, only to find we are basically the only team out there on the coed side. We end up starting the game maybe 20 minutes late as the other team strolls out. This game isn't too close/worrisome, although the game is hard capped and the other team scores last. Always satisfying when you win and don't score last. This sets up a semifinal match against the winner of pool #2, who rolls out to the field at 12PM for their first game of the day. Well, it costs them, as we jump out and take half 8-4 (games to 15 today). In the huddle, I try and manage expectations and say the game isn't over, etc, but it falls on deaf ears as we start on offense second half and proceed to let them tie it up at 8-8. They even take the lead at either 9 or 10, we get it back, give them the lead back again before finally taking the lead again. This game ALSO ends with the other team scoring last and yet we win at the hard cap 13-12 I think, setting up a rematch with, yes, the #2 seed from our pool who we beat yesterday.

They had the benefit of picking up Skippy (TD) Sewell today, although he was in and out for much of the day. We got premiere field billing (sort of), moving closer to the tourney tent. The game starts, we take I believe an early lead, and it doesn't last very long. We blew our was during the semis and it shows. They jump out to a reasonably large half-time lead, and then extend it. It gets comical in the second half, as we have like a 5 turnover point in no more than 8 throws, of which each turnover is ugly, I mean UGLY. Like overthrows, floaty crap, to nobody, etc. It is a clinic in inadequacy. We let them close out the game something like 15-9 if we're lucky. They definitely played much more consistently than Saturday, Skippy played with them for much though not all of the game (and played well), and everything that worked the rest of the weekend did not work in this game. We had a few fine individual plays, but for the most part, everyone really turned in a dud.


The fields despite their angry sere nature, were actually pretty comfortable. They were very well watered. The only issue was the large number of watering heads, but they were pretty flush with the ground, so we didn't cover them for the most part and no one got hurt.

Our team was an interesting combination. I was by far the oldest ringing in at 39, class of '88. The next youngest player was class of '99, of which there was 1. (There were a couple of grad students from 02-03 who were older than the '99 player, but...). The rest ranged from 00-05 or so. We had about 11-12 guys and 7 or so women. In terms of high-level experience, from my knowledge there were only 5 who had played at Open Nationals, 4 men and 1 woman. The other 3 guys were all exceptional players, Bailey Russel Pike/Metal, Tyler Grant defending mixed champion with Mischief, and Ryan Reynolds of Condors. The woman was Natalie (sp) who lives in Austin and plays with a Texas combo team. Not that the other players weren't good, they just didn't have the same big game experience. Ryan and Tyler were both incredible athletes, making downfield cuts and catches that were truly inspiring. Tyler was particularly good at both running down AND catching dogmeat (he definitely saved Bailey's bacon numerous times). When she was in, Natalie usually figured in the pull play at 3 or 4.

When we had problems (and when we didn't), our offense often depended on jacking it to Tyler, Ryan or Natalie, actually, pretty much anyone, although we had the best success with those 3. This was the Princeton version of the HnH (tm) although we didn't do it as a horizontal stack. For the most part the women played pretty well, Natalie in particular. I played most of the O points, and was able to get back to uncorking a huge number of blades and hammers, almost all of which were completed. Definitely was unlike this fall season where I barely threw any, and never against man.

All in all, I had a great time and would highly recommend this tournament, although the competition was slighly less than I expected, at least in the mixed division, although it did allow us to make the finals, although we did have a VERY good team when we were playing well, which we did in every game until the finals (and one stretch of semis). The view from the top of the Stratosphere was gorgeous, as you can sort of gather from the picture below. I will cover the rest of my trip in TiV - the postlude.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Trouble in Vegas - the prelude

SO, this weekend will be a first for me, as I will be attending Trouble in Vegas playing with a coed team. Yes, you heard it, I will be playing 'mixed'. Not including such old mainstays as summer league and the annual NY Turkey Bowl, this will be the first 'official' coed tournament that I have attended in well over 10 years. And I only say that because I did Solstice back in '93 while I was driving around the country for four months and hitting random tournaments along the way. Otherwise I'm pretty sure I have never played at a real coed tourney.

You might ask what has brought me to such a commitment, nay, betrayal of all I hold dear (mostly kidding)? Well, the story began at Nationals this year, lost somewhere in the haze of Saturday night after the tournament was officially over. We were continuing the party at the Seashell condo beach, where Metal had set up quite the party. I ran into Bailey Russell, a fellow Princeton alumnus, who mentioned in passing that Princeton was planning to send an alumni squad to Trouble in Vegas in January, and would I have any interest in attending?

Fresh off a disappointing nationals, the last thing I wanted to think about was pickup tournaments, but nonetheless, it was a few months away, and it might be a good opportunity to reconnect with the Princeton frisbee alumni, of which there is a huge disconnect between my generation (the '80s!) and the 90's/00's. So I told him to add me to the list, and we would see what happened.

I got the first email a few weeks later, and naturally didn't recognize ANY of the other names on the address list. I checked flights, and they were pretty expensive at the time, so I didn't think anything of the tournament. Finally around mid-December, I started checking flights every few days, with the caveat that unless it got below $250, I wouldn't even consider going. Doing my sidestep/kayak searches, I saw the prices fluctuate solidly around $280, and didn't feel like sacrificing the money. I hadn't checked in probably a week when another organizational email came out and most of the people were already purchasing flights. I checked on a lark, and all of a sudden, there were round-trip flights for $217 on Delta, non-stop no less. I quickly emailed my wife, telling her about the tournament and asking if it would be OK. She responded back no problem, and by that night purchased the tickets. I was on my way!

Just to show the aggravation of shopping for tickets, I told a friend of mine (not a frisbee player) who had been thinking about going that I had finally purchased tickets and that he should get the sweet fare while it lasted. He waited until Monday (I bought Friday), and when he bought, they were back up to $280! So, I'm getting in at 8:49 Friday night, and spending an extra day on Monday and taking a red-eye back to Boston, where I'm sure I will be chipper and productive on Tuesday. Even better, I get to fly back down to Philly for Wed, and then drive to Baltimore for Thur/Fri for work. Should be a rough week physically, especially considering what I will probably do to my self at the tournament.

The last time I was in Vegas was in '92, when Nationals were held in San Diego. The Tea Party (tm) had flown out early and were proceeding to paint the town red, including trips to Mexico and an overnight to Vegas. We have a sweet picture which unfortunately I don't have scanned, or immediate access to a scanner, showing one of the casinos in the background (at night) with Jim and Mike Kizilbash in the middle looking crestfallen, with Dennis McCarthy and I on the outside with manic grins waving the sheaves of $20 bills we had won (I won something like $160). Not that I have many memories of Vegas back then, but the changes to now are inconceivable. This should be a very fun time.

Final addendum. I got an email from brother Eric in Paris, who was a late arrival to the frisbee scene and played with the Invalides team for a number of years. Apparently someone on the Princeton tourney email list who had been planning to go but had bowed out late with an injury had played with my brother a number of times in Paris, and had forwarded him my latest email asking about lodging details (we're staying in the tourney hotel, the Stratosphere, supposedly the tallest building in something or another geographical region). Talk about small world.

ANYway, enough rambling about myself (as usual). I'm looking forward to pretty much the entire experience, bonding with the Princeton folk, getting to talk more about 'back in the day', this time even predating most of the 'back in the day' conversations I have with my teammates on DoG, bringing some Xmas cash to lose (so won't feel bad about spending 'real' money). Tournament reports will be forthcoming, naturally.

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