Paganello 2008 and 2009 are entirely responsible for the creation of this blog. More than the previous year 2009 is responsible for the Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/iamultimate) as I ended up spamming my friends on Facebook by tweeting the Open Finals. Both years, though, have had their highs and lows in terms of my Ultimate play.
In 2008 I arrived early (as is now practice) and immediately found the local teams (Scadour, Cotarica, Tequila, and Cotequila) practicing on the beach. Friends were made quickly and that day has paid dividends going forward that were unimaginable back then.
I played for American Gladiators that year, a group of friends from Chicago that I picked up with at Gender Blender 2007. We were seeded low and we expected to storm up and finish in the top sixteen; we were unprepared. The cold was our most bitter foe and our lack of experience on soft sand hindered our tall and fast players from gaining ground against the shorter defenders. A bit of inexperience may have played into it as well and before we knew it we were a party team. Some started the transition early with Jason enjoying a bottle of wine while dressed as Uncle Sam midway through the first game.
The friendship from the first day in Rimini paid off later in the tournament when we had a match against Cotequila (top 4 mixed team at Paganello since the relative days of antiquity). Cotequila quickly reached the point limit to win the game but acquiesced to our request to play out till time. Playing that game against a team as experienced as Cotequila improved our team greatly; we used that knowledge almost immediately.
The following day was stormy and the second coldest day I’ve experienced on that beach. We played in driving rain with numerous turns that sapped morale further. It was at that point that I told my team that if we should win a particularly tight game that I would jump into the Adriatic. We battled hard and managed to win by a large margin. True to my word (and against the protestation of my team) I jumped in the Adriatic and was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was; that warmth did not last as I left and made the long trek back to Paga Circus. I slept well that night.
The last day of Paganello 2008 brought with it a rematch against UltiDeLux; we’d lost to them in the opener where I’m managed to knock the Count of Luxembourg in the head twice. We took the lead in this game but a lack of concentration on my part allowed UDL to catch up and win on Universe. I was despondent and it was one of the most memorable learning experiences in my life: Concentrate. This was also the coldest day I’ve experienced on the Rimini beach where at one point during the Open finals snow fell on the main pitch.
Through it all I knew I was hooked; I had experienced the greatest tournament in the world. Others were affected as well and the friends I made I’ve kept in frequent contact with. Two of those friends are Lori and Richard who met at the tournament are now happily married in Chicago.
The return to Rimini was once again made a week early. This time I was early and could experience the first Paga Idol finals (coverage of the second annual finals will be available this weekend). Much like the first time around I was able to practice with the local teams and make a new set of friends. Things were different this time; there was more recognition and greater openness on the part of the organizers.
The few days between practice weekend and Paganello passed by quickly aside from one small event: an earthquake. The earthquake(s) that took many lives woke me up in the middle of the night on the top floor of Hotel Bikini; life seemed to go on though.
I picked up with the top French team Friselis and against our wishes we were a party team by the end of the tournament. I’ve picked up with quite a few teams over the last decade and have always been able to fit into a system or style. With Friselis it was a bit harder and I think it was due to winter cobwebs and a system fundamentally different from what we play in North America. Regardless of styles, it was immensely fun playing with the French. Some of the players were also well known to the locals and the general attitude was one of extreme relaxation. Not to say there wasn’t excitement: On the first day of Paga we played our toughest match of the day on the main/center pitch. On Universe point I threw a flick into the wind that resulted in a turn. On the subsequent defensive play the other four players on our team played phenomenal D by denying any pass to their players. Eventually the handlers made an error that left my mark on the ground and me striking down the pitch. Our lefty Chain Lightning pickup (Jason) threw a break pass to me in the endzone and we breathed a sign of relief as we retained the top seed in our pool.
Day two didn’t go as well with a couple of losses (including one to UTI (eventual finalists)) which resulted in us being placed in the same pool as Los Ox (eventual finalists). After a night of getting Los Ox players a little inebriated (they were at the same hotel as me) we faced a groggy Los Ox team that didn’t need a win to advance to top 8. With an advantage of possession and a tie game at 9 we turned twice to lose 11-9 and enter a three way tie for top 16 that saw us dropped on point differential. We were slightly perturbed but had been converted into a party team.
Our party attitude was fully evident the next morning as we arrived to the pitch just as the starting whistle was blown. We face a strong Russian team that was relatively sober while we were still getting drunk. Fortunately we scored the first point; unfortunately we didn’t score much after that.
We were awarded an extra final match and played a Spanish team (Bravas) in a tight match to round out our tournament. We wanted a win for pride and once again we went to Universe, and once again we came out on top; a silver lining. Content that we’d saved some face we headed to the finals pitch and watched one of the most exciting finals matches of 2009 before a roaring crowd of locals.
The moment the tournament ended a storm blew in and erased any trace of Paganello; that’s exactly what Paganello is: A beautiful dream.