Thursday, July 19, 2007

“Winning at mahjong is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

American football is by the large a mystery to me, mostly the team names are what I can remember on a good day, but even then the frequent relocation of teams to different cities can make even that simplistic detail erroneous. So it wouldn't be my favoured topic on Mastermind.

Like most British kids who spent their younger school years in the 80’s my first interaction with American football, or Grid Iron as it was labelled, was through Channel 4’s coverage. Overnight, kids would come to school and announce they would support “the Dolphins...Giants...the Raiders...”.

For a while, seemingly a couple of years Grid Iron was popular in a sort of lets-play-something-different-at-lunchtime-instead of sockball*... I can only really remember 2 lunchtimes, and it even then the games really turned into touch rugby as we had no idea what the rules were.

So, American Football has not made much impact on my sporting life, except for one coach in particular – unsurprisingly it is Vince Lombardi. Lombardi’s name has been attached to many memorable quotes, the most famous being “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. He seems to be credited with being the first “modern” sports coach. Any football coach wanting to sound deep spins out a Lombardi quote, or if trying for more kudos knocks out a quote that he “has just recently read the Lombardi biography...”. So, unable to find a title for this entry, and wanting to sound intellectual in a sporting kind of way, I thought a quick Lombardi quote search would divulge some results. The result is the top of this report.

As for the mahjong, well after a rather sedate beer garden and after losing 2 of the gang for different reasons the remaining 5 retreated back to my domain in Mitaki for mahjong, beer and sleep (Tim).

Three highly enjoyable games were played which threw up only 1 constant – Neil’s departure from Cock-Eyed MJ ended in triumph. As one American ascended, t’other wilted under the pressure and returned to the bottom of the MJ table. One other unexpected result relegated that Celtic Tiger Ray to the red, his seemingly steady climb in the black was abruptly halted.

Amazingly considering the hours of play and the fact that most of us had been imbibing a constant trickle of alcohol since 5:30pm, no chombos or yakitori were committed. There were no big hands either mind you, a few sneaky 1 tile riichi, but hey it makes it far easier to concentrate!

As dawn broke over the Mitaki hills the 3rd game ended and Neil’s 4 day visit back to the land of living had resulted in 13.5 hours of mahjong play and he left for his return visit to Miyazaki with 180 yen burning a hole in his pocket. It was good to see him.

The final reckoning:

Neil +81 +9 +13 = +103
Jaime -23 +38 +58 = +73
Kenyon -32 +9 -26 = -49
Ray -26 -56 -45 = -127

*Sockball was a ruse decreed on high by my middle school headmaster, a large old man who had a likening for smacking small children on their buttocks for any tiny infringement of the school rules. Despite no classrooms being in range of a 10 year old’s shot, all footballs & tennis balls were banned from the playground to protect the school’s windows. So, we used to role up socks and tights into a ball like shape and kick that around. It was great when the weather was dry...but this being England that wasn’t a very likely event during the winter months and sockballs would tend to unravel into a soggy soaking mass. At this point a game of British Bulldog was usually started. Ah happy days. Well except for Hedgehog the headmaster...

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