Well, I've returned from Houston in one piece. I can even use my arm a little, which is nice.
Last Friday, Brian Quezada, Dan Meyer (my brother-in-law), and I headed to Houston to compete in the Air Hockey World Championships at SRO Sports Bar. I woke early and was unable to fall back asleep, preoccupied with the unknown. I'd be flying on a new airline to a new city, where I'd play in my first tournament in a sport I've only been playing for a year. My brother Joe was kind enough to drive me to O'Hare, where I quickly found Brian and Dan at our gate. We had a light breakfast and boarded our Continental 737-9001 to Houston. The flight was nice, the plane was newish and clean, and the service was the best I've had in my handful of flights.
We arrived in Houston on time and nabbed a wicked sweet Toyota Camry rental, even though I lobbied for the same-rental-class AWD Ford Fusion2, which would have made for acceptable off-road fodder for avoiding toll booths. Thanks to the magic of GPS, we found our hotel, the sports bar, and a Whattaburger within minutes of taking charge of the Camry. Unfortunately, our room wasn't ready yet, so we snagged some Whattattattattattataburger3, then returned to check in quickly. As registration for the doubles tournament was nearing its end, we shoved off to find SRO and warm up.
Thankfully, the bar was air conditioned at arctic levels, as the Houston air lingers thick like a gravy in July. We cooled off from the ridiculous outside heat index and took stock of our competition. As Brian and I were both officially unranked coming into the competition, we entered as a duo for the Amateur Doubles rather than the Power Doubles, which features most of the top-tier players. We quickly realized that we were two of the older competitors in the event, with the average age probably hovering somewhere in the low teens. But the kids there are good; Brian warmed up against one 11-year-old who score on him repeatedly with the same shot. Shortly before competition began, we were prompted for a team name; we stumbled around for a bit until we decided that we were Kobra Kai.
After we were good and warmed up, the competition started. I'll spare you the details, since you can read them over at Brian's blog, but we narrowly averted disaster in our first doubles match, then won a couple more matches to put ourselves in the finals. In the finals, we played Hakim Muhammad, who had traveled to Texas from Singapore to play, and Caleb Jaquette, whose mother, Nikki Flanagan4, I would face the next day. More on that later...
Hakim and Caleb, playing as The Big Boys, had played us in the winners bracket before defeating the brothers' duo of Colin and Conor Cummings, two 11- and 9-year-old phenoms who will eventually be in the top 5% of the game if they continue to play. In our second matchup we quickly took the requisite three games to win the Amateur Doubles title! w00t! Watch it below:
After our win, we settled in to watch the Power Doubles play out. Dan's team had lost out earlier, so we watched as Ehab Shoukry and Davis Lee Huynh beat Danny Hynes and Anthony Marino to become the Power Doubles Champions.
After a short ride back to the hotel, we crashed for the night, resting our already-sore shoulders.
Day one was a good day.
1 Being an airplane dork, I feel compelled to tell you that this is the largest variant of the 737. In fact it was this exact airplane, which was built in 2001.
2 Disclaimer: Offroading in an AWD Ford Fusion is as advisable as when Hunter Thompson [allegedly] ran a 1960s Cadillac with 85 psi in the tires in 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.' Sure, it might be fun [OK, probably not with the offroading Fusion], but you'll have hell to pay when the great car scorekeeper posts your tally.
3 Sorry, I got on a typing role there. Maybe it was all the speed I took...
4 Niki Flanagan is the top ranked and rated woman in air hockey by a long shot. She's also married to Andrew Flanagan, who finished in the 20 in the singles competition on Saturday.
5 weeks ago