I’m back, we won. I called home on Saturday, and my five year old son said, “Daddy, you lost.” “No, we won, we won!” “No, Alex had http://www.wugc2008.com/team/409 one more goal than you did.” But then he continued with “At least you outpointed him significantly in the close games while he padded his stats in the blowouts,” so I forgave him and decided to give him his little Team USA #88 shirt after all.
It was a full week. Alex and Marshall covered the games some. We played 11 games in six days, including semis and finals on one day. (Meanwhile, the Open teams played quarters, semis, and finals over three days.) Although two games a day might not seem like much to Americans who are used to four games back-to-back on each day (or three hard games a day at Nationals), it is surprisingly tiring. With at least one full round off between games, there are two full cycles of warmup/play/warmdown, coupled with a few hours of meandering, chatting, and watching. Plus, there is a week of dormitory food, dormitory housing, and beer.
It was a big disappointment that the tournament unexpectedly lost 10 of the fields to construction earlier this year. On the first and last days of pool play, we were at satellite fields. Thursday’s location (Jericho Beach) was incredibly scenic, but far away from the rest of the tournament. (The schedule-makers did a crack job at rotating the off-site appearances, other than scheduling Japan-US Open pool play at one of them.) As I mentioned prior to the tournament, it really adds something to the atmosphere to have all games and lodging co-located.
It was a strange campus. Other than a Starbucks and another coffer shop, there were no food or beverage options on campus other than the official dining hall, which did not sell individual meals, only a meal plan. Not even a single bar that I could tell. The University Village (with a couple walk-in restaurants) was a 10 minute walk from the fields and about 20 from the dorms, and the only food at the tournament (other than fruit/bagels) was a single pita cart staffed by two unmotivated younguns provided by the university.
There was an Athletes’ Village which was good in concept but underutilized in practice. They had 12’x12’ (or 15’x15’) tents for each country in one area, but there was almost no flow past this area, and you couldn’t see any of the fields from this area. Given the constraints of the space, there was no place they could have put the tents to make this possible, however.
Nice amenities: gallon container of sunblock for each team, two or more volunteers per game (they used cell phones to instantaneously update the score online), water bottle in player pack, water at fields. There were an amazing number of volunteers (I seem to remember hearing there were 400). Probably a lot of the $500K collected in player and team fees went to housing and feeding the volunteers. The online information provided to the fans at home was unprecedented for a Worlds (UPA does a pretty good job at Nationals).
The port-o-fields never seemed to be an issue, although it was rare that someone would need to run across them. I vaguely recall one player getting his feet tangled, but since most of us don’t pivot near the line, it didn’t get in the way. The endzone lines (which were lined, not part of the port-o-field) were pretty worn out toward the end of the week.
Other amenities that seemed a waste for me: bands at the field every day, four hot tubs at the main field. I would have rather had my team’s share of them to go for a keg or two of beer for us in the beer garden.
Like Alex said, the lack of opportunities to hang out with others and drink was a disappointment, although in retrospect probably not that different from previous Worlds. With some bad luck with the timing (it’s a big holiday! Your liquor stores should be open early, not closed all day!), our room was dry until Tuesday.
I missed the opening ceremony, but it was a lot of fun to receive our trophy and medals during halftime of the Mixed final. I also can’t recommend highly enough the energy that comes from the final being in a stadium instead of at just another field, even one with sidelines or bleachers set up.
I can’t stand how the fans indiscriminately boo pretty much every close call (and some not so close calls). I can understand the boos when there is an egregious foul, but every travel call and every foul call where there was no blood involved were met with boos. There is just no way that people in the stands have anything close to best perspective. I myself was convinced that Gehret’s second foul call was a bad one when I saw it live (from 80 yards away, drinking a beer), but two pictures from different angles showed his hand clearly in front of Savage’s, so maybe it wasn’t (and I’m not even talking about the body contact). But what I do know is that there is no way in hell any of those “spirited” folks booing could tell.
But overall, people were amazingly friendly, certainly to me and my team. I think I mentioned once before, I enjoy my nanocelebrity status. I got a lot of "Good game, Jim" in the line after the game, people introduced themselves, and I even got VIP access at the finals (worse seats, but free beer). Even guys who I may have thought or even spoken badly of for overaggressive play were friendly. So thanks, everyone.