Tuesday, February 5, 2013
My Three Sins
Since last Wednesday, or until today’s enforced timeout, I have been playing American six-wicket croquet an average of six hours a day, plus watching other matches, at the Sarasota County Croquet Club (SCCC) in Venice, Florida. It is the country’s largest public croquet facility, and the people here are very nice. Men and women alike, mostly my age (61) and older, they all wear white, sport funny hats, and swing big sticks.
But you thought this was going to be about my sins . . .
From Wednesday (practice day) through Sunday (the finals), I spent the better part of the past week competing in the third flight of the SCCC Winter Invitational Tournament, my first experience of competitive croquet. Third flight? The six of us had the highest handicaps of the 40 players entered. High handicap? As in golf, this often denotes a newbie. The best players in the world have minus handicaps, trending lower. I have a long way to go.
The tournament was divided into two days of block play Thursday and Friday, followed by a double elimination ladder in each flight. This allowed each competitor in our flight to play a minimum of seven matches. The whole affair was brilliantly organized and flawlessly executed by the royal couple of Sarasota croquet, Fred and Jackie Jones.
I steamrolled my way through block play, playing each of the other five in my flight and winning all five matches by a combined net difference of over 40 wickets. That’s over 8 wickets per game.
Then in the playoff (where a loss put you in the loser’s bracket, still with a chance to win), I choked up two hairballs and was ousted by two players I had beaten two days before.
First, my white hat goes off to both of them, Lee and Michael. But I can’t finish without describing my three sins: mental, mental, and mental.
I got ahead of both players, then lost when they started coming back and my brain froze. You laugh, but croquet involves strategy combined with cool. I showed a keen grasp of neither.
The following notes are from my journal, which I keep in hopes of getting better. If you don’t know anything about croquet, you might stop reading here and switch to posts about books or films or maybe the Catechism.
For the croquet players among you—
Sat 10 am. L to Lee 11-13
At the beginning I let her dictate game to me—she went to NW corner w/ B/B [blue and black]—I inched down W w/ R/Y [red and yellow]—she kept passing and as I inched closer, I lost patience, rushed to 2, stuffed the wicket, and set up her first opportunity.
I tried to go through three wickets the wrong way—w/ yellow @ 4 I tried it twice, first by striking it directly, then by peeling it—
Still, I had a chance to win w/ break @ the end (very last ball) and broke down.
On the plus side, I made two LONG roquets, one knocking black out of 4
I won a playoff match later on Saturday, but then was knocked out in my first Sunday match.
Sun 8:30 am L to Michael, 11-12
Where to begin?. . .
Up 7-2, I proceeded to leave my ball w/ danger ball TWICE!
Then got 6-ball dead and he caught up, tied me on last turn, and won on 1st extra turn because I was still 6-ball dead. He wasn’t.
Something changed for me between Friday and Saturday. Got tense. Left “the zone.” Made mental errors.
Well, yeah, duh.
Lee went on to beat Michael in the next match, then beat Carolyn in the final while the other four of us watched. I had a great time, made new friends, and learned something about croquet and pride.
Good stuff, every last bit of it.