"Wide" World of Sports
It happened last Thursday. It was unbelievable.
My friend Steve, who I worked with at my previous company, was in town for a funeral. The deceased was the father of a lovely woman named Michelle that Steve used to date. The funeral was on Friday and he had some time to kill during the day since the people he was visiting had to work. In the meantime, he had some friends to visit. He did not have a car, so I was the taxi that day.
We ate at Red Robin then went back to the old company to see Steve’s former coworkers Sabrina and Terry. They were also friends of mine, but Steve had worked with them directly. It was strange being back at the old job, since I left early this year. I ran into an old golf buddy named Shaun who saw my visitor badge. The exchange:
Shaun: “Are you a visitor? For real?”
Me: “Yeah, I don’t work here anymore.”
Shaun: “Really? When did you leave?”
Me: “11 months ago.”
Shaun: “I haven’t seen you around lately.”
Me: “….” (Thinking to myself: no shit, huh? I haven’t BEEN here)
After leaving there, we went to Boulder so that Steve could introduce me to Michelle. Wow! What a knockout! She was really nice and graciously accepted my condolences on the loss of her father. Apparently he’s been gone for nearly a year; was cremated, and they were just getting to the funeral arrangements. He was a vet of the Korean War and was getting military honors. Nothing affects me like military honors.
A good friend of ours, Tony Dominguez, died about two years ago. He also worked with Steve and I, and was Sabrina’s life partner. He was a wonderful guy, about 46 years old. He was playing basketball after work and basically dropped dead on the court. Goddamn genetics. Wait, I had a point…
At Tony’s funeral, some priest who never even knew him came in babbling about god and jesus, then talking about other funerals he had performed that day. *thumb pointing down and raspberry sound* Tony had military honors though, as an esteemed vet. With the “Taps” playing and men standing at attention, the folding of the flag, the salute, the…respect. Yes, it’s the respect. There’s nothing more touching than that. The military is a brotherhood, a fraternity, and to use a less sexist word, a family. Actually, the paramilitary organizations like the police and fire departments are the same way. When one goes down, you feel the loss.
When 9/11 happened (last tangent, I swear!), my father and I both cried for the firefighters and police that died. We didn’t even have to know them, my father and I were both firefighters and we felt the hole, we felt the loss. We cried and we cried, because the good guys had died.
Alright, I’m back. Sorry about that.
After visiting Michelle, I took Steve to the Boulder Police Department, from whence he retired just before I met him 5 years ago. I met (and re-met) a bunch of Steve’s cop friends, nice guys, one and all. We decided to go to a bar in Boulder after that. Well, actually it’s a nice Italian restaurant that has a bar in it.
We arrived at Carelli’s and went straight to the bar. The place had just opened so we had no trouble getting served. Peroni for me, Coors light for Steve. We were chatting about a phone call Steve had just received, and he was a little upset. Real estate stuff – don’t ask. After a few minutes I looked up at the single TV in the bar, which was high on the wall behind the bar. ESPN2 was the selected channel, And although I don’t give a shit about sports, the sport in this particular time slot grabbed my attention immediately.
I could. not. believe. what I was seeing. It was so incredible all I could do was point and drool with incredulity. It was at this point that the cute bartender stopped checking me out. Yeah, sure.
On the television was one of the most intense sports on the board game circuit. Yep, it was none other than the 2005 National Scrabble Championships, direct from Reno, Nevada. American favorite Dave Weigand was taking on the Thailand Death-Tile, Panupol Sujjayakorn in a fierce competition to win the internationally coveted glass Scrabble trophy.
With the feline grace and athleticism that only a true Scrabble champion could possibly possess, they threw merciless volleys of double letter, double and triple word scores at one another. In front of an enraptured audience, the back and forth exchange included bombardment by heavy hitters such as “qat”, “chufa”, “rax”, “lensmen”, “orad”, and the atomic bombs “endostea” and “dexy”. “Wife” was even played twice, once for a Triple Word Score! That’s 30 points, people! What a blow!
Amidst this raging exchange was the rest of the “Scrabble-Con”, which was comprised of an entire banquet room filled with, count ‘em, 684 registered players all in skirmishes of their own. I’m not sure who supplied the nearly 350 Scrabble boards, but they were top-notch, lemme tell you. Really though, I don't expect you to take my word for it.
The coverage cut back and forth between the main event and the rest of the athletes, but what really struck me was that there was a computer extrapolating out possible word choices, placement, and odds of winning the game based on those plays. “If Panupol plays “endostea”, he’s got a 3.8% chance of winning the match!”
This was a five-round tile-off between these two, but Dave Weigand won the event, and the grand prize GIANT check made out for $25,000! Trouncing the 21 year-old Sujjayakorn was a great victory for the American athletes, since he had been the 2003 champion. The whole program was a rerun though, the event took place in August. The betrayal! ESPN2 was showing “live” coverage 4 full months after the fact. Stupid sports.
After a few minutes of watching this and laughing a lot, we asked the bartender to change the channel. She said “I can’t. The TV’s locked out and only the owner can change the channel.” WTF? You have got to be shitting me! Nope. It was verified by one of the wait staff. “It has to be on a sports channel at all times, we can’t touch it.”
After a while, another bartender came in, telling us that she had access to the remote. Steve asked her to find something else on TV, and the sports-only mandate was fine with him. She returned sheepishly a few minutes later, informing us that she didn’t know how to change the channel on the satellite system. ! The one person that could change it didn’t know how!!!!!
By the time she returned it was past the first of the hour anyways, and basketball was on. Shortly thereafter Sergeant Greg LeFebre (“Feeb” as his friends call him), Sabrina, and Steve’s real estate lady, Peggy, joined us and the TV was forgotten anyway. But how could even the stiffest libation exorcise the memory of what I had just witnessed? I can never forget…