Saturday night we went down to the Rhythm Room, which is literally just a door on the street with no signage at all next to a hotel. It looks like the door to someone’s apartment. I love that some bars do not give a shit about foot traffic. If you haven’t heard of us, we don’t want you. And this place does well, especially since it just opened less than two years ago.
First thing you notice, the Ping Pong tables are in the most dimly lit section of the place. The pool tables get way more light it seems. I’ve been to some places where dark lighting is an absolute necessity. Swingers clubs. Fetish bars. It’s best to keep the lights low there. There’s some things you don’t need to see super clearly. But you’d think ping pong is a place where light has SOME importance. It was either Keegan or Ethan who made the point that the ball seemed to come at you at 12 frames per second. There’s like a strobe light effect. The early comments were noticeable. “This is terrible” someone said.
There’s no question your eyes eventually adjust and it’s fine. Not great, but fine. Let’s just say, when we play C Bracket there on Wednesday, that’s exactly where we should be. It’ll be perfect. But I admit maybe not the best for A Bracket. We might be looking for somewhere else next year. No question I had a fun time, and I loved being in a bar for this, but unless they find a way to pump up the brightness, I’m not sure everyone will be pumped to go back there.
Quarters: #2 Brian vs. #7 Cedar
Two-time defending champ Brian was playing the comeback kid. After missing a year in league, Cedar was back in A. He hadn’t played Brian at all before this season, facing him in December and getting swept. But you know, that happens to a lot of players, getting swept by Brian. It was a tough draw for Cedar as well, who managed to escape the #8 seed, but still had to face Brian anyway.
And the scores kind of tell the story. Brian held Cedar to 33 points total which was the lowest allowed in a quarter-finals match in four years, when Seth held Thies to only 30 points in C Quarters.
Brian was looking really good for a potential 3-peat.
Quarters: #3 Ethan vs. #6 Keegan
This is the match-up you all want to hear about. As it made my personal list for top 5 most heated match-ups of all time. And what’s in my top 5? I’m glad you asked.
#5 Grant vs. Bama when Grant asked Bama to stop talking in the middle of points, and Bama ultimately responded by asking Grant to quit stomping during his serve. That got pretty tense.
#4 Steve vs. Corey. A disputed line call started everything off, and then it was an argument about the score that saw some serious yelling, in probably the loudest argument we ever had.
#3 Me vs. PVP during B Finals when Peter was so upset he was being forced to play finals on the main table rather than in the cave that he stopped playing in the middle of game 2 to gather himself, and then walked into the cave before game 3, refusing to play anywhere else.
#2 Jeanine vs. Seth. Jeanine was pissed about Seth’s lean over the table serve, which was legal back then. Seth was so upset after the match he quit the league.
#1 Ethan vs. Keegan. It’s the first time I questioned whether a match might actually come to blows.
It started off with us getting reprimanded by the bar for moving one of the tables. The far table had a noticeable slant, but the middle table had the worst lighting, so they agreed to swap the tables, which was noticed by the bar staff, and they came over to make it clear only THEY had the authority to move the tables. They did agree to help us, which was nice, but there were some sneers.
Before the game, due to the fact we were in a bar, and people were walking all around the players, I guess they agreed to call “let” on interference calls. But then Ethan objected to some of the calls Keegan made, including an interference call on the stationary walkway ramp guiderail some 10-15 feet behind the table. And so began some grumbling, which led to open remarks, which led to an actual verbal confrontation during game 2 that was pretty heated.
Keegan had won game 1 in OT on a play where Ethan missed a deep shot that came pretty close to where I was standing. Ethan did not call interference even though that missed shot was the winner for Keegan, but he did ask me to move back to give more room. So when Keegan made some calls later during games 2 & 3 that looked similar to the one Ethan let go, he got pissed about it. I was once again standing too close to Keegan when he made one of those calls, so the real moral of the story here is I need to stop being so damn close to the players!!!
With Ethan down 0-2 in two close games, and obviously pissed off, Keegan had enough of Ethan’s demeanor and came over to him face-to-face, and that’s when I got a little concerned. But nothing bad happened. They just talked it out and finished the game which Ethan won 21-16. But I gotta tell you, I have seen many of Ethan’s matches, and I’ve never seen him hit the ball so hard before. The anger was fueling him.
After game 3, Karen came over to talk to him and they walked away from the tables to help him calm down. He came back more focused than ever, and won the final two 21-15 and 21-11. I’m totally speculating here, but it’s hard not to feel that if Ethan didn’t get so upset, he doesn’t win that match after being down 0-2. I truly believe the anger made him play a lot better. That’s not a new concept, we’ve seen that happen with players in Ultimate many times. I know I’ve certainly done it before. Someone does something that makes you go “fuck them” and suddenly you turn into the Hulk and you’re running like lightning and diving for everything.
Afterwards they talked it over for a solid half hour and I’m told they worked it out and they’re good now. That’s great. It’s always good to hear.
Quarters: #1 Feeney vs. #8 Haynes
We decided to institute a new rule starting with this match that was based on the bad lighting. It seemed like the two tables we were playing on had big advantages on one side of the table. So Brian suggested that if the matches went to 5 games, we should switch sides on the 5th game when one player got to 11 to make it more fair. I totally agreed. It was a good idea.
Haynes won the first game 21-13 on the good side. Could we possibly see the first 8 seed upset a 1 seed? No. Despite some of the best defensive playing I’ve seen against Feeney, rivaled only maybe by Scott Mahr, Feeney still took the second game on the good side 21-15.
I was ping ponging (pun intended) between the two tables, so I didn’t see every point on either game. But I got a good amount in to see that Haynes was holding really tough against Feeney, but he didn’t have the offensive game to take away from Feeney controlling the pace. Haynes mostly stayed back, returning all those slams as best he could. Feeney just continued a relentless assault of slams, and finally won it in 4.
Quarters: #4 Grant vs. #5 Cody
Cody knew exactly how to celebrate 4/20. When he first saw the date of the tournament, he told me “oh, I didn’t realize it was a holiday.” I said, do you mean Easter or the 420 reference, and he goes “what’s Easter?” Love it! This match was basically who was going to be more intoxicated. Would Grant be able to get more drunk than Cody was high?
Side turned out to be pretty important in this one, as each of them won on the same side, forcing the 5th game, where we got to see the new rule take effect. I believe Cody was up 11-8 when they switched sides in the middle of Grant’s service.
Feeney was invested in this match. He has said beforehand he didn’t want the #1 seed cause he didn’t want to face Grant in semis. Grant had most recently taken him in straight sets in February whereas Feeney swept Cody on that same day, so it’s fair to say he had a clear rooting interest.
Cody, smoking between games, was able to pull out the 21-13 win in the 5th for the day’s first upset.
Semis: Brian vs. Ethan
These two definitely know each other well. They’ve played numerous practice matches, and even faced off in a real local tournament, in addition to all the PAPPL matches they’ve played. This year they both beat each other 3-2, so there was no question this would be a hell of a match-up. In Brian’s three year career leading up to this match, he’s only lost 6 matches, and 2 of them were to Ethan.
The other question is how much would Ethan’s previously heated contest with Keegan affect him here, if at all?
Brian took the first game 21-18, looking strong as ever. But winning the first game is not a great indicator of success in semis. In the 10 A Bracket semis we’ve had, the player to win game 1 has won 6 of 10 matches. Pretty close to even. Also, in Ethan’s tournament history, he’s 2-2 when losing game 1.
Sure enough, Ethan came back in game 2, a nail biter that Ethan only took at the very end. But from there, it was all Ethan. Not even close. And quite shockingly honestly. Up until this point, Brian was looking like usual Brian. He took down Cedar in straight sets and looked fine in the first two games.
But Ethan won 21-10 and 21-7. For context, this year Brian only lost one single game by a score worse than 21-14. That was a 21-8 loss to Cody. So this was the 1st and 3rd worst games he had all season. How much of this was the low lighting? How much was not playing on his home table, where he played every game this season? And how much was Ethan playing with a chip on his shoulder? Only the Easter Bunny knows. Or Elijah the Prophet. Sorry, I’m Jewish and should put in at least one Passover reference.
Semis: Feeney vs. Cody
In almost very year now, we’ve had somebody join the league who becomes a top player.
In season 2, Steve, Peter, Corey, Cedar and Joe all joined and all went 9-3 or 8-4, finishing higher than 7 of the 9 original players. (Only Scott and Feeney finished higher.)
In season 3, Grant came in as a replacement player for Sam who dropped out right before his first match, and although he started off shaky losing his first two games to Jeanine, he won that match in what would become signature fashion, coming from behind, on his way to a 9-3 2nd place record.
Season 4 is when Ethan and Brian joined, who would finish 2nd and 3rd respectively with Brian taking the first tournament win after Scott moved up North.
Last year was the first that we did not have a rookie player make it into A Bracket.
We thought we were going to have a new elite player with Eli joining, but he also ended up dropping right before the season started. So it was a very welcome surprise to have Cody come in and play so well. His record of 6-6 may not have looked that good, but remember he lost 3 matches to Brian during the season.
Now he had the chance to pull a huge upset in semis. When he won 24-22 in game 1, you could see the shocked faces in the room. But Cody was up against one player that no one has been able to beat this year. And that player is Sandy.
Sandy is the best story of the year, and everyone I’ve talked to about this knows how much I love that a $5 paddle is beating all the best paddles. It’s awesome. Best underdog story ever. And to be completely clear, it is 100% legal in this league, and I’m never changing that. I love a good story, and Sandy’s tale is better than the Iliad.
Feeney and his mistress Sandy eeked out their own 24-22 OT win in game 2 to tie things up, and Jeanine was shouting from the distance on GroupMe.
After that, as Ethan was winning the final three in his match, Feeney did the same deed in this one, returning to the finals for the first time since season 2.
Finals: Feeney vs. Ethan
These two played one of the best quarter finals match-ups, if not one of the best overall game 5’s in league history when Ethan pulled the upset with a 25-23 win two years ago. Since then, they’ve only played each other twice in league play. Ethan swept it last year. And Feeney did the same this year. But I know Feeney’s been waiting for a tournament rematch of that Quarters loss.
Feeney, who didn’t want that #1 seed, found it kind of worked out. Cody knocked out Grant. Ethan knocked out Brian. And as the #1, he got to pick the table and side he wanted to start on. Next time, don’t argue with me about seeding. 😛
Smartest thing Feeney could do in this match was not piss off Ethan. Keep the rage Hulk off the court.
Some of the points in this thing were unreal. For me, it’s like they’re playing a different sport than what we’re doing in C Bracket. (If you come watch C on Wednesday, just know you’re mostly there for the drinking.) Feeney was absolutely on point, and was able to keep it away from Ethan’s killer forehand slam to the left side of the table, that was so successful against Keegan. He put Ethan on the defensive most of the match.
We were hoping for a longer match. Feeney said he could tell everyone was rooting for Ethan, but it was more that we just wanted it to go 5. But I’m personally happy for Feeney. He’s lost twice in finals before, and this was 6 years in the making. If it took the Sandy paddle to do it, well that’s just how the legend is born.
Long live Sandy.
Next up is C Bracket on Wednesday, also at the Rhythm Room. I’m gonna go practice in the dark in my garage to get used to it.