Monday, June 16, 2008

Poultry Days 2008

So, I can now remove Poultry days from my ultimate tournament bucket list. As expected, it was quite the experience. I hooked up with Breasts & Thighs, a mishmash team from Minneapolis with pieces of Pittsburgh, help from Colorado, a dollop of Boston, and a side order of Madison, WI.

This all started when I was talking to Paul Greff about Worlds and we discussed possibly adding his brother to the roster. After looking at schedules, we decided he wouldn't be able to join us at any of the June tournaments, so Paul mentioned he would be at Poultry Days and that would be a good opportunity to play with him. I had tried to attend years ago and bruised my heel a week before the tournament, so it was nice to finally make it, having heard much about this tournament.

So Thursday I checked on my plane and car reservations and found out I had screwed up and was renting in downtown Dayton. I was wondering how I had gotten $19 a day and now I could only see $40 at the airport. So I made a new reservation for $44 for an economy and then went to my new best bud for car reservations, Priceline. I put in a bid for a full-size car for $22 a day and it was accepted. So I upgrade 3 sizes and saved $22/day. First flight leaves Boston at 2PM Friday to Cleveland. I run into Salsa and Yusi (sp?) and their newborn, and we hang out for a two hour ground stop for weather. They go to rent a car, and all of a sudden they announce they have found another plane (we were still waiting for our plane to take off from Richmond, VA). Salsa and co show up having eschewed the 5 hour drive and we get on and arrive in Dayton 3 hours late. I get my fullsize car, program my GPS, and I'm off to the races. I have some interest in getting to the fields before dark since I have never been there and know NOTHING about the site. I get there in the early gloaming, park, and start wandering the campgrounds trying to find someone, anyone I know. 5 minutes from the park, I stopped at a gas station to buy a six-pack since I didn't know the setup. So I'm wandering the campgrounds, six pack in hand. In the meantime, Luke Smith was supposed to be here, so I called Brian Jameros in Seattle to see if he could dig up Luke's #. 15 minutes later he calls back in failure (good thing, because Luke ended up bailing on the tourney, loser that he is). I also called the Greffs who were at a hotel 30 minutes away. They promised to show up at some point (naturally they didn't, damn old guys). I also asked them for a cell phone # for anyone on our team that I could try, and naturally they had nada!

I finally found some action in the far corner of the site at the Cock Block pavilion. I recognized Keith, the really blond guy from Colorado. We chatted up and I started hanging out. I had a long conversation with Meredith Tosta, UPA youth director (or something along those lines), played some flip cup, cut up my throwing hand trying to jam a tiki torch back into the ground, crushed the competition in a shotgun, you know, the usual. I finally bailed at around 1-2AM and walked back to my car. I had already set up the passenger seat as my bed, so I slid onto the thermarest, draped the sleeping bag over me, put on my eye buckys, and fell asleep. As an aside, you HAVE to buy the eye buckies if you ever sleep in a not dark room. When I finally woke up at 8:10AM, I had no idea what time it was because it was still pitch dark for me (these are night and day from the flimsy things that airlines provide). It had also rained ferociously during the night, which I had conveniently slept through ensconsed in my nice, firm, DRY, car.

Wake up, go to the bathroom, and then off to the gazebo to see what the crowd is doing. What they are doing is buying a REALLY cheap breakfast. Fruit, juices, yogurts, bagels, etc. I grab a yogurt and bagel w/cream cheese, then run into a few of my teammates (who had to point themselves out to me, I knew NO names in advance besides the Greffs). I end up grabbing a ride to the fields from them as I didn't want to lose my sweet parking location right by the campsite. We drive for a WHILE to get to the fields and we at the second farthest field of the whole tournament. The fields are a little soaked and muddy, but not too bad considering what had passed through the previous day. Our eclectic band starts to drift in and introduce themselves (or at least to me...). I recognize few of the players by name, although naturally they know me... :)

We start out with Coop Flyers from Atlanta, and end up really struggling against them. 5 straight rounds of games to 11 hard, and we win maybe 11-9. Not a rousing start. After the game, we are hanging out at our tent when I hear that the Flyers are looking for one of us to a shotgun with them. Someone is pushing Matt Greff but naturally I leap up to grab his spot. I walk over, open my can with my teeth (always impressive), grab some keys to widen the hole, and then we get set. 3-2-1, and in just under two seconds, I finish the can, spike it, turn around and walk away. Both teams were in awe. It's always fun to perform in front of a virgin crowd. My win streak is still going from the early '90s (I'm going to be that old gunfighter guy who has to kill like 3 people in each new town he goes to some young punks want to challenge him). Second game is against Chicken Schitt from Columbus, OH. This game is a little easier and we win reasonably handily. This brings up the 1st seed in our pool, Chicken Pasties from Nashville, TN (including Salsa and Yusi). Here our frustration boils over as we can't complete a pass. They end up winning going away, something like 11-6 maybe 7. To make the A bracket we now have to win our remaining two games. Game 4 against Cluckin' Deep from Dallas, and we struggle mightily again. They also smoke us 11-7 or so. The damage is down and we are in relegation. Last game against Pink Flaming-Hos from Tampa/St. Pete is not very close. I won't speak about their after game ritual which they tried to get us to play.

This brings us to the mill portion of the day. Matt Greff's wife Renee had set up a HUGE spread of food and drink for the day. We finally get to work after the last round. We had one of those Gatorade coolers full to the top of Reneegherita (and potent it was). Also a pony keg of their latest concoction from their microbrewery, Tree Fort Ale. Lots of talk, playing stupid games, etc. Two of the belladonnas (U-Wisconsin college women) challenged Adam Goff and myself to Cricket, which was basically beerfriz with two beer bottles side by side instead of a single cup. And since we were playing on grass, there was no sliding... for the girls at least. Adam and I quickly switched to sliding in scoobers to hit the bottles while Jason was trying to teach the girls to make that throw. Their efforts were somewhat amusing. Adam and I ended up winning going away, 13-2. Although we made sure to only score 1 point each rounbd to maximize the damage to the girls. It's finally time to leave the fields, and fortunately the field crew shows up in a couple of carts to help us move all of our crap back to the cars (tent, keg, food, chairs, etc.). I only had a backpack, but we had LOTS of team stuff, coolers, etc.

Back at the campsite, I discover the outdoor shower. I grab my stuff and take the cold shower which feels incredibly refreshing. While I'm drying off in the sun, the Bellas show up to take their showers. We hang out after, and most of them are pretty stewed at this point, not really having paced themselves at the fields. Granted the margheritas were deadly, which was why I had only sipped them. I end up hanging out with them for much of the night. After everyone drops their stuff off at the tents (or my car), we all head over to the carnival to grab some chicken dinner. We get the last 3 dinners and share amongst all 5 of us. We walk around a little, I buy the girls some funnel cakes (of which I eat the most). Then on the way back to the campsite, we pass a trampoline which we bounce around on for awhile, then find a merry go round, which we try and make the girls fly off of (or throw up). We get some people flown off but nobody tosses. Oh well. Back at the campground, time to hang out with the Iowa crew for awhile with Maria and Karrie (sp?). Watch them do some obstacle course where you have to spin around a stick 10 times then run around a course and then catch a frisbee. Naturally it is very difficult and comical. Karrie and I smash Maria and her partner in the game where you try and knock the cups off the two sticks at each end (and if you catch them, the points are reversed). Bail on the Iowa side of the hill and cross back over to the lakeside and end up finding the Minneapolis/Madison crew and hang out with them for much of the night. This includes Dan Heijman, Shane Ho... from Wisco/Sub. I talk to Dan about the state of the game for a long time. He wanted to make sure he got a mention in my blog, so Dan, there ya go. I had to flex my muscles for a few more shotguns, and at one point they played this game called Detonator, where you had to shake up a can of beer and then try and smash it open against your forehead. I had never 'played' before, so I watched for a little bit, then Shane was really forcing the issue, so I took the can, shook, shouted Detonator, and then smashed that baby right open. They were most impressed. A bunch of us then went back to the carnival late night, to check out the scene. Not too much going on, but at least it was some exercise. At some point I check my phone and realize that there is really no purpose in staying up anymore, so I head back to my car/bed and crash around 3:30.

Back up at 8 for another breakfast and then looking for the schedule to find out where we are. Field 10 at 9AM, so have to drive. This time I give up my cherry parking spot, figuring that by the time I return for the finals (!) a bunch of people will have lost and spaces will be open. I drive to the fields, which are in the same vicinity as the previous day but MUCH wetter (which is a bummer). Our first game is against a very tough squad from I can't remember where. They go up early on us, and then we slowly get back in the game before winning by 2 or so. Games are now to 13. Round two is against the Michigan BAT types. They also go up early 3-0 (pulling) before we outscore them 9-1 and eventually close them out. This brings us to the semis against a Pittsburgh team whose main strategy was at most one or two passes followed by a full field huck for a goal. It worked shockingly well early and they went up on us again. We gritted the game out and won by a couple, qualifying for the finals against Party Fowl. This was back at the showcase fields, so again we had to make an effort to break down our site and drive back to the fields. As I predicted, there were PLENTY of spaces to be had. I parked near our field and headed out. The finals between Chad larson Eggsperience and Paideia reunion had just started. We got going maybe a half hour later. Apparently the two A finalists AND the B team finalist we were playing had all been in the same pool. AND they had done a 3-way tie at 4-1. Party Fowl had the best point differential among the 3, but when they included ALL the games (which is Poultry Days tradition), Party Fowl ended up 3rd. The team they beat ended up winning the A bracket.

We started the Binals (great nickname someone came up with) on D and got a quick stuff and score. I didn't know any better, so I thought we actually had a chance. It was not to be. They smoked us 11-4 or so. They were Michigan types, including Will Neff and some other people whose names I was supposed to know. At least I had maximized my games played with 4 each day. Hung out after the finals a bit since I had a few hours before my flight. Eventually said my goodbyes, filled a small gatorade bottle with somne more Reneegherita, and then headed off to the airport. After I dropped the car off, I camped right next to the security checkpoint people and read my preproduction novel (Some Assembly Required by Lynn Kiele Bonasia, get it at your local bookstore or on Amazon 7/1) for awhile while drinking my 'rita. After I finished, I went through security, bought some dinner, and flew home...

Some other amusing tidbits. After the quarters the team we beat set up an American Gladiator obstacle course complete with 5 or so stations. The shooters were behind an umbrella which the competitors had to hit with something. They had cross bows, air shooters, some sort of dart flinger etc. Kyle from Sub-Zero went first, didn't get hit but didn't hit the umbrella either. He finally did a last second lunge attack since he was out of implements but was shot within inches of the umbrella. Then our female competitor finally succeeded at the fourth station and won. What was funny was that she was wearing some sort of Wonder Woman type outfit over her frisbee clothers. Imagine my surprise when after the competition, she took it off and kept it. She had actually brought it with her! I had figured that the other team made the competitors wear it. Not quite sure why she had that stuff there...

Also, after the Binals, Dan and Shane stopped by to say hi/bye. Funniest part was when JohnJohn (sp?), our captain who played with subzero last year, saw Shane and I catching up. When he found out we had partied together the previous evening, he said his mind couldn't quite encompass that fact and he was surprised his head didn't explode. Most amusing.

All in all, Poultry Days was an amazing experience. The whole smalltown feel, the amazing organization of the actual tournament, the facilities, the carnival, the camping (for most), the atmosphere, the inaccessibility. I would heartily recommend its inclusion on everyone's ultimate bucket list. Hopefully I will be there next year.

Oh, and apparently I'm known for liking to throw hammers. I ended up throwing quite a few over the weekend, and although I feel like I had one in there but can't remember it, the others thought I was turnover free on all my hammers/blades for the weekend. At least 25+. Imagine that?

My team picture. I'm sitting on the left.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Once more unto the breach

So, we just finished up Masters Easterns locally at Fort Devens this weekend. I was going to write something about the White Mountain Open, but Jim ably covered it over here. Before I get into the masters tournament though, I do want to mention one thing about WMO.

I won the party baby! And no, not my team. I won it by myself. After the last game Saturday, I followed Jim and his family to their hotel up the street to take a shower. Munched on some of his spaghetti and red sauce, had a beer, then went off to find the party that Seigs had told me about. It was a gathering of Dartmouth alums with some stringers. I had no lodging coming into the tournament. I had brought a couple of Therma-rests, and was planning to sleep in my car if nothing turned up (I had Jim bring a sleeping bag for me as mine disappeared years ago and I haven't gotten around to replacing it). It was a nice night, if somewhat cool. They had a beer pong table set up in back, and they were playing beerfris on the side driveway where most of the people were hanging out. Ipod speaker setup, a keg of good beer, some 30packs of cans, and you have a party. I played one game of beerfris but got spanked by the team that held court for almost the entire night. I'm not sure they ever lost. There were a couple of rounds of shot guns. I naturally held court on that, probably halving the time of the next fastest gunner. It is not up to least 15 years since I have last lost a shotgun. Hey, have to be good at something, right? As the party moved into late night, they started serving up hot dogs with all the fixings and various other snacks. Yum! Finally, we had petered out to 5 people left. There was some talk about trying to kick the keg. We did a few rounds of keg stands. I crushed that, checking in at 18 and 15 seconds. Then we moved the house next door and slept on the couches. A perfect night.

Of course, when I woke up, I should have drunk at least a gallon of water. Because I didn't, I was dehydrated, and as usual, my calf betrayed me late in the first half of the first game and I was out. I was the stupid idiot that Jim referred to in his entry. But enough of WMO. On to Masters Easterns.

This tournament was a tale of two teams. As of a couple of weeks ago, it wasn'[t even certain that this tournament was going to happen because of low response. We were stuck at around 3 to 4 teams. Funnily enough, we had offered to try and split into two teams. Otherwise Jim and I were going to enter a Tea Party time into the mixed division to at least make sure that we got some playing time. Fortunately they were able to talk OLDSAG into making the trip up from Philly and we ended up with 5 teams. OLDSAG didn't want us to split into two teams. Of course, once we ended up with maybe 15 players on Saturday and 12 players on Sunday, that makes the whole two team effort comical.

We were the one seed of five, with 4 straight games starting at 8:30 Saturday morning. Our first game was against a team from Halifax, Nova Scotia. At one point during the game, I asked them how long it had taken them to drive down, to which he responded that they had all flown, because it was a 14 hour drive. Wow, talk about the middle of nowhere. They had great spirit despite the spanking we administered. After the game, they all came over to our sideline to 'administer' a shot of some really nice scotch whose name I don't remember. They picked Marshall Goff, and then starting chanting breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth, repeat. And a good morning to you Marshall. Maybe that's what set up our next game against OLDSAG. We had heard that they were still a little bitter about their quarterfinal loss to us at nationals. This game started chippy, and continued mostly chippy throughout the morning. They jumped to an early lead as our first game had not prepared us for real defense, and our offense was playing sloppy anyway. They ended up taking the first half 8-5 and it only got worse in the second. They ended up walking away with a 15-9 victory.

Round 3 was against Mt. Crushmore. Nothing remarkable about this game except for the fact that it was WAY too close, as we 'pulled' away to a 15-12 victory. This set up our last round game with Above & Beyond. Still smarting from our offseason acquisition of Arnold Sanchez (!???!?!! maybe not), they were eager to prove they didn't need him. Well, after they went up 5-0, it was pretty clear they didn't. It didn't get any better as the game went on, and we ended up losing 15-8. We got beaten in pretty much every aspect of the game as they ran right through us.

After the last game, a few of us went to the Devens Grill right next door for a couple of cold ones. Then Dennis McCarthy (YES, HE ACTUALLY SHOWED FOR TWO GAMES) and I drove directly up to Portsmouth to party. We ended up closing the town at the Red Door after stints at the decks and the sports bar by the parking garage. However, this time when I got on the road at 9:15, I stopped by a gas station, filled up the tank and purchased a large gatorade and a water and finished them as I got to the fields 5 minutes before our first game. I actually had to pee before the game started. Also, my massage guy Russ had recommended Endurolytes, an electrolyte replacement capsule after he rehabbed my calf. I bought those on Friday and popped them all day Saturday. Even though my OTHER calf seized up on Saturday, it wasn't bad enough to keep me out, although I was terrified I was out for the tournament. It's still there, but it mostly faded by the end. I was pounding the Endurolytes, ibuprofen and water all day Saturday.

That was Saturday.

We lost 5 players from Saturday and picked up 2 (or something along those lines). We ended up playing with 12 on Sunday. Oh, and I forgot to mention that on both days, it was disgustingly hot, well over 90 and humid. That definitely contributed to a lull in energy. Fortunately we had some shade trees, although a little far from the field. That didn't prevent people from taking their subs under the trees and not helping on the sideline. Our first game was against A&B in the 2-3 game. The winner would go on to play OLDSAG in the finals while the loser would play down to the 4-5 winner. After yesterdays performance along with our reduced numbers, I wasn't expecting much. It sort of felt like '95, when we lost to NYNY 17-6 in the finals at regionals, and went to nationals just hoping not to embarrass ourselves, much less defend our title. We started on offense and had to grind, but scored. This time it was our turn as we went up huge, maybe 4-0 or something like that (all these games are starting to run together, maybe that was round 2). Regardless, the energy was completely different today. While we were subdued after the previous day, we played hard, actually got a lot of defenses instead of waiting for the other team to turn it over. Our offense, while not flawless, was night and day from Saturday. We kept the disc moving, throwing to open people, taking advantage of poaches, actually had a deep game, which opened up the short game. Of the 30 points or so of defense off the pull, we played straight man-to-man less than 5 times. It was transition D almost every point, and for whatever reason, it worked. The personnel we had today was definitely a lot of vintage DoG, or people that had played a lot with us so definitely were with the program. We ended up finishing the buzzsaw 15-8, setting up a final match against OLDSAG, who rolled out to the fields at maybe 12PM. They were pleased to be playing against in the finals, and this game was much cleaner than Saturday. And the success we had against A&B continued into this game. OLDSAG definitely started off slow. It was this game that we jumped out to the 4-0 lead as they were turning it over early and often and playing poor D. We took half 8-4, then they received to start the second half. 8-6, 11-6, and then traded out with a few more breaks to take the tournament 15-8. During the lineup after, they expressed that while they were not happy about losing, they were definitely pleased that we had turned it around from the previous day and looked much better for worlds, although we still have a lot of work to do to try and avoid embarrassing ourselves.

Oh yeah, and we decided to cut the remaining 50 people from the team and we are going to Worlds with just those 12 from Sunday...

While tempting, and useful for practice trash talking, just kidding.

I'm particularly thrilled that my calves held up the entire weekend, especially after the scare from my right calf early Saturday. The main reason I didn't want to hurt my calf was actually not for this weekend, but the upcoming weekend in Versailles OH. I will be attending my first Poultry Days tournament and I am VERY excited. I had tickets to go maybe 6 years ago, but pulled up lame a few weeks before the tournament with a bruised heel. As my career winds down, I'm working on my ultimate tournament bucket list. Feel free to suggest other tournaments. I will be playing with the Greff brothers on the Breasts & Thighs team. Hope to see you out there.

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