Memphis was incredible! I had such a great time there and I want to thank everyone that made it possible. The entire Memphis crew went out of their way to show all of us that legendary southern hospitality and make sure all the players needs were met.
Thursday Tommy picked me up after he got off work then we drove off to Aurora to pick up Cory and switched cars (better fuel consumption) and headed downstate to crash at Mike Bellmans. They talked about how big the footbag scene was in Illinois back in the day (22 people in a caravan to Worlds!) We get to Mikey's place around 2 in the morning where he had 3 folding cots and freshly washed sheets set up for us. We spent sometime outside just staring at the big open night sky. Being in the city most of my life, I rarely get to see so many stars (shooting stars too!) in such a quiet setting - no orange glow or sounds of police sirens and car alarms. Friday morning started out pretty slow, we took our time to get going. Now, the trunk was pretty full before we got to Mikey's but Cory did this amazing re-pack of all our stuff + Bellmans bags that any Tetris master would be impressed with. I can't believe how everything fit so perfectly with just about every square inch of space being used. I should have taken a picture of it.
We roll into Memphis in true Chicago footbag fashion - late. We get to the site at about 3pm where a couple of nets were set up and players were already warming up. I think most everyone was already there except the Portland team. I immediately spot Jeremy, Ben and Elliot since they were the only players there I was most familiar with. It was pretty cool to see Mirken, since he's such a C.O.C. that he's the closest thing to an Inner Circle member I'm usually accompanied with on the rare occasions that I travel. He commented that he was probably more excited to see me out of my own state than I was. I got to meet Tuan and Kenny again, I had not seen them in person since Worlds 99. Also met Manu for the first time. There were so many open level champions here!
Friday was just pick-up games and the atmosphere was pretty laid back. The weather was gorgeous being mostly sunny, warm with a slight breeze, perfect footbag weather. I finally got to play with my shirt off this year! After everyone was warmed up we had 3 courts set up, A, B & C. From what I understood, if your team won you would move up a court earning your way to A and staying there until you lost. If you lose a game you drop down a court. Losing in the C court meant your team sat out the next round while a 7th team got in and tried to work their way up. Mike and I never got past B. We played well together considering it was the first time we partnered up for a comp. We finished 2-2 for the day. Mike decided to call it quits early and not wear himself out while Elliot and I did some hand toss rallies to warm down. Elliot was only there for that day and had tickets to see a show back in Nashville during the weekend. I think I played ok. Overset a lot though. Spikes are still inconsistent but defense and hustle kept us in the game.
Afterparty was at Tommy C's house, less than a block away. BBQ Pork sandwiches, egg salad (I think) and fresh brownies... mmmmmmmm. Hung out a bit with and stretched out with Jeremy. Met Willi (pronounced will- eye) for the first time. Me and Mikey were gonna stay with him at his girlfriend's place. He was very friendly and had a lot of cool stories from back in the day. The 3 of us left the party early because Willi had been up since 4 that morning. We get to his gf's after 20 minutes of driving and I was greeted by their monstrous 14month, 68 pound Golden Retriever named Cash. That dog was very friendly, was just dying for attention and had a habit of running off with your belongings. Tess, the smaller black dog was quiet and content to just sit around and be pet. I don't know what kind of accommodations everyone else got but me and Mikey were treated like Kings! We had our own rooms with comfortable beds. Her shower had a wide spray and excellent water pressure, perfect after an afternoon of Net. As usual, I'm the last to sleep and first to get up (certainly not for lack of comfort!) but feeling rested and not very sore. We have another long lazy morning but get treated to a nice hot breakfast with eggs, coffee, OJ, fruit and fresh baked blueberry muffins. Fresh. Baked. Blueberry. Muffins. Christ, what a great way to start the day!
Saturday and Sunday to come... for now you can browse the photos I took from that weekend:
It had rained all night and for most of the morning. It stopped a couple of hours before we left for the site. Willi told us that there was a high sand content in the soil there so the moisture drained pretty quick. Sure enough, we get to the site and the place didn't look like it rained there at all! It was so odd to see. We started by helping set up the tent, tables and courts . I picked up the bags I bought from Manu. He also gave me one extra since I waited to just get them from him personally instead of him shipping them to me a week or two earlier. I should have bought more while I had the chance. Mike and I took our time and warmed up slowly with power kicking, serve/returns and hand toss rallies. All the other Chicago players competed singles. I was able to watch a bit of Mikey vs Seibert and most of Cory's matches vs Dr. Mike and Jeremy. I have a lot of respect for singles competitors but it looks absolutely grueling. I do not regret saving my energy for doubles.
For Doubles, there were 2 pools of three teams and our pool of 4. It was best of 3 to 15 and top 2 teams advance to semis. Mikey and I faced the Portland team of Chris Seibert & Steve Dusablon first. I think they were seeded 3rd over all. Chris has it all; hops, flexibility and great touch with the bag. He makes contact with the bag so high above the net it ridiculous! His pulldowns were killing us early. Steve was very solid all around but I didn't have an impression of him until he calmly bumped some of my harder sweep serves during warms up. Then, I was like, "shit..." He totally killed me physiologically because I lost complete confidence in using it for most of the day. I had a couple greasy toe reverses and some digs. Mikey played well too but we just didn't have enough to compete with these guys. They took us in 2 straight. I think 15-5 was the best we could manage against them.
Next was the Chaos team of Jack Harris and Jere Mirkinnennnenenennenennnn (don't forget to roll the R's). Another tough team. Jack's Sweeps, Toe Reverse and Scuffs are a thing of beauty! Absolutely explosive technique with that last second snap of the leg. His long legs and flexibility enable him to spike onto the front court or even hit scuffs from the back court, it's a nightmare to defend against! Jeremy is actually is as impressive as he clams to be! (Just fuckin' with ya, buddy) airJerbeargernaut (has too many nicknames &) can spike from damn near anywhere on the court and I'm impressed with his eye for strategy and technique. Despite a few good plays on our side, they were just too much offensively and defensively for us to really challenge them. I don't remember the scores but I don't think they were very close. After 2 straight wins the Chaos team did give us some helpful advice on our matches to come.
Even after 2 lost matches versus really strong teams, I don't think Mikey and I played poorly all things considered. Our final match was against Willi/Chuck. They were seeded below us at the 10th spot but we knew better than to just blow them off. The veteran Memphis team took the first game 15-13. We jumped to a strong start but they soon caught up and took a commanding lead for the rest of the game. We scratched our way to within 2 points but they managed to finish us off before we could finish our comeback. Our next game was a blowout! I tried a couple sweeps serves and scored early points. Eventually I gained some confidence and started serving the heat again then changing up with dinks to throw them off. With a few shanks, some good defense and a little luck, we jumped to an 8-0 start. Mikey was looking bored. A couple side outs later and I serve up another 7 points for the win. Someone said I just threw down a serving clinic. I don't remember the exact score, but it was definitely not close. Our rubber match was more competitive. By now Mikey and I were getting in sync and playing more fluid. Mikey got the best of 2 jousts nailing side axes right over the top of Willi to keep us ahead. Then he delivered that set that eventually drilled Chuck. I got the final serve and intended to finish in strong fashion by bringin' the heat again. Instead, I accidentally shanked a floater that barely managed to clear the net and hit their front right corner for an ugly finish and match point.