Nationals 2006: All The News That Wasn’t Fit To Print

The legend that is John F. Rizzo recently covered the U.S. Nationals 2006… and you knew he’d have an article dedicated to his experiences there! An epic read of mammoth proportions, packed with John’s signature style. Learn just what goes on behind-the-scenes of a major tournament… and learn the truth about Kelly Digges. As per with JFR, this is not for the timid reader…


I was glad when Ted/Wizards sent me the airline ticket to Atlanta. When I noticed that the plane took me from Maine to Chicago to Atlanta – quick, look at a map: go very West to go a little South much? – I was still stoked, but a little less so. However, I figured the chances of running into Jim Belushi were much better if I stopped at O’Hare than if I simply jetted to Atlanta.

Long story short because I am succinct and O’Hare is abbreviated ORD:

I sat.
On the plane.
The cramped and crowded plane.
In the window seat.
Just like Tyler Durden.
On the runway.
With no escape.
For five hours.
In a row.
The air conditioning went out half way through.

Bad weather, they claimed, headed right in our path to Atlanta.

We sat for quite a while, and then the captain let us know that we were being rerouted around the weather, but oh, we don’t have enough fuel for the reroute. Hey, let’s go back to the jet way to fuel up, and maybe even fix the a/c. It only took another hour or so.

When we got back to the runway, we’re, ahem, fifteenth in line, with the air traffic controllers determining that 15-20 miles between planes is the shiznit. No, that didn’t take long.

At this point, I’m considering that if we only have a ten percent chance of dying in a horrible mid-air collision, I’ll take them odds. Get me out of this seat or in the air please before I start choking people, and I’ll start with myself.

At least I was privy to all my fellow passengers’ cell phone calls:

We’re still on the runway, dear, five minutes of useless conversation…
We’re not sure when we’re taking off, useless jabber from me too…
Wait, Rizzo didn’t get to hear my inane conversation…

We finally land in Atlanta at about 9:30, only oh, five hours behind schedule, and boy aren’t people helpful when you’re obviously a tourist and have not clue one as to where you need to go to grab a shuttle.

Eventually, some guy takes pity on me and asks where I’m going. I show him printed stuff that may or may not be in another language, then he grabs my equipment and tosses it into his van. Naturally, I don’t resist his aggression because I’m passive.

A guy that looked too much like Josh Ravitz was equally as lost as I, so we decided to place our fate in the hands of the friendly go-gettin’ shuttle driver.

The driver finally determines that enough peeps want to get their asses to their hotels, and it’s actually worth it to get this beast out on the road, so he starts up the van. Seated directly in front of me is a super hot chyk, traveling alone, which obviously means she’s looking to meet men me.

As much as I wanted to reach out and touch her gorgeous hair and sensual nape (I’m a nape fan), I refrained.

“Wyatt, you’re an oak.”
Val Kilmer, Tombstone

I get to the hotel and the driver lets me know it’s fifty bucks for the round trip. I kinda wonder if he’ll remember to do me the solid that is “take my ass back from whence I came,” though I do pay in full like Rakim wasn’t too good for Eric B. We’ll see, eh?

All of this could have been avoided if one of you cheap bastards would have let me and the boys (who both chickened out) stay in your rooms. Oh wait, those who read my articles are not the kind of players who would, well, go to Nats, unless they won a slot, and no freakin’ way in hell they won a slot. I still wuv you all, even though y’all suck at Magic.

I manage to throw down some Arby’s (not choice number one, though I did eat an entire two pieces of toast in the morning and two cereal bars the airline was “gracious” enough to grant me as “compensation”) watch a little ESPN, and then hit the sack, hoping to dream fondly of nocturnal emissions with Teddy Ballgame’s directive in the back of my dome: be there at nine on Friday, laptop at the ready. Bitch.


I grab a wake up call for 6:30, figuring this will give me enough time to do whatever needs done knowwhatimsayinibetyoudont.

I toss and turn due to having no alarm clock, and man, don’t I enjoy the uncertainty of not owning a watch, ever, so I stumble out of bed at 5:30, grab a shower (so cliché), a cup of coffee, and ask the desk guy to call me a cab. After twenty minutes of trying to find the number (what an odd request I had apparently given), he manages.

Five minutes later, a van pulls up right in front of me and the guy behind the wheel is giving me the “get over here” look, like he was Scorpion and he just hooked me with that forward, forward, low punch thing. (Or was it b,b,lp?) I approach, try the door — locked — and ask if he’s the taxi. He responds:

Do you see “taxi” anywhere? I think you need some more coffee.

As he walks away, shaking his head at my patent tomfoolery, he mutters a bit of “Jesus Christ” and “wow.” I consider asking if he’s still pissed about the Civil War, and damnit, we can’t keep no more chains on them coloreds! Of course, I say nothing, probably because I’m stunned at his complete lack of not being a total prick. Oh, and I’m a p*ssy who is not a huge fan of confrontation.

He comes back a few minutes later, and as he hops into his van can’t resist a parting shot:

Maybe you need to go back to bed and start over.

Instead of saying…

“Go f*** yourself ‘neck, and while you’re at it, go f*** your mother while you look your father right in the eyes,” I smile and mumble “okay.” I thought it was physically impossible for a human being to both blow and suck at the same time. People: always breaking new ground.

I was able to soothe myself with the rationale that my stool is smarter than him. Heh, sh** for brains much?

Eventually, the actual cab shows up and takes me the whopping two miles to the site. Of course, he’s not really sure which of the myriad buildings might house concourse C and D. After driving around and padding the meter, we decide that this must be it here’s ten bucks no I don’t want a receipt can you let me out of your cab please.

I walk into the massive hall, which is all pink and prettied up like nothing you’ve ever seen. Actually, you probably have, but aside from a couple Grand Prix events, something this large-scale is new to me. It even smelled new.

Stuff. Everywhere. But no people, save for a few important-looking fellows about to make a killing on the secondary market. I find an out-of-way spot in the hall, and plug in- ready to clickity clack my way into the hearts of millions. Kinda.

Eventually, the ice-freakin’-cold hall fills with the warmth and (potential) stench of Magic players from near and far. When I say “cold” I don’t bring justice to the word. The sumbitch was hard nipple cold. See your breath cold. Sub Zero freeze you then uppercut you onto the spiked ceiling cold.

I approach the registration table and ask where ‘fore art thou one Theodore Allen Gabriel Ballgame. He is no estu en casa, I’m told, and word ‘em up to your Spanish speaking skillz, dawg.

“I am Scott,” he says, “never again in your life call me ‘dawg.’”
Wouldn’t be Scott Larrabee, I query.
Hells to the mutha freakin’ yes, beeyotch.
I’ve heard of you, dawg – er, I mean, “sir.”
Who be you, sucka duck?
Um, tee hee, Rizzo…?
I’ve heard of you.

And when he said that, I could taste the foul odor of a genuine mixture of fear and disdain, which I guess is kinda cool, tasting odors, I mean.

Scott leads me to The Back Room, where things happen that should never be discussed in public, let alone on an international web site. But I’m gonna tell you everything! I’m silly like that.

“Plug in your crappy Thinkpad with the Linksys wireless card omg you’re so 2002 and what’s up with those freakin’ glasses four eyes and get out my face, punk,” Mr. Larrabee demands.

“May I jump now, el capitan?” I barely manage to mutter, terrified of the answer.

Scott simply walks away, his smug smile indicating satisfaction that he had broken yet another would-be cub reporter.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only guy in the state using Window98 (though SE!) omg laff too much at me. This was verified by noticing all the laptops not using Windows98. Call me kooky, but I may be a little behind the times, and that makes me feel small and inadequate. This is a level of intimacy that I share with my readers because I really need to be loved, accepted and understood. I don’t even have a therapist!

Greg, The Boss, The World’s Best Editor Ever (‘cept for Craiggers), chased down the passphrase so I could get all “twenty-first century but not really 98 boy,” connect to the network, and off we went. Nothing worked because I’m old school and really out of touch with the mainstream and whatever, pens and pads and actually having to plug my computer into an extension cord because the battery is fried is tight.

Even the IT guy laughed at my computer. It doesn’t even have a touchpad, which would likely explain my lack of feminine comprehension. I told my wife: buy me a new laptop, and your world will never be the same. (Because I’ll always be upstairs using it and neglecting you.)

And then, all at once, there was Ted Knutson, former scrub writer for some site, now high and mighty, and the son-of-a-bitch who may never know to which degree I cursed him as I sat on a cramped and sweaty plane for five hours.

Hi, hello, sup and not much you fruity ass were all exchanged and then Ted let slip a Freudian:

You look like you’re in pretty good shape.

Well, that was a nice thing to say. But he was looking at my crotch.

Dear Cobb Center,

Please let there be dividers at the urinals.

Pee Shy and Homophobic

Ha ha, I kid. Ted’s straight. Allegedly.

BDM introduced himself as “Brian,” and here I am like an ass not understanding that this is The BDM, not some mere one-name sumbitch. I eventually realized that he had three names, and asked why he didn’t introduce himself as “BDM,” and his reply was: do you introduce yourself as “frigginrizzo?”

Um, yeah (obv). Okay, no.

Anyway, Greg, Guy That Tells You What To Do, had me scamper around during round 1 and see what everyone was playing. Pretty hard to screw that up, eh?

What didn’t make it in:

Meloku spits out more bastard children than Kevin Federline.

Who edits that? Greg does, but I intended to get at least one KFed reference onto the site, regardless of the smash to my credibility.

Alas, I walk around more and more and don’t even get lost, though no one seems to recognize me, not even people that I thought should, due to the insane amount of time we spent in each other’s company. I guess losing 40 pounds, shaving your goatee and slapping a pair of cheaters on your face tends to let you blend into the crowd.

frigginrizzo: ← Alias.

Additionally, about a dozen judges questioned my credentials: “why are you walking around the matches with a clipboard?” kinda thing, but after Greg got me a Wizards shirt (that I still have lol theft roolz!) and a press pass, people stopped strip-searching me. Too bad, I was quite enjoying that.

I spoke with Headest Judge Mike Guptil for about five minutes, and despite my asking “do you remember me,” I don’t think he did. He pretended very well, which is the hallmark of class: when it comes to the little people, fake it.

As I passed by, I said hello to Randy Buehler, who gave me one of those “am I supposed to recognize you, you freakin’ scrub” looks. Oh-fer-two it seems.

The round 3 feature match featured two of my favorite players ever: Sol Malka, who will forever wear the title “The People’s Champion,” at least in my book that I still haven’t written, and Osyp, who will hold a dear spot in my heart because of that silly little “Ichorid thing” that gave me a reason to value myself above mere pond scum. I can contribute to the world! I am somebody!

You can sit directly beside two players, playing at a relaxed pace, with pen and legal pad in hand observing oh so diligently, and still miss stuff. Well, almost. Sol was not only The People’s Champion, but he was nice enough to show me what he sided in and out, and the hand that he mulliganed.

If I was a girl, I’d be hot for Sol Malka. Unless I was, like, real hot, then I’d be all up over me, yo.

And while Osyp kept his strategy closer to the vest, he was about as amicable as I expected, based on years of hearing the mythical tales of Joseph Newton Black, esquire. In fact, after the game in which Sol didn’t play Ghost Council and instead died to his Bob, Osyp immediately asked why that happened, adding something like “You had that game.”

Sol disagreed, though not vehemently, and Osyp, sensing Sol’s frustration, let it go at that. Some players would keep at it, and in the process try to convince the opponent that not only are you right, but he’s bad and threw the game away.

That might get into a few guys’ heads, and possibly grab an advantage for the next game: people in the midst of self-doubt rarely think clearly. Osyp avoided the gamesmanship, and I have to say that I’ve seen a few peeps keep on truckin’ until the opponent was on tilt pardon the poker ref, thx.

Taking notes then writing up a match report when you have nothing to do for the next three rounds is tightness personified. So I did just that, and then ambled toward the dealer booth, where the question of the hour was (that could have turned into a lil’ featurette):

What the hell is flying off the shelves?

Reports varied (though AndyStok was very forthcoming, probably because he didn’t recognize me either), but most could agree that Remand was worth more than two bucks and Tidings at five was a bargain, considering that they couldn’t keep either in stock.

Oddly, you had four or five dealers in a row, and their prices were not very similar, as one would expect, but all over the map. Some Hyppies were four bucks from this guy, but seven over here and eight over there. Ditto for the Shocklands: anywhere from nine to seventeen dollars was what you could expect to pay.

Call me silly, but nine bucks for any of the Shocklands sounds like a pretty freakin’ good deal, good enough that I’d walk past the guy selling Sacred Foundry for eleven, and right to the dealer anxious to dump ‘em for nine. I am Adam Smith, and this has been your daily economic report. For further reference, see Supply Side Economics.

While tooling around looking for stories, I headed over to the JSS area, where, well, wee ones were slinging spells like they was all growed up and ready to shave. The most adorable little girl (besides Abs) caught my eye, and after talking to the judge who never did give me his name, it happened that she was nine years old, and her brother, also nine but not of the same ovum, was up there at table three kicking ass like he was honing his bully skills for junior high.

I watched him play for a while, and while it may seem it would be awfully hard for a nine-year old to ever hear about a poker face, let alone own one, this kid was a stone-faced terminator, dispatching spells like a pro. Well, okay, not like a pro, but I’m fresh out of metaphors, similes or whatever I was trying to accomplish.

I chatted with his dad a little, and it turns out the kid was featured a couple years back when he was a kid. I mean, when he was, um, seven.

Anyway, he’s playing G/W/B in a sort of mirror. His opponent has two Arenas out and Ink-Eyes on the board. The kid attacked with Kodama, his opponent blocked with Ink-Eyes, and then the turn was passed over.

I looked at his dad and asked “did he take any trample damage,” knowing full well that even if you manage to kill that crazy sumbitch, more often than not, he’s hitting you for a couple on the way out. The other kid starts his turn…

All of a sudden, his dad says something to the kid in what was probably Japanese, though the word “trample” was audible to my gaijin ears. A judge was within earshot and came over to assess the situation.

He puts the game on hold and comes over to ask what’s up and if you had a goatee, were 40 pounds heavier and weren’t wearing those glasses, I still wouldn’t recognize you, so the dad recaps what happened.

It turns out that the other kid was a two life, and after assigning trample damage, he was, um, dead. I kinda felt, well, I’m not sure how I felt, though the judge did break it down:

Usually, it’s the players’ responsibilities, but this was a sort of gray area, or something to that effect; I was just trying to escape the hell out of there, though I always thought that if a spectator sees something amiss in the game state, that he is required, or at least should strongly consider, grabbing a judge and spilling the beans.

“Rat out everyone!” or no?

Heh, that’s something like five times in the last three or four tourneys where I’ve noticed some strange goings on in other matches. If only I could astral project and watch my own matches. Wait, no, not a good idea. Anyway, I caused chaos, and then split before she wants revenge.

Greg, Super Duper Sex Packet, didn’t think that was much of a story, and neither did I, but hey, I’d just spent an hour running around and was coming back with only a few morsels for the grinder story and not much else. Though in fairness, I was really assigned anything; it was more like: go forth, check out hot chyx and get me their room numbers.

All that, and I got to walk around with a clipboard!

My next feature was Round 6, again with Osyp, Mental Olympiad. I’m still recovering from the savagery I witnessed. He maintained what appeared to be complete ownership of not only the match, but his opponent, Michael McGee.

I didn’t know McGee, but someone in The Back Room told me that he had some high JSS finishes and did fairly well at a Pro Tour or two. Here I am accusing the guy of falling under Osyp’s trance like he’s a kid in a candy store and not ready for prime time, and this kid’s been there, done that.

A few moments later, a correction: well, McGee didn’t do as well as I thought, tee hee. Woo hoo for me and the things I noticed, though it’s hard to feel too vindicated in this situation.

As an added bonus, Randy Buehler did come up and say hello and sorry I didn’t recognize you. Oh how we laughed and danced and talked fondly of my one shining moment in life: that Ichorid thing.

I gave him large ups for having the balls to guarantee a Top 8 at that memorable Vintage event, and we shared a sadness that he could not pilot everyone’s favorite 3/1 beatstick into the single elimination rounds. Oh, and got any of those Russian Ninth packs left for me?

Mike Patnik, the artist formerly known as “Pat-Ass,” like everyone else, didn’t recognize me, though why should he: I was wearing my hat backwards! Just because I beat him in a prerelease is no reason to deny his roots. However, he soon came around and believed that I was really me. Good thing too, because my driver’s license was buried deeply in my pocket, and proving my identity seemed a daunting task at that particular moment.

As for the Patnik/Kremples match of round 7, the report speaks for itself. It was one of those roller coaster matches, but in the end I think I gained fifteen points merely by watching Patnik do just enough to stay alive until he could just win. Holy freakin’ complicated four or five turns in a row that if he had played any differently he probably would’ve lost.

That was it for the day, at least where “work” was concerned. It was so grueling that I tried to call my union rep.

Nick Colby, Mainer, sometimes Crossroads player, and lover of all things named Yosei that are Spirit Linked, ended the day at 4-3, still in contention for more than pride, despite not biting the bullet and playing Nearly Mono Black In Standard. The entire state of Maine lives and breathes with Nick, round by round. Well, I kinda do.

By the way, the following players were “scheduled to appear” but didn’t:

Dustin Stern
Gadiel Szleifer
Ben Stark
Jon Sonne
Ben Rubin
Neil Reeves
Alex Lieberman
Daniel OMS
Star Wars Kid
Darwin Kastle
David Humphreys
Ken Ho
Tom Guervin
Justin Gary
John Fiorillo
Gerard Fabiano
Jon Finkel

It may or may not be a coincidence that the WSOP may or may not be in progress. Quick, someone insert trendy poker jargon right here>

Quick guesstimate of the total number of Yukora, the Prisoner cards in all decks:


I guess I can’t wait for Sottosanti to break every format for me. Sighs@ and 4Paulie.

After the seven rounds of love were complete, Greg showed me how bad I am at writing match coverage, so we cleaned some of it up, and off we went.

To Ted’s room.
For free pizza and beer.

When we entered his swanky room, oddly devoid of either cocaine or shifty women, we were accosted by the BDM’s favorite television sex partner: the New York Mets. A bathtub full of beer and more pizza than a human should ever have to consider consuming was our, all ours!

Along for the ride were Greg The Master Of All, BDM, Randy B, Craig The Shutterbug, The Vfreakin’P of something very important — no name needed, just um, “sir,” Richie H (drafting online at the desk, gasp shock with ripple 4), and Scott — Larrabee that is, with Ted holding court from the captain’s chair. At least he wasn’t in his underwear. (this time! lol I tease so much omg!)

There is sickness, and then there is BDM with the cameras turned off. We heard tales of Zvi locked inside Neutral Ground for two consecutive days, and assorted fables that must not be true but most likely are, but the kicker was the Skaff Elias question of the day:

What useless superpower would you like to possess?

BDM wished for the ability to turn people into bread.


BDM wished for…
The power to turn people into…


He wants to be able to turn people into bread.

While the sheer absurdity of this is something I will most likely never forget, he wants to be able to turn people into bread.

The Mets won, so naturally we had to head to the lobby and get ourselves into a drunken Ice Age, Alliances, Coldsnap draft.

Yes, they had packs.
Yes, they were free.
Yes, I am better than you!

The teams consisted of Me, Richie H and BDM vs. Teddy, Craig The Shutterbug and Randy B. My first pick was Incinerate, which I’m pretty damned sure is, like, good. Two picks later, and I’m telling everyone that I’m going to 3-0.

My first Alliances pick was Lim-Dul’s High Guard, which I took over Contagion because I own George Baxter’s book in which he says, well, the Guard is damned skippy. I really wanted Contagion, but figured it would table and I’d get it on the back swing. Yeah, that’s what I figured.

In the Coldsnap pack, Randy passed me Dark Depths, and dawg, tattoo this sh** up on your forehead: the first rule of Fight Club is: you do not pass that sumbitch.

I ended up with this:

2 Martyr of Ashes
Goblin Furrier
Krovikan Scoundrel
Knight of Stromgald
Stone Rain
Orcish Bloodpainter
2 Stone Shaman
Orcish Farmer
Casting of Bones
Lim Dul’s High Guard
Bestial Fury
Krovikan Plague
2 Tor Giant
Phantasmal Fiend
Magnetic Core
Lava Tubes
Dark Freakin’ Depths
9 Mountain
6 Swamp

I almost added Phyrexian Etchings, but before I did, I asked Richie H.

Me: Should I?
Richie: No.
Me: Card advantage, yo.
Richie: Read it again.

I did, then looked at him.

Richie: You get cards and can’t play them.

He was saving this for Drafting With Rich 48, but I never could keep a secret.

Thus, Etchings didn’t make the cut, and I was fairly confident that this was a kick ass representation, but wait: I turned around, and lo’ and behold: Kelly Freakin’ Digges was up in the hizzy. Okay, this is something you see every day. Just Kelly Digges. Right there.

But wait again:

The hotel was holding a scrapbooking convention, and if you can possibly fit two more nerdier pursuits than Magic and scrapbooking in the same ten square mile radius, expand the radius and start over.

A couple older women stopped by and asked what we were doing, blah, they wanted me so bad, when one of them mentioned that her son played Magic like a fiend. Somehow, Randy gave his name (or I think BDM did to rag on him), and the woman shrieked “oh my god, I’ve heard of you!”

During the next five very surreal minutes, the woman ended up calling her son and Randy had the phone to his ear, chatting up the youngster, whilst getting his teeth kicked in by none other than yours truly.

A few pictures were snapped, and the hot scrapbooking mom motioned me to “take a look through her pages.” Since I had board advantage on Randy, I had to decline, for who in their right mind would chose super hot and crazy strange over creature superiority?

Between casting just enough creatures to keep Randy’s forces at bay and bullsh**ting with Digges, I decided to ignore Elvish Bard’s text, figuring that if it ever became relevant, I’d take a look see then.

When Randy had about five hundred guys, he attacked with everyone and suggested that now would be a good time to read Elvish Bard.

Oh sh**.

Well, guess I best just Incinerate that guy and hit him with Bloodspitter.

Randy’s wittle heart sunk in his chest because, while he knew I was good at Magic, he didn’t know just how good. This good:

I killed him with Dark Depths one turn later.

In the second game, I, well, got a scoop when I had eight counters on Dark Depths. He has since petitioned Mark Rosewater for emergency errata and/or banning.

I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.

Yes, I do get paid by the word. Why do you ask?

In the second round, I quickly beat up on Craig The Shutterbug’s U/W flying deck, but not with Dark Depths. I figured that it won two games, which is likely more than it ever should have, though I’m glad both were against Randy Buehler. With witnesses!

I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.

Okay, that’s enough.

Rather than force me to slaughter Ted into oblivion and stake my claim as the world’s foremost authority on IA Block Draft, the bad guys scooped ‘em up and we went our separate ways. Me to my sh**hole down the road, and they to their de-luxe apartments… in the sky.

As we were leaving, I noticed Digges exiting with a very super hot chyk, and all I could gather from the slackjaws was that someone dared him to take her upstairs. Apparently, that is precisely what he did.

kellydigges: ← god.

But I’m sure he’ll give you the blow-by-blow in his recap. Note to self: put “blow by blow” in quotes for, like, a subtle sex-type joke.

I asked the concierge to call me a cab, and since he figured it’d be too much of a pain in the ass to do just that, he said “I’ll take you.” Sweet, and only ten bucks. I later discovered that it was supposed to be complimentary. Violated, yep, me.

Two in the morning makes a good bedtime, so bye, and while I beat Randy with Dark Depths, yawn, two games in a row, always remember that Kelly’s the man4L. And you thought he was just funny.


Digges is now in The Back Room, and omg his computer is a digital erection: Macbook4L that has more cool features than you would believe. It’s a good thing my laptop was right next to his. Penis envy much?

The first task of the day was the stand behind the drafters at table one and write down their picks. Seems easy, no?

I was behind Paul Cheon, who I guess did kinda good I am karma, and I only had to ask him to show me his pick again five or six ten times. The other twenty or thirty times I simply peeked at the topmost facedown card.

With Moreno on his right, and his picks somewhat visible, here’s Paul’s draft, and because I seek to humiliate myself, comments I scribbled or noted to self:

Into the North
Boreal Centaur
Ronom Hulk
Surging Might
Surging MightMoreno’s taking green too! Omg switch!
Grim Harvest
Bull Aurochs
Chilling Shade
Rimebound Dead
Balduvian Warlord
Martyr of Ashes
Zur the Enchanter
Glacial Plating
Wilderness Elemental

Ronom Hulk
Frostweb Spider
Tresserhorn Sinks
Phyrexian Snowcrusher
Snow-Covered SwampHuh?
Kjeldoran War Cry
Snow-Covered MountainHuh, take two.
Aurochs Herd
Rune SnagWhat’s it do?
Balduvian Warlord
Wooly Razorback – Double white splash!
Wooly Razorback – Tightness abounds!
Martyr of Sands

Krovikan Rot
SkredOver Ohran Viper!
Deepfire Elemental
Boreal CentaurOver another Deepfire Elemental!
Grim Harvest
Simian Brawler
Chilling Shade
Martyr of Spores
Ursine Fylgja
Rune SnagStill don’t know what it does.
Rune SnagSee above.
Martyr of Frost
Sun’s Bounty

Well, ain’t I just a know-it-all: second-guessing the National Champion. My bad.

After complaining that I hadn’t eaten since the Clinton administration, Ted showed me the snack room. It’s a room. With snacks. And really, not much else. If it’s a snack and it comes in a package, it’s in the snack room. Fortunately, no one noticed I walked out with about seven pounds of foodstuffs. So much grub that I guzzled about a gallon of water before my face fell off due to over-enrichment of laboratory created nourishment. Thus, the restroom.

Yep, just as I figured: a row of urinals, and not one freakin’ divider.

Architect: These are the plans for the 900 million dollar Galleria.
Me: No dividers at the urinals?
Architect: Those things cost like 50 bucks each!

But I’m not the only one. If there were more than two guys at the urinals, everyone else headed for the stalls, and if the stalls were filled, then they “busied” themselves until one opened, or the place cleared out. I was fascinated by this exhibit of communal pee shy, and while I really wanted to study these goofy bastards like I was Mary Leaky, a stall just opened and that sumbitch has my name on it.

When I got back to The Back Room, on my computer were a few cards:

A foreign Wrath of God signed my Randy B and a few provided by one Teddy Knuts: Skeletal Vampire with a comic bubble saying “Sup Berto,” SSS signed “5 hours on the runway” (yeah, that’s funny), a foil Plaxcaster Frogling and an Ichorid signed by Antonino De Rosa and Mike Krumb.

In the email from way back, Ted asked me if I’d be interested in working for foils. While the cards made my giggle like an eleven-year old girl watching American Idol, I hoped this wasn’t what he meant. Ted’s a prick, did I ever tell you that? Oh, and when it was really, really, really cold in the hall, he wore a sweatshirt! omg he’s so gay!

Out in the hall I went, in search of Osyp to add his sig to Ichy… wait: That’s Jackie Lee. Sitting right there. Okay, Johnny, be cool, it’ll be okay just be an ice man. I waved as I passed by. She nearly smiled and waved back.


Oh, wait. She probably didn’t recognize me, hence the friendliness. Am I willing to lie to myself to be happy?

Oh, wait. She probably didn’t recognize me, hence the friendliness.


BDM wants to be able to turn people into bread.
I want to be able to turn hot chyx into stalkers.

In Round 9, the worst error you never saw you almost went and saw. The match report I wrote had the wrong winner. How’s that possible? The final paragraph originally looked something like this:

Nevertheless, Owen brought the elder brother in like Wyatt really could’ve beat Johnny Ringo, and got Zoz within burn range. When Owen reveled his pistol grip of oh too many red spells, Zoz extended the hand.

The lightning fast attack/hand reveal/gg caught me off guard, and I even asked what the hell just happened. Owen said what I thought was “I showed him all my burn and that’s game boys,” but it was probably more like “I showed him all my burn and that’s game boys because I don’t have a single Red source in play you freakin’ moron!”

In the middle of the next round, Greg was randomly checking the standing or pairings or something that super editor guys do in their “spare” time, when he questioned my report. According to the point totals, Zoz, um, won, despite the fact that you’re telling me he, um, lost, and would you figure out what the hell is going on please before I beat you with a crowbar?

I couldn’t find Zoz or Owen, so I asked Guptil to page both. A moment later, Ben’s explaining that, yep, Owen had a very Red hand sans Red mana. I assured him that the match was reported correctly (in the database at least) and tee hee, good luck and have a nice day.

Greg: best editor ever.
Except for Craig, English Nationals Champ, by the way.
Oh, and Ted’s good, too.
And Ben Bleiweiss, stand-in editor for a week about a year ago, roolz.
And The F will always hold a special place in my heart and pants.
But none of them hold a candle to Greg. Well, Digges is pretty good, too.

Have you hugged your editor today?


I wonder if other writers would actually confess such a colossal blunder, blame it on manascrew, or just pretend it never happened, for what happens in The Back Room, stays in The Back Room.

Still, there you have it: my most embarrassing moment of the weekend that you never would have known about if I didn’t have this insatiable need to share everything with my wonderful readers because I love you all dearly. You bastards.

Round 11 was the third time I covered Osyp, and he just got more and more fun to write up, and I figured this would be more nutty times, because Eugene Harvey is a f***in’ wild man! I hadn’t seen Eugene in years and he never liked me anyway, but he still had that way-too-calm-despite-getting-smashed-for-nine demeanor, and I was sure that this was going to be one helluva match.

It was rather anticlimactic, much like just about every match I’ve ever seen Eugene play: he takes early damage, kills stuff, takes more damage, kill stuff, drops a win condition, and well, wins. However, for a while it looked like he was going to mess up the template when he missed his third land drop for a couple turns. Alas, he’s too good to lose to manascrew, only us scrubs have to worry about that.

Since Sam Stein and Paul Cheon are like, best buds and stuff, Round 13 made me kinda feel like the hot chyk that drove a wedge between them. Okay, it was more like the girlie who slept with them both and told them individually that they were better than the other.

This was the first time I had seen the Reanimator deck up close, and you know what: it’s kinda good. It doesn’t even run Faith’s Fetters or Yukora — how can it possibly compete? Well, it sort of counters stuff, kills stuff and then drops an endless array of 187 and utility fatties that also happen to win the game.

But Seriously, no Yukora.

Dear Paul Cheon,

It’s a 5/5 for 4!

Why Play Wrath On Turn 4 When You Can Play Something That Dies To It Boy

Round 14 was a very cool match to cover: Antonino vs. Moreno. Since Billy did the deal at PT: LA, he’s been my power animal, and to watch his game up close and play “watch the mistakes ‘cause Flores would,” especially against Antonino (means “little Tony” in Italian, kinda — paisan4L!) got me all wet. Plus, Ant is the defending champ, and it’s rarely a bad thing to watch The Man at work in his office. Osmosis, as they say in biological circles or whatever profession deals with osmosis on a daily basis, is the sh**.

Before the match started, and in between games, Ant was berating me very nicely about being such a timid little bitch. He figured I’d be loud, overbearing and obnoxious, though I don’t know where he got that idea. I calmly explained that it’s easy to be a dick on the web, but when you’re surrounded by peeps and cameras, it’s usually safer to take the high road and chill the muthaf*** out.

Tone down what, motherf***er?

Thus, if you were at Nats, and I wasn’t an obnoxious prick to you, I apologize. If it makes you feel any better, this is for you:


I heart my web muscles.

I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
Just in case you forgot.

Anyway, in writing the coverage, I jotted down everything about the game (in great detail) that I wanted to question later, especially Billy not equipping Jitte to Hand of Cruelty when Ant had Glare on the table. The intention was to accurately report, then ask as many people as I could that are better than me if this was a misplay.

Here’s the pre-edited copy for reference:

Glare of Subdual hit, and with Billy stuck on two lands and with only a lonely Jitte in play, he finally found something he could drop on the table: Hand of Cruelty. Oh, and it gets around Glare all the live long day, yo.

With the momentum clearly shifted, Ant focused his steely gaze on the field, perhaps looking for a way around this fine mess that developed out of nowhere. Selesnya Guildmage hit and he turned it over to Billy.

To my not-very-good-at-Magic eyes, Billy’s question becomes: do I equip and serve, or equip and block? He plays a Hyppie and sends it back, which kept me guessing, though I didn’t hear any large gasps from the crowd (at least from Osyp), so who knows?

Ant drew a card, conveyed absolutely no emotion and quickly gave it back to Billy.

Moreno equipped to Hyppie and made it go red, though a lowly elf backed up that noise to “declare attackers,” tapped that non pro:white and made Billy pay for not lacing up his Honor. Was this a fabled “Moreno Mistake” or no? He had no further action, and back to Ant it went.

Regardless, some people agreed, some shrugged and some didn’t care. Thus, I left it up to Greg: leave it in or take it out because I can’t get a freakin’ consensus. He left it in, and I still don’t know if playing Hyppie instead of equip/serve or equip/block was the right play, though it certainly feels wrong against a beatdown deck.

With Glare already out, Hyppie isn’t ever getting through unless Ant doesn’t care about the counters or cards in his hand (though I thought Billy might have Mortify), and at the very least, holding off Ant’s team seemed like a good second option move. I know I would have equipped and served and started collecting counters two at a time for the rest of the game (pro: Glare, pro: Yosei seems, well, good), but that’s just me.

Someone tell me the answer! The forums might be a good place to do so!

Kelly Digges was my “editor du jour” on this one. I know, heh, right? Well, he was kinda the editor, more like “censor.” I’d write up the report, put it on a floppy disk…


“floppy disk.”

…and hand it to Greg, who would do something with it, and then ship it over to Kelly, who would tell me I write like sh** and why don’t I just leave and let real writers do the coverage. Or maybe he would just ask me about my hundred of errors, some grammatical, but most factual. Like reporting the wrong winner.

However, Kelly and I got along like a pair of thirteen year old boys at summer camp: lots of nervous eye contact, hand wringing, blushing, and generally pretending not to be turned on by each other.

After the slaving was over, Greg gave me a couple boxes, one filled with draft sets and told me to STFU about payment forever. Well, okay then. But you don’t have to yell at me. Sir.

The biggest game ever was about to commence, and there was Dr. Richard Garfield, a million screaming fans, and three-foot by two-foot (or bigger) Magic cards. I watched for a while, got crowded out by formerly hot moms with wedgies, then was snatched up by Teddy, Patnik and the Diggster. “Diggster” is fairly fruity. I’ll just go with “Kelly,” that’s much more manly.

Food was on the agenda, and since I figured we’d get one huge check and I could squeeze my way out of paying my fair share, count me in.

South of the Border was the nom de plume, which means “pen name,” but so what?

I was squeezed between Teddy and Digges, who for some reason got the head of the table, and a bunch of Patnik’s friends that I didn’t know, though I’d heard of Tommy Ashton I think.

Oh, and Patnik’s chyk was there:

About 4’10, 90 strategic pounds and very Japanese.

Now I never really had a thing for Asian women (though apparently I’m in the minority there), but day freakin’ um and my chest started to hurt and Patnik, much like Digges, is god just because.

The conversation ultimately weaved its way to Inquest (like all good Mexican restaurant table talk eventually does), and I was surprised that other guys at the table weren’t too embarrassed to admit they liked it. It may have had something to do with my star-struck fan-boy gaze when I talked about how you can take it from one room to the other, and Patnik seconded that emotion by suggesting that it could, if one wished, be taken into the bathroom.

Digges shot back that he could take his computer to the bathroom if he wished (yeah, if he wished wink wink nod nod), and I just sat back and watched the chaos that I had helped create. I’m probably misremembering most of the above, which I would blame on the two entire Coors Light I ingested because Ted made me a lush.

I ordered french fries in a Mexican restaurant because I am diversity proper, while the other guys filled their guts with food that was green, brown or yellow. A little while later, Antonino busted in, and he for all the world looked like he was about to either bust up the place, or buy the freakin’ thing this instant, in cash. We nodded and he nodded back: the secret Magic player nod, just like the one in Fight Club between Jack and the maitre’d.

Eventually, Eugene, Kremples and another guy joined them, but since they’re all good at Magic, they stayed over there, where the pros sit.

As an added piece of heh, Patnik told me that he was almost the first guy to play Friggorid. Apparently, he and Sottosanti were drunk somewhere (say it ain’t so I guess?), when Sotto said “play this awesome Ichorid deck but if you lose don’t blame me because it might be bad” or some such, and Mike chickened out.

Seriously, she’s maybe 90 pounds soaking wet.

An hour or so later, we’re all in the parking lot when someone suggests going to a strip club. Someone else suggests going to draft. Gee, what’s next?

Hey, let’s go to a strip club and draft!

Me: Hey, yo, I got draft set right here.
Them: omg I need a fix!
Me: Ass, gas or grass, no one rides for free!

Picture if you will: a half-dozen drunk Magic players whipping out cash in the parking lot of South of the Border, snatching up sets so they can go to a strip club and draft.

I wish I could tell you how the story ended, but from what I heard, which was nothing, I bet the only guy that actually got anything out of the deal (which was probably laid to the break of dawn) was Digges. He should seek help. Too many women will make you feel like a piece of meat, and will leave you longing for the intimacy that you will no longer be able to express. So I’ve heard.

Anyway, I went back to my sh**ty hotel room and “went to sleep,” and I didn’t even have to pay a cover charge. Cab fare, however, is teh suck.


I’ve been wearing this funky Wizards shirt for, oh, three days now, can I get a witness? Surprisingly, it didn’t even smell. Much. Maybe I’ll never wash it!

The day started with the quarterfinals at a little-too-early-in-the-morning: Aten versus Zoz. Gee, I wonder how I can f*** this one up? I’m sure Ben was completely confident in my match report abilities, though to be fair to me, there were only two choices:

Report it right
Report it wrong

Dear Ben,

Call it in the air.

50/50 Boy

I think Ben actually called a judge to watch me type and verify that I wasn’t, like, randomly making stuff up. That’s probably not indicative of confidence, is it? Yeah, like I would just randomly make stuff up.

frigginrizzo: ← slept with 100 women. Last month.

The big moment from Game Five:

Aten’s turn four Annex was the game’s first action, though it met Remand and he left himself amazingly vulnerable to:


Annex, Remand, Remand, Keiga, Research, Research and Confiscate hit the yard.

Best Rats Ever much?

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that Persecute. I actually remember thinking that after Aten tapped out for Annex that didn’t resolve: “dude, if he has Persecute, you just, like, lose.” I imagine that Tim’s thought process was something like: “I’m going to Annex right here – if he doesn’t have a counter, I just, like, win this game.”

Obviously, he was aware of Persecute, so I have to guess (subject to correction) that he figured the odds of Zoz having (or drawing) both a fourth land drop and Persecute were pretty slim. Of course, Zoz could also have called “red.” I guess.

But I got to write:

P.S. Demonfire you.

And have it be relevant. GT roolz.

In the semifinals, I got Zoz again, this time versus Ben Lundquist.

I dodged a bullet last round, and actually got most of the stuff right! I had to double check with Richie H regarding the Boseiju incident, because while I was pretty sure Zoz killed his own legendary land accidentally, that’s not the kind of thing you want to get wrong. I was right, and I’m sure Ben is very proud of me!

Digges was toying around with alternate titles, I mean, how many Bens can there be, and the following was his front-runner (kinda):

Ben On Ben Action!

Oh how we chuckled, but being men, decided to ignore out childish impulses. Instead, we put our heads together, and tried the following:

Ben On Ben, Uncensored!
Live! Ben On Ben Action!
Hot XXX Ben On Ben Action, Live and Uncensored!

None of the above had that extra “zest” we were going for, so, in the end, proper editorial protocol and prudence was followed. Maybe we should have used bad words…?

Greg, Not A Mere Mortal, gave me some unused draft sets with the little bands on them and stamps on the faces, and when I started peeking though them:

BDM and Ted and/or Digges: You ruined them!
Me: What, like I was gonna draft with them?

Someone forgot to tell those guys that limited is teh suck. Except Ice Age Block.

Alas, Paul Cheon won the title in what can only be described as one helluva match. Down a game, he got seriously mana screwed in game 2, though it took Lundquist about 500 turns to actually kill him.

He came wit’ it and swept the next three. In game 5, when it was clear he was about to win the next turn or the turn after — he dropped Yosei and Lundquist was helpless or manascrewed or had no cards except lands in hand, he pulled a little away from the table and got ready to go woot woot.

His next turn consisted of quickly drawing his card and serving. I don’t remember if Lundquist scooped after he drew or Cheon actually attacked for the win, but I doubt I’ll ever forget the anticipation on Paul’s face. Down two-love, and it was looking like a formality, but he fought back over the course of the next hour (and it was a fight), and was this close to becoming the National Champion.

Hard not to cheer for a guy who comes back from not only a 2-0 deficit, but from the worst manascrew, followed by ten turns in a row of getting stuff countered. Sometimes, the guy who looks like he’s down and out comes back – It’s the American Way. Pretty much.

Digges eventually left, probably to get laid. I bet his boys back home are rofling at the possibility of Kelly being the freakin’ man, but dudes, when you’re on the road, you get to be someone else entirely. It’s a brand new world, and Kelly Digges is the muthafreakin’ shiznit and that 17 year old hottie really did keep following him around.

Likewise, I got to be someone else: me, because no one recognized me. It was kewl times indeed to be talking to someone for five minutes, watch their eyes go to the press pass with my name, and their eyes go “um, oh, okay, er, you’re not going to write about this, are you?”

But I didn’t get laid, though I bet if I tried really, really, really hard, I could have. Okay, maybe not, even if some of those scrapbooking moms were looking like they ain’t had a real man in years. I gave them Kelly’s email address.

They did the awards ceremony and nobody cried (except me tear, sniffle), they did the same for the JSS kids (ditto), and Jackie was wearing pig tails. omg please no fair.

With Berto’s 10th birthday on Tuesday, I thought I should place the gift-giving burden onto the weighty shoulders of Greg. Hey, I’ll raise my damned kids (or my wife will), all I’m asking for is a blue Hurricane. Is that so freakin’ hard?

BDM wants to be able to turn people into bread.
I killed Randy Buehler with Dark Depths two games in a row.
Gimme a blue Hurricane for my kid.

I don’t know which of the above statements is most absurd.

Greg searched high and low for one of the enormous fingers used in the World’s Biggest Magic Game, featuring Dr. Richard Garfield and his mismatched socks, but alas, they were all given to children who were actually present.

I considered trying to purchase a three-foot card from one of the lucky bastards that were, well, lucky enough to win one, but poverty, and the fear of putting that large sumbitch into a United cargo hold, won out.

I have no clout. It hurts me deeply.

The staff dinner was at eight, though at four or so, I decided that I needed a nap. Fairly certain that it was kinda likely, well, maybe, that I wouldn’t wake up, though I might, if I threw my ass into bed, I said my tearful goodbyes just in case, blew air kisses and complimented everyone on their snazzy shoes and wonderful muffin asses before I went, for I am class. Human class, me.

But Ted is still really bad at preventing me from sitting on a plane for five hours. While I’ll never forgive him, ever, seriously, such a son-of-a-bitch!, it was nice to watch the man work — concentration boy, intensity personified, though sometimes he had a sense of humor. Just don’t push it.

Consider that he was a nobody when I was a somebody (back when the ‘net was much less, well, good, and I could write a decent article at least once in a while), and now he’s the man and I drive a goddamned truck for a living. See boys and girls, sometimes good things happen to complete and utter pricks. Like Ted.

Yes, fun times were enjoyed, and while it was nothing near actual “work,” I was one spent sumbitch, and for a moment, a little slice of smack-you-in-the-face snuck in, and I figured out that I have to go back to real life tomorrow.


Some other shuttle guy picked me up, much to my surprise, though not chagrin, and when the other peeps get in the cab, it’s only 40 bucks for the roundtrip. Um, it was 50 for me, dawg, what gives?

One of the guys we picked up had one of those three-foot Magic cards with him. He snuck in the back, and while I would have liked to chat him up, I was kinda checking out this 50-something woman in front of me. I know, I’m freakin’ sick.

Anyway, we get to the airport, and I consider asking the driver why it was ten bucks more for me, but of course I don’t, because I’m a coward.

At least I have a three hour layover at O’Hare to get this sh** done.

I get to the gate and a tap on the shoulder – it just so happens to be Craig, Shutterbug Extraordinaire. He’s headed back to Seattle, and Greg, Super Duper Editor should be around here somewhe—hey, there he is.

omgs and fancy meeting you heres were exchanged, though Greg did edit part of our conversation — I think I ended a sentence with a proposition, and doesn’t the red pen love that.

Hot chyx everywhere. Now you may think that either I’m always conveniently located in hot chyk congregation areas, or that perhaps my definition of “hot” is not actually based in reality. Probably both, since all women have something about them that’s hot, even if with some you may have to try really hard to find that something. Mostly it’s the fact that I haven’t had sex with them that does it. Yeah, I know, I probably breast fed for too long.

So we get on the plane — I get to follow a hot Japanese chyk (twice in two days? I’m starting to understand you guys), and we’re quickly on our way.

We start to head toward the runway, then stop. The captain informs us there may be a slight delay due to the air traffic controllers not being ready for us. I saw Pushing Tin, and damnit, I want Cusack controlling my plane from now on.

From my window seat, I peer around the hottie beside me, the army guy beside her, and to the row directly across. Greg’s eyes are wide in terror. He had heard my utter tale of woe, and was apparently scared sh**less that I was going to relive it in some sort of Groundhog Day deja vu deal, and he was along for the ride.

We sat for about five minutes, then off we went. Unfortunately, there was a screaming baby, doing what babies do best: scream their freakin’ heads off. Fortunately, the demon child was seated on the lap of the mom who was seated right beside Greg.

Not that the volume wasn’t loud enough to drown out the engines, but hey, it could have been worse — the kid could have screamed throughout the entire flight. Maybe Lil’ Lungs did, but I gazed forlornly at the skin that wasn’t covered by the hottie’s skirt until I dozed off into lala land.

When I landed at O’Hare, I had yet another run-in with super unbelievable prick of a human being:

I put all my stuff on the slider thingy, and then try to go though the metal detector, but the way is blocked off with a chair. A TAS guy (the ones that make you take off your shoes) in the next aisle to the left says “over here, that way’s closed, obviously,” so I head over and through, no problems, and he points me to the right saying “your stuff is over there, right?”

Nothing wrong with the above, right? Certainly nothing wrong enough that I wished I was strapped with c-4 and blew myself and that motherf***er up, right?

“Over here, that way’s closed, obviously.”

The way he said “obviously” was perhaps the most condescending thing I’ve ever heard. Like I’m a goddamned moron and damnit, if he was just allowed to go kill all the terrorists himself, he wouldn’t have to deal with idiots like me.

“Your stuff is over there, right?”

Again, the emphasis on the final word of the sentence, which I bet is one of his favorite ways to insult people, though they’re too stupid to get it. Ha ha, his own little joke.

I almost, and this time I mean it, almost stopped right in my tracks and – But I didn’t, because it’s easier to bitch about it on StarCityGames than to actually confront the pieces of sh** that I run into. I probably ought to do something about that, huh? I doubt that I will because Antonino was on the right track: I’m just a big baby. If you see me at an event, pick on me. I won’t do anything about it, ‘cept maybe write angry, mean words. Or maybe I’ll not, and I’ll just friggin’ snap like the guys you read about: he was quiet, kept mostly to himself.

Whatever, BDM wants to be able to turn people into bread.

So I’m sitting on the floor at the gate with about forty minutes to kill, when this 40-something, no ring, svelte and so darned cute, places her bags beside me. There was plenty of room, so this sort of annoyed me. However, she had to bend over for something from her bag, and when she did, it was definitely for my benefit. She caught me trying to pretend I wasn’t trying to catch a glance, then sat down and sighed, woe is me.

A moment later, she got up and did the same thing. Yes, she caught me again, but damn if I wasn’t being super stealth. Okay, I’m looking straight ahead for the next forty minutes. And I sho’ ‘nuff did just that.

I got on the plane and found my seat, and then a yummy mummy and her toddler came up to me. It turns out she and the kid were in the same row, but across the aisle. She asked if I would switch, no problem, just wipe that kid’s nose, pls/thx.

I move my gear across the aisle, look down to my new single-serving friend and why not: it’s the 40-something that busted me. She offers an innocent smile, the kind that says “I caught you checking me out, you bastard, and I am intrigued by your awkwardness.”

I smile back, take my seat, and within seconds, fall asleep, or at least pretend to. A few minutes before we touched down in Portland, I woke up (heh, I actually fell asleep?) and the hottie started chatting me up, real generic-like. This and that and I’m trying to be nice without ogling her and she’s sucking up the attention and keeping the conversation innocent-as-pie but subtext was all up in here.

It turned out she was a summer resident in Maine, and I thanked her for leaving tens of thousands of dollars in my state and intended to make this the last thing I said to her that wasn’t a yes, no or shrug. She laughed like this was the funniest thing she ever heard, and I could see in her eyes that the next step was: where do you live, can you give me a ride, maybe you should come in and do me. Before she could ask, I blurted out “What part?” It turned out her summer home is in Bridgton, which is, like, nine feet from my hometown of Harrison.

Without even freakin’ thinking, I replied “Really, I live in Harrison.”

Her face lit up, not only because she knew the town, but because how could I possibly say no when she asked me for a ride, which was immediately followed by one of those flirty smiles and a sigh that said “bitch, take me home.”

I avoided her eyes a little, because other parts were more interesting, and then she just straight out came out with “let’s get a drink.” I immediately looked at my wedding ring, trying to get her eyes to follow, and they did.

Me: Just what is it that you want from me?
She: What do you think?
Me: Please, don’t be coy. I need to hear the words.
She: Okay then.

She took a deep breath, put her hands in mine and finally asked:

She: Do you have Kelly Digges number?

Nevertheless, it was days of fun for everyone that didn’t have to sit on a plane for five hours, deal with a number of unbelievable *ssholes, or spend about $500 I really couldn’t afford, but if there is one thing I will never forget about Nationals 2006, it’s this:

I beat Randy Buehler with Dark Depths.
Two games in a row.

John Friggin’ Rizzo
Nationals Competitor, 2007