Wednesday, April 5, 2017

MCQUEENIE CUP ROLLERCOASTER



McQueenie Cup Mar 31 – Apr 1

The DAC were McQueenie Cup Champions this year. Or, they would be, if the event was just on the Friday night. Our expectations for victory this year were not soaring into the stratospheric heights of overconfidence, especially since (once again) we were 1 man short for the singles competition. Fronting up with 7 of 8 players does make it substantially more challenging to win, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. The remaining players had little margin of error, minimizing our losses was imperative.

David de la Torre warming up
Spirits were high heading into the first afternoon of matches. Fresh legs, lungs, livers, and blood streams are an excellent formula for a successful outing. Even the 4-5 hour drive couldn’t (and didn’t) stop us from quickly adapting to their courts, finding a comfortable rhythm and for the most part dominating the day. Ryan MacVoy, Chas Bayer and John Rogers all took down their Columbus opponents 3-1, followed up by a 3-0 win by David de la Torre (who, by the way, has picked up a multitude of nick-names... “Nacho Libre” being the most widely used and accepted…!) the DAC was looking like the team to beat. Add on Brien Baker’s two wins in his category and we could start to sniff the polish on the Cup… picturing our names etched on there for all of history to see… We did suffer a couple of losses though – after all, you can’t win them all, right? – with Steve Brown and John Birgbauer, but even so the outlook seemed positive.

Then the sun went down.

I am all for celebrating a triumphant evening. The DAC up to this point were in first place. We were, however, just 1 round into the competition and Saturday was looming and promising to be a formidable task. And there really isn’t any reason not to make that mission even more painful, right?

Welcome to Chicago. And raising a glass or two at the local establishments in honor of our almost faultless on court performances is part of the deal. The team also accomplished that mission with distinction. If socializing was part of the McQueenie Cup, we would have put the result out of reach from the other 5 clubs right there and then.

Now, I am old. I am all for learning new stuff, but I am too old for hanging out and appreciating the work required to close down a bar for the night. I wanted to be up and alert for the Saturday morning matches that were to start at 9.30am. Apparently, most of our team are not as old as I.

The next morning as I was munching on the provided muffins and slurping their coffee, our day did not exactly start out like we finished the one previous. On the contrary. Difficulty was an understatement. As commanding as we were 16 hours ago, the rollercoaster had reached its peak and was now hurtling downwards at a perilous speed. The 0-3 losses punctuated the morning, it got ugly quickly. We suffered through the session, picking up just one win thanks to Steve Brown, but being on the receiving end of 6 others. Our hope for the McQueenie Cup had ended.

But the matches had not. The afternoon session was begging and our players – with the fog lifted - were keen to redeem themselves. Nacho Libre managed to do so coming back from a 2-0 deficit to then steamroll his opponent the next 3 games. John Rogers also scored a win, and suddenly the wheels were starting to straighten out again. Ryan MacVoy couldn’t do much against his opponent, clearly the strongest player in that category. And Chas Bayer played an excellent match against Audrey Berling (who was representing Toledo) going down in a tough 4-setter, one of the better matches on the day.

Steve Brown lost his final match 3-1 as did John Birgbauer (3-2), valiant efforts from both, but just running out of gas at the end. We ended up 4th. Just half a point from 3rd, something we could / should have achieved if our Saturday morning wasn’t so upside-down. The University Club of Chicago won the Cup. As it turned out, I doubt very much that even with a ‘clean’ Saturday, we would have stood much of a chance anyway. Chicago won it easily, 40 points better than 2nd placed Toledo. Home city advantage, tough to compete with their extremely deep pool of players! Scores:

1.      University Club of Chicago - #%&@-load of points
2.      Toledo – Not so much, way behind
3.      Columbus – Even further behind, but a surprising result
4.      DAC – half a point back. Blah.
5.      St. Louis – half a point back from us. Coming 5th would have been painful for us.
6.      Union League Club of Chicago – just a handful of points. Thanks for coming boys.

This year was the first time there was a doubles portion to the event. Called the “Aubrey Cup”, it is actually so named after the DAC Athletic Director Rex Aubrey. He held that position here for 40 years before Rob Barr took it over about 15-16 years ago. The DAC sent 2 teams to compete, which again is 1 team short of the maximum, meaning that we had no shot of winning. In fact only one club really could be victorious because St. Louis was the only one with a full 3 team contingent. They were also pretty good at it which helps.

I stepped in to play in the A draw with John Birgbauer and we won 1 of 3 matches. We didn’t play too badly in the first two, the third was the one we want to forget. Bob Burton represented us in the 50+ category with Steve Brown, and unfortunately went down with an injury on Saturday and had to withdraw.

Saturday night dinner was an entertaining affair with a stand-up comedian who cracked us all up, some joke telling from the players that was a little hit-and-miss, but excellent company all around, the main reason we do these road-trips.

Of course, the DAC had to up the ante from the Friday night escapades and they carried out that operation with military-like precision. Once again, we won the night, Chicago did not stand a chance.

Team DAC: Chas Bayer, Ryan MacVoy, Steve Brown, Brien Baker, John Birgbauer, John Rogers, Nacho Libre
I want to extend some thank-yous:
1. To John Flanigan of the U Club for hosting and organizing the large band of misfits crashing your club. That extends to John Seidel who helped with the event and draws.
2. To the DAC team members – even though we weren’t completely successful on court, we were successful off it. We all had a blast, what a great group!
3. Ryan MacVoy for driving me to Chicago in his Tesla, demonstrating the power of “ludicrous” mode to accelerate from 0 to 60 and almost making me pass out in the process but giving a much needed face lift.
4. Nacho Libre for offering to drive most of the rest of the team and showing us the power of an Ecuadorian accent. Much appreciated.

Next year’s event should also be in Chicago. May I suggest that for us to have a chance of winning, we need to resist the calling for Friday night and hold off until Saturday? Oh, and we need an 8 man team. Goes without saying really.

Monday, March 20, 2017

SANTE OWNS THE BLITZ



Blitz Tournament Mar 17, 2017

St. Patrick’s Day. It amazes me that anyone can start drinking so early in the morning. I struggle to put my pants on the right way around when I get out of bed, lucky I don’t poke my eyes out when inserting my contact lenses, and it’s remarkable that I cheat death and not slit my throat every time I shave. Hmmm… maybe I should drink…?

I’m as Irish as I am Chinese, so the day doesn’t really mean a whole lot to me, but apparently it does to just about everyone else who claims “Hey! I’m 1/24th Irish on my mother’s nephew’s daughter’s side twice removed”, the perfect excuse to annihilate one’s self as soon as the sun comes up and the bar’s open. It should be, by all accounts, a public holiday.

So when I arranged the Blitz Tournament for March 17, I was blissfully unaware of the significance of the date, was told after I advertised it what a mistake it was, was awfully worried I wouldn’t get the registrations to run it despite the offering of the keg that accompanied the event, and then was appreciably grateful that we did in fact get 21 players. One of which cancelled last minute, probably drowning in some green-colored, booze-filled, shamrock drenched establishment singing thick-accented Irish folk ditties - but at least I got the notice - the other just failed to present themselves at all. Maybe the green booze had actually gotten the better of him by 5pm.

In the preliminary round, the four groups of five players each (1 group ended up with four due to the no-show) went at it to determine which 2 players of each group would advance to the all-important knock-out finals. Derek Aguirre accepted the challenge presented to him like a man on a mission. Like Superman who is impervious to 99.99% of anything thrown at him, the handicaps were virtually useless against him. In games to 15 points, I may as well given everyone 14 points head start, it wouldn’t have mattered. In three of his matches, he didn’t lose a singles rally. He did lose 2 points in his 4th game, but the handicap was only 9 anyway, so it didn’t matter. What could possibly be his Kryptonite on this day? Greg Jones also advance from this group winning 3 of his matches, one of them being 15-14.

The second group ended up with a 3-way tie. Sante Fratarcangeli, Mike Parker and Han Peng all took away 3 wins and would have to draw straws to see which 2 could advance. It was a tense moment. The three players having a stare down, the three straws appearing identical but one of course being the eliminator. Neither player willing to take the first pull… The tumbleweed rolled past the court. A familiar whistle in the background, crows cawing, sun beating down, the town clock struck high noon… Until Mike stepped up and whipped out the middle straw, relieved to see that it was not the short one and would live on to the next round. Inspired, Han then also took the initiative and jumped forwards and without blinking yanked the second straw from my hand… and… tragedy! The sharpened end was a dead giveaway. Han was done. Off to the keg with you. Sante survived the carnage and made his way to keg anyway.
Jon Diewald and Paul Gormley

Jon Diewald takes home the “3-leaf-clover” award for being the unluckiest player of the day. He came away in group 3 with zero wins, but he could easily been in the finals mix had a couple of rallies just bounced his way. He lost 2 games 15-14, another 15-13 and the fourth 15-12. Jon needs to work on the frame-winner a little more. Paul Gormley was also just 1 rally away from advancing. He won 2 matches and lost a third 15-14… Dane Fossee and Chuck Doyle came away with 3 wins each and even though both of them were into the finals, they still needed to draw straws to see where in the knock-out bracket they would be placed. They decided on a sudden-death “rock-paper-scissors” contest instead. Now, I am no expert of this activity, but I have never seen 2 people make the simplest of games into one extraordinarily complex process. What should have taken 10 seconds at most, took 5 minutes of explanation, trial runs, false starts, and re-dos. Dane won in the end, I think his paper was the defining factor. What a move it was too.

The final group was the one that fell a player short and also had this tournament’s sole female competitor. Gina Greer was well up to the challenge, not to be overshadowed by her alpha male counterparts and she ended up with 2 from 4 wins. Jordan Dean joined her into the finals round also taking 2 wins. His only loss was a 14-15 score at the hands of Justin Winkelman. Gina and Jordan also need to draw straws to see where in the finals bracket they would be positioned and after witnessing the train wreck of the previous “rock-paper-scissors” debacle, it was a very straight forward exercise. Gina won. Gina also receives the “quote of the day award” when she remarked during one of the matches, “what a great shot!” - a remark that was spoken a little too quickly considering that shot then hit the tin. “Except for that”, was her attempt to save face. Sorry, the egg hit you squarely in the nose.

The finals bracket. Blowing wind up my own chutzpah, my handicapping here was pretty darn good. Derek took on Jordan Dean and I gave Jordan 12. Derek of course was still on his saving Louis Lane mission, but cracks were appearing in the armor as he managed to drop one point. 15-13 to Derek, hardly a smudge on his flowing red cape as of yet.

Sante v Dane. Before I could announce a handicap at all, Sante chimed in with “4!” followed by a quick retort from Dane with “6!” So, with logical assumption I split the difference and gave Dane 5. Dane should have thought that through a little better and said “8!” or “9!” I was leaning towards 6 or 7 at the beginning, Dane shot himself in the foot and can only blame himself here. Sante controlled most of the rallies and took it 15-10.

Sante and Derek
Gina v Chuck. Gina jumped in with 8 points, a confident number I was sure given the way she was playing this day. And she did the most wonderful thing and prove me to be spot on. Thank you! Unfortunately for her, she ended up on the wrong side of that 14-all sudden death rally, and nothing against Chuck but it would have been terrific to see a woman in the semifinals for the first time. Chuck’s one point experiences were just starting.

Greg v Mike. This one was difficult to judge a fair handicap. Greg is fairly new to the squash program and Mike has only been around for a year or so. I decided the best way to go was to make them play from scratch. That should tell what the handicap should have been afterwards! Brilliant! So, from my unflappable argument, it was clear that Greg should have had 3 or 4 points head start. And now I know. Which of course doesn’t help Greg one iota after the fact.

Chuck Doyle and Mike Parker
The two semifinals were nail-biters. Sante took 3 points into the match against Derek and was off to a flying start. Derek, it appeared had come across his one weakness - fluorescent lime green (or is it yellow?) t-shirts! Superpowers waning, he was playing way too conservatively, scared to lose points rather than playing to win them. But he turned it around half way through and began chipping away at the lead. He did get back to 13 before Sante (Lex Luther in disguise?) managed to close it out. So much for Louis Lane. Oh well. She was annoying anyway. The second semi was even closer. I also gave Mike 3 points heading into the match with Chuck. The hustle between the 2 players was something to behold, I can’t say it was postcard squash but it certainly was captivating. Chuck once again defied the odds to win the sudden-death rally, another 15-14 win.

3rd / 4th play-off between Mike and Derek had us all rooting for Mike of course. His 12 points was another magnificent move from yours truly, Derek was keen to put the Sante episode behind him and at least save himself from further defeat from some other super villain. He may get dropped from the Justice League after this performance, or maybe Mike is part of the Legion of Doom… either way, Mike takes the game 15-14, a noble showing!

For the final, Chuck also stepped on court with a 12 point buffer. Sante was confident coming off destruction of Superman, but things did not go as planned early on Chuck took 2 of the first 6 rallies and suddenly held 11 match-balls. Uh-Oh. No room for error for Sante. Chuck just needed one miss-hit, one framer, one lucky nick… but alas, it was not forth coming. With grim determination, Sante made sure he was faultless and worked himself back to 14-all and with it another sudden death point. One to decide it all… There was no lucky shot from Chuck, but he did -it seemed - have the opportunity to take a ‘stroke’ in the front left corner. He called the ‘let’, but ignored the cries of “STROKE!!” from the crowd, and insisted to Sante on playing a just a ‘let’. A true gentleman in every sense of the word. Now, I will let the people watching decide whether it was a stroke or not, understanding that everybody was naturally cheering for the underdog to win, so some bias is involved here. Chuck’s generosity was not rewarded, Sante took the game 15-14 and with it, his 4th Blitz title! Hats off to the victor, one must admire the competitiveness! I must make a note for the future to really exaggerate his handicapping….



Friday, March 17, 2017

THROW ME A SUB



Boasters League semi-finals~~

Give me second… just hopping up to my soap box for a minute…

The joys of organizing a league. Any league. When dealing with as many people as we do here, it’s utterly impossible to keep everyone happy. And I get that. Situations arise every season that are somewhat unique and decisions need to be made – many times with little or no time to think it over – and in the end somebody gets upset. Such is the nature of life.

Cries of rules changes come my way, but in reality the best way to deal with each episode is to try to keep it as fair as possible which of course doesn’t work depending on which side of the argument you’re on. I could add rules to the league for every new event that pops up, but the rule book would be like the NFL encyclopedia (Mark Montgomery already nicknamed me “Commissioner Goodell”!) and then who would read them anyway? So in my opinion, keeping it simpler is better.

The finals of the boasters league runs over 3 weeks and matches have deadlines for completion. We have run it this way for the 13 years I have been here. And, having these finals run through March, a time of the year where many are vacationing or are injured after a long season, makes it often difficult to play before that deadline. Subs need to step in. This week, we needed 8. That is lot more than normal believe it or not, but it’s 8 out of 68 players scheduled. So, in retrospect, it’s not that bad. I mention the subs here because it did cause a little controversy this week and I received the earful from all sides. I don’t have the ‘perfect’ substitute in the closet waiting to go every time one is requested, especially for last minute requests.

This week was an anomaly. Is the system faultless? No, of course not. In the utopian squash world, all players would turn up every week and play at their scheduled time. But, Utopia is far away. And as I step down from my soap box, keep in mind as well that some of the onus does land on you – the player…

Preaching hat off, Blog hat on…

Winky-Dinks v Mongoose
Winky-Dinks were under pressure this week to improve on their round 7 drubbing at the hands of Mongoose. Both team required 2 subs each to fill in for them, and surprisingly, both teams did not pick up many bonus points comparatively speaking – 11 for Winky-Dinks and only 10 for Mongoose. Usually on finals night, I’d expect 14 to 15 at least.

Although this did end up closer than the previous match-up, it wasn’t much prettier. Half a dozen bagels littered the Winky-Dinks score line, and for those mathematicians out there, that’s an 18 point chasm to make up. Winky-Dinks did pull back three 3-0 wins of their own, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make up the difference.

The closest result of the evening was between Adam Longo (Winky-Dinks) and Shane Henry, who was subbing for Mongoose. Adam edged the first game 15-13, and the second game went one point closer. But at 14-all, Shane serving, he had the terrific idea of trying to hit it over Adam’s head, which, at the glass half full attitude, he did. However, the glass half empty viewpoint, he also hit it 10 feet out of court… Oops. Not to be deterred, Shane redeemed himself in the third game, this time making sure his 14-all serve was safely in, and taking the rally to save at least one game!

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Winky-Dinks. Some bright sparks included Julie Vande Vusse taking care of business – although it was tough business – against David Zack for a 2-1 win and John Perkins doing the same against Mike Petix. But in the end, Mongoose was left standing tall. They are simply a good team. Final score: 38-31.

Butter Nutz v Vivio’s
This one came down to the final match. And we’ll get to that in a minute. Subs also played a big part of this match up, Butter Nutz needing 3, Vivio’s just 1… Bonus points could also play an important role here. Vivio’s picked up one more (13) than Butter Nutz (12), so in case of the scores being equal, they held the tie-break.

In round 5, Vivio’s won by 2 points, so obviously the teams are evenly matched. And they stayed evenly matched through the evening, neither team establishing any sort of significant lead, not more than 3 points separated them at any one moment. The biggest turn around result from round 5 was Han Peng (Butter Nutz) retaliating against Blake Roller (Vivio’s) who beat him 2-1 back then. Han’s lessons must be paying off (how’s that for a cheap slap on my own back?) as he took Blake to the cleaners for a 3-0 sweep. I need to thank Han for that performance as Blake now is begging to get on my lesson calendar. Wednesday evenings open up in a couple of weeks, Blake.

Kevin Thomas with his "Beer Point" Happy B'day!
Shout out to the birthday boy Kevin Thomas who played his match early (winning 2-1) in order to be able to celebrate his 30th birthday on Wednesday. But that didn’t stop him from being the ultimate team player as he still managed (somehow) to turn up to the DAC for his bonus point (and a beer, d’uh!). Not sure he remembers doing so, luckily we had photo proof.

By the time Thursday morning rolled around, two matches were left to be completed. One was already underway when I arrived for the day. Mike Rock (Vivio’s) and Ted Morris who was subbing for the Butter Nutz were locked at 1 game all and 9-8 in the third. At this point, the two teams were deadlocked at 35 points each. A good spirited end to the match, Mike walked off the 2-1 victor, an important win for Vivio’s because now the pressure would be placed squarely on the Butter Nutz.

The deciding match would be Zac MacVoy (Butter Nutz) v Brendan Fossee (Vivio’s). Mike’s 3rd game win meant that in order for the Butter Nutz to win, Zac would have to take all 3 games. I only have 1 recorded result between the 2 players, and Zac took that 2-1. Both players knew the deal going into the court. The battle was on, I’m sure the captains were texting wildly all day laying our game tactics to their players… And in a revenge result, Brendan managed to stop the behemoth that is Zac with a 2-1 victory and thus propel the unlikely Vivio’s to a 39-37 win!

The win comes with a small asterisk, as protests regarding the subs were launched. Did it change the outcome of the victory? I’ll let everyone make their own opinion on that. It doesn’t change the fact that Vivio’s advance.

So we are all set for an interesting final. Mongoose played Vivio’s way back in round 1 where they actually lost 33-30. Still, too close to predict a winner for next week, I’m pretty sure though that Mongoose will need at least 2 subs which may hurt them bonus point wise.

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