The team was treated to dinner Saturday night at an Italian restaurant (thanks, Rab) facing the harbor in Frejus. It was quite good but maintained the standard European practice of not having (or using) ice to chill their drinks. It is frankly barbaric. (When I was last in Paris I found a tiny hole in the wall daily sundries store near our hotel that sold ice cubes by the dozen in shrink wrapped plastic for about twice what an 8 lb. bag costs at the local 7-11. As I recall it also sold live pigeons for sacrificial divinations. Or maybe not.) Oh, by the way, have I mentioned that Europe is expensive? Dinner was on GI Sportz. The two cabs that took us back to the Oasis Village ran up a 100 Euro charge (total) in less than 8 miles.
Sunday night we abandoned the venue and stayed at the Mercure Thalassas Hotel in Frejus. It is a modern establishment with the typical amenities and more room than is often the case with European hotels. The only downside was beds designed for adult males born in the 12th century (when the average height was give or take 5 and a half feet tall.) Consequently my feet hung over the edges. It was an improvement over the bungalows. The kids probably didn't notice as they spent most of the night bar hopping drinking and eating rich desserts with Moose and Q among others. (You know who you are.) It also turned out that the evening meal begins at 7 pm and most restaurants don't open until then. I'm not a regular on the blue plate circuit but sometimes you want to eat before 7. Or you want breakfast for dinner. Or steak and waffles at 3 am. I'm just saying. Turned out however that dinner Sunday night was worth the wait--the proprietress took pity on us--or else was afraid we'd storm her doors--and let us in around 6:30 pm. The tiny 6 table restaurant specialized in beef and offered the exotic option of individually cooking your meal at your table on superheated rocks. I know how it sounds but it was amazing--probably the best meal I've ever had in Euroland.
It’s late in the day Thursday before we learn our prelim schedule. (We knew our bracket from the big hat drawing but not our match schedule. No, the hat wasn't all that big. The drawing was the event.) Two matches on Friday. One Saturday. The sequence was ideal. A first match against the lowest ranked team from the season past then Dynasty. A chance to fine tune a bit followed by a match against a team we know well. Friday's results will tell us what we need to know about Saturday and what we need to do. Friday the weather is lovely crisp and cool until the sun comes up, then warm but not hot. A mild breeze replaces the previous day's stiff gusts. The air is dry, the sky a depth less blue with wisps of while skirting the horizon. A perfect day for paintball.
We don't have our usual pit crew and there's the new routine to adjust to of the simultaneous matches and there are a few hiccups along the way. We call for a time out too late. And a hot gun that can't be replaced in time means starting a point with 4 players. But it's mostly small things; the routine isn't yet routine and means our attentions are divided. We struggle through the first match but still manage to win. Lots of penalties on us. (Three or four I think.) No problem, we earned them. Next up came Dynasty. Better now than later. No surprises. Well other than our ineffective laning OTB. We're putting the paint where Dynasty was running but not getting kills. Fewer penalties and a lot fewer kills equals an unequivocal loss. We take it in stride. We're learning. All will be resolved on Saturday. Sunday comes a day early. The math is simple. Win and stay in. We do--and with the fewest penalties so far in the event. But it's only one match and Race 2-5 at that. Compared to what we're used to it's almost as if we hadn't played at all.
Throughout the prelims we haven't played well--at least not to our standard--and discuss some further adjustments. We had hoped the similarities to Galveston would translate but it doesn't really--the St. Tropez field feels and plays differently enough that we have to reconsider what we're doing. The players are unselfish, willing to do whatever is needed to be successful. This time it backfires as I make the wrong change. At first I resist but allow myself to get talked into an adjustment I'm not comfortable with. (Not the first mistake I've ever made and it won't be the last. Unfortunately.)
On Sunday we are unable to do enough to win our way into the semis. It's a learning experience and should serve as a reminder that every match and every victory has to be earned regardless of the league or opponent.
Conceptually we’re fine with the Millennium style but the M style doesn’t, in and of itself, assure consistency or uniformity anymore than any other rules enforcement effort. And in practice it took us time to make the adjustment--still, not a problem. Our issues weren't playing by the Millennium's rules, it was the failure of the Millennium crew to impose those rules uniformly across the board on everybody else. I have intentionally left out the names of the teams we played--other than Dynasty (who flat beat us) because I don't want them unfairly tarred by any of my comments regarding the officiating. As far as I'm concerned the other teams lined up and played paintball and have zero responsibility for what the refs did or didn't do.
Now at this point you have the option of choosing what you wish to believe. You could be charitable and assume my disappointment has colored my opinion or you could attribute my views to sour grapes and poor sportsmanship. Or you can Solomon-like split the difference and assume some errors were made. Or you may not care at all. All of which are fine by me. It is the risk I take when I blog stuff like this. However, there's a little more to it than that. Five of my players had Replay cameras on their guns. The video is amazingly good, crisp clear and unambiguous. The video doesn't (usually) indicate when we were eliminated but it does show every instance of when we shot an opponent. And what did or did not happen as a consequence. It will not be released to the public. (I can hear the pics or shens crowd squawking already. Forgetaboutit.) It is not (and never was) the team's (or my) intention to try and embarrass the league or its officials. But if a rep of the league would like to see some video we can probably make it available.
If I haven't sufficiently antagonized the Eurokids yet just wait. My next post will be about the disconnect between the way Euro players play and the Millennium's efforts to manipulate the game play.