Friday, April 17, 2009

Paganello - Day 2, 3, 4 (and 5)

As could be expected in retrospect, I was unable to do a daily reenactment of my first Paganello. It all started to run together towards the end. Suffice it to say, losing in the finals was frustrating although considering what we had done that entire weekend, not entirely deserved.

On Friday we won our original pool, never really being challenged past 5-5 of any game. This got us into a 6-team power pool, Pool P. Our last game the previous night had been the last round at 7PM and it was COLD!. Almost needed to play in socks. We gritted through it, then went out even bigger than the previous night. Unfortunately the first round was at 10AM this morning instead of after 12. Everyone shuffled down to make the morning buffet before getting out to the fields no more than 15-20 minutes before gametime. Our first game was against Hattiwatit a finnish team who had lost at double game point to Friselis from France the day before. This game started out VERY close as we traded to 5-5 before we pulled away to a far more comfortable 13-7 victory. After a lunch break including a trip back to the hotel to try and nap, we had a second game at 2ish against Bigez, I think from Germany. This game was not close at all, and I'm not sure why. We won 14-3 and we were up maybe 7 or 8 to 1. This set up a shorter break before our 5PM game against UTI in the stadium field. This was the first tournament where the stadium field was SO ridiculously different in size from every other field. The main field was almost twice as large in both length and width as the non stadium fields. And we were playing a young, large, and hungry team which didn't help things. The game was neck and neck the whole way with us finally pulling at 10-10 double game point. After some tremendous defensive pressure, they were trapped on the far sideline and threw a bladey forehand dump towards our goalline for a turnover. We only had about 12 yards to go and fortunately it was a single pass to Big Jim who caught it and contorted to land one foot in the goal. Victory! Personal highlights were uncorking a 60 yard trailing long backhand that Jim caught for a goal, and... still no turnovers on the weekend.

Clearly it was time to celebrate after winning our big game of the pool. And thus we did. Tonight was team dinner night and after searching far and wide for a restaurant that would take us (more about the previous night's search later), we found one and waited for about 15 minutes to get seated. Once seated, we ordered some pizzas to tide us over, white and red wine carafes, and started the smack talking. Large orders of food later, and it was time to pay the bill. While I had heard about this before, this was the first time I had seen it in action. We played credit card roulette. Fortunately, it was voluntary. Whoever wanted to pay what they thought they owed was able to do so. If you didn't want to, you had to put your credit card into the pot. Once everyone had chosen, all the cards were put into a basket and one of the women was selected to make the card choices. There were 6 cards out of maybe 14 people. The first card selected was for $. Fortunately for him, he was eliminated. The main philosophy was once you were down to two cards left, the 2nd to last card would pocket all the cash, while the final card left would pay the ENTIRE bill. It so happened that it came down to Jim and JZ. It was Jim's first time in the pool. Lo and behold, after HUGE buildup, the card was picked, and Jim lost while JZ walked away with 145 euros. The bill ended up being 268 euros for roughly a $500 swing. Ouch!

Tonight was the first tourney party not in the main tent but in a disco even nearer to our hotel (oy!). Jim and I headed over at 10:15 and we were the ONLY people at the disco so we headed back to the Barge to hang out with the team. Went back around midnight and all of a sudden, the 7 or so rooms were so packed you could barely move. I guess this is it means to be a Euroxxx (starting to party VERY late).

Sunday morning our first game is at 9:15. Again we stumble out of the hotel, a quick buffet breakfast and coffee wolfed down before getting to the field 10 minutes before game time. Now it is the final power pool play game against a French team, the Friselis. And for the 3rd straight day we were missing at least one teammate for the first game, slightly more reasonable with the early start time. Even though this game didn't matter, we didn't want to be down going into the quarters. VERY tight all game before we pull away to win by something close. Another 3 hour gap between games so we all head back to the hotel... again for a nap. Again I screw up by having had coffee for breakfast so I can't nap but we all head back to the hotel regardless. (I finally learned this by Monday...). We make it out to our 2PM quarterfinal against Iznogoud, another French team. By this team, we are finally fresh and we take it to them. Not close. They have the semifinals staggered on the huge stadium field, first the 2 women's games, then the 2 men's game, and we are the second men's game, so yet again back to the hotel. Although not for long, as I finally head back to catch most of the first men's semi between UTI and Stinks from Sweden. VERY exciting game with huge hucks from both teams. Very spectator friendly. UTI finally pulls away for a 2-3 point victory, but Stinks had a late lead (prophetic as we shall see). This brings up our semifinal against Sexxxpensive, an international all-star team. They had taken down the defending champions Scandal (from Chicago) in the quarterfinals in a not so close game.

This game was nothing like the first semifinal. Neither team played particularly well, it was just that we played not particularly well better than they did. The score was not very close, and after the game, I was interviewed by SkyTV (or something like that, definitely not Blockstack), and pretty much my party line was that 1) our game was definitely not as pretty/exciting as the previous semi, and 2) we just played less badly than the other team. In our post-game huddle we talked about the finals the following day. The game wasn't going to be until 4PM. At one point Hollywood paused and I figured he was going to talk about taking it easy, but no, we concluded we should go with what brung us (to that point). Uh, mistake. Back to the rooms to shower up, cocktails, Barge, party, etc., etc. Another 4AM night.

The biggest problem with the next day, other than not having a game PRIOR to the finals to help clear our heads, was, well, that. Another breakfast followed by back up to the room for a nap. Made it out to the fields around 12:30 to catch some of the women's final, then the co-ed final. At maybe 2PM, we were astounded to see behind the stands UTI warming up pretty heavily, sprinting back and forth, running, etc. After the coed game was over there was a juniors game of 13 and under composed of two local teams from Rimini. Then there was some sort of roman fighting reenactment on the field. During the last 20 minutes before the game, we were all lolling on one goalline, sitting and lying down on the sand. On the other end, UTI was doing drills, throwing running. When I watched the coverage of the finals, they riffed on us tremendously, talking about how UTI's warmup was very retro and that we had discovered the latest type of warmup. I can't begin to do it justice but they worked us for like 3 minutes of coverage.

FINALLY the game started around 4:20. We started on D and got 2 quick turnovers. Unfortunately we gave them both back, including burying the second one into the sand right in front of one our players in the endzone. UTI scored, we scored, and we end up trading for awhile until we finally get broken when Cash throws a pass behind me as we are fast breaking up the field (picture below). I lay out and get a hand on it but am unable to hold it. They score to take a 2 point lead and we get it back before they take half 7-6. We score coming out of half and then get the big break to go up 8-7. We get yet another turnover before we give it back and they tie it at 8's. THEN the wheels come off. UTI proceeds to score the next 5 points to take the game 13-8. I don't think we got the disc back once. Hard to believe we had the disc to go up 9-7 before losing 13-8. While I had no expectations going into the tournament, once you are in the finals, it sucks to lose. As an observer mentioned, 'if you win paga, but don't bring it, it doesn't count for shit'. Well, hopefully Los Tigres can do slightly better next year and bring it on home.

So, post game huddle, blah blah blah, and then back to the hotel to shower up and go to the closing ceremonies. Those were kind of cool as they actually called up EVERY team at the tournament. We got their maybe 20 minutes before they called us up as they called the top 3 in each division at the end. For our efforts we received a free tourney disc so it was a good thing I didn't buy one... And then the team split up. 8 of the 12 had a morning flight into Milan so they grabbed an 8:30 train after a final stop at the barge. This left Cash, JZ, Jim and I to amuse ourselves. We went to a nice dinner at the 900 (or something like that), and then alternated between the final tournament party and the Barge. Jim and I had a 6AM train to Bologna to catch a 10AM flight home. We kept checking our watches, and finally at 4AM we gave up. The party was still going strong so we just stayed at the Barge until the end. We left around 5AM and the party was still going strong. Back to the hotel, pick up the bags, get a cab to the train, and then pass out. Longest travel day ever and then we finally got back to Boston at around 3PM, roughly 15 hours later. Ugh. So, it was my first Paganello, and hopefully not my last, although I am starting pretty late...

And now the photo montage.

The architect of our discontent

Tournament site from my balcony - Stadium far left, party central far right, and then the Barge smack dab in the middle (pink bottom, white top).

Still annoyed I didn't catch this.

I poached off on this long pass and swung at it and caught a faceful of sand. I couldn't believe I missed it.

What was amazing is that I didn't touch the sand until the last game of the day Saturday and then it was all over. Probably layed out 6 or 7 times the rest of the tournament. In the one below which was maybe to make it 12-8, the guy caught the hammer and then accidentally kicked sand in my face/eye, so bad that I had to take out my contacts and toss'em walking off the field.

The happy faces.

Packed stands! Had to be at least 1000 people watching.

A familiar sight...