Murphy’s Law On Steroids
by Stu Cassell
In 2018 I, along with 11 other members of the St. Louis Shuffleboard Club, drove to Evansville, Indiana to compete in their state senior games. Most of us just entered one event, shuffleboard. We were there to qualify for the National Senior Games that took place in June 2019 in Albuqerque, New Mexico. We went to the Indiana games figuring if we didn’t qualify there, we’d still have the Missouri State Games as a back-up. As it turned out, all 12 of us qualified in singles and/or doubles.
Because of the significant expense of participating in this event, I sold it to my wife by telling her “We can make it a vacation for the two us.” I reasoned that when I wasn’t playing shuffleboard, we could do a little sight-seeing.
All but 1 other member of our club drove from St. Louis to Albuquerque. My wife and I flew, along with our friend Elly. One of the main reasons we decided to fly was because I wanted to be rested for the games. I thought if we drove I’d be worn out before I even started to play.
I was 70 at the time, and Elly was 76. She generously offered to pay for a rental car, and had arranged to stay at the same hotel as us. That more or less mandated that we coordinate our playing schedules so we could share one car. I thought that would be no big deal
Since none of us had ever been to Albuquerque before I thought bringing my GPS along would take care of any navigation problems.
I always try to be a prepared as possible. To that end, I installed an app on my cell phone that would give me information about our flights and direct us to the right terminals and gates
I also thought we could add my wife and I to Elly’s rental car contract along with myself.
I packed a pillow from home, a sleeping mask, and a white noise sound machine. I took all of these with me to help me get a good night’s sleep.
Enter Mr. Murphy and his Law “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
We were unable to get direct flights from St. Louis to Albuquerque and had a stop in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Originally, the layover was just one hour. The app I used directed us to our departure gate. We decided to head over there and once we located it grab some lunch somewhere. When we arrived at the gate we found out that the airline changed it and we had to go to a different gate. The Dallas/Fort Worth airport is huge. The only saving grace was that our next flight had been delayed for 2 hours. That should have been our first clue that Mr. Murphy was in town.
It took us 15 minutes to get to the next gate. Guess what? When we got there we found out about a second gate change. Now we had another long walk to go to the other side of the terminal. At that point I realized the app I tried to use was worthless. Thank you Mr. Murphy.
Most of my friends arrived in time to get in some practice the day before their first match. We might have had a few hours to do that before all of the delays. By the time we got to the car rental place it was apparent that this wasn’t going to happen. Thank you Mr. Murphy.
We found out that only 1 other person could be added to Elly’s car rental agreement. I thought it should be my wife, reasoning she could drive me and Elly separately from the hotel to the convention center for our games if we had different start times, which we did (more about this a little later).
After checking into our hotel we headed for the Albuquerque Convention Center where the shuffleboard event was held. I programmed our GPS and off we went. We found a parking lot across the street and parked and entered the Convention Center. We had to walk through the parking garage of the Convention Center and it was almost a mile to the check-in station. We had no idea where we were going but we called some friends who had competed earlier and were still there and they met us. Then they led us to the check-in. We took care of that and a few other friends joined us and we left to have dinner together.
That night I only slept 2 hours. So much for not driving so I’d be well rested for my games. Thank you Mr. Murphy.
After we had breakfast with Elly, we headed back to the Convention Center. When we were 4 blocks away the GPS lost its satellite signal. Thank you Mr. Murphy. Fortunately, we were able to locate a familiar street, even after only being there once, and we got to the Convention Center just in time for Elly to check in. My first game wasn’t for another hour.
Years ago my wife suffered an ankle injury. It was never properly treated and after the 2nd long walk from the parking lot to the Convention Center I noticed she was limping. By the end of the day and another long walk back to the car, the limp got worse. We decided she should stay at the hotel the following day. So much for her helping with the driving. Thank you Mr. Murphy.
As I said, Elly was 77 two years ago, and I was 70. I mention this because that first day they had her play 6 games. I, the younger player, for some reason I’ll never understand, only had 4 matches scheduled the first day. I only ended up playing one of them due to byes and no-shows. It was a very long day for me.
While I waited for my first, and only match, in response to a request from some friends, I kept score and retrieved disks in another match. I warned the players to keep an eye on the scoreboard explaining I only slept 2 hours the night before.
Half-way through their game I had a painless migraine headache, probably from fatigue and stress. Thank you Mr. Murphy. What happens when I get one of these is that my peripheral vision has what I can only describe as “jittery zig-zags.”
I hadn’t had one of those for over a year prior to this one. I did the best I could with the score keeping as I waited for it to go away. After 20 minutes it did, but I was left feeling slightly light headed as I headed for my first match.
My opponent was Howard Davenport from Louisiana. Somehow I beat him. The courts were very difficult. They were thin vinyl on carpeting, and some had extreme drifts. I’m talking about 3-4 foot drifts, not inches. Maybe in my first game I figured out the court quicker than Howard? Thank you for staying away Mr. Murphy.
Because we assumed the responsibility for Elly getting to the Convention Center and back, as well as her getting lunches, with our schedules being different, there was no time to do any sight-seeing while we were in Albuquerque. Thank you Mr. Murphy.
With my wife was hobbling around, I ended up doing some of the driving even though I wasn’t on the insurance policy on the rental car, which was very stressful, to say the least. Thank you Mr. Murphy.
I never did get any decent sleep the entire time we were in Albuquerque. My doubles partner and I didn’t make it to the finals, however as singles we both did. There were 8 of us competing. My first match was against Mike Bruce, who is a fellow club member of the St. Louis Shuffleboard Club. It’s weird. During our inter-club play Mike usually beats me. He’s normally ranked in the top 3 players in our club, while I’m usually around 10th or even further down. That being said, I have never lost to him in an outside tournament, and I won my first match against him at the National Senior Games. Thank you for staying away Mr. Murphy.
In my last finals match I was facing my own doubles partner Bob Jennerjohn. We also have an interesting history. We have often had to play each other as singles in various tournaments. Most of the time it has been for 3rd and 4th place, and he usually wins. He’s a close friend and I never mind losing to him. This match was also for 3rd and 4th place and it was the difference between getting a medal or a ribbon so I really wanted to win.
The court we played on had the most extreme drift in the hall. In order to keep the disk on the court if you were on the right side, you had to shoot all your disks from the 4th position and aim for the left edge of the court. Thank you Mr. Murphy. It was so bad we both made jokes about it, and during the match I asked Bob’s wife Kathy to take my cell phone and record some of it. Later, I edited the clip and added circus music to it.
Once again Bob beat me on this carnival like court, and won the 3rd place medal, while I got the “like kissing your sister” 4th place ribbon.
My consolation however came later when I saw Howard Davenport and asked him if he would pose with me for a photo? Howard had come in first place. While we were having our picture taken he told me, “You know, you were the only one that beat me in this entire tournament.”
I told him how much I enjoyed playing against him and knowing that even though I only came in 4th, I was the only one to beat the 1st place finisher made me feel better. Later, I marveled that I beat anyone that week considering how little sleep I had and how stressed out I was about my wife, and how much Murphy interfered with our trip.
It may be a long time before any of us can play in a big tournament again, but when it happens, I sure hope Murphy isn’t around. I can manage to screw up quite nicely on my own, thank you, I don’t need his help.
Oh how I miss Florida, and Avon Park and Sebring
Stu Cassell Speaks: Oh how I miss Florida, and Avon Park and Sebring. Back in 2009 after my wife and I both lost our jobs we decided to try something different. We embarked on the world’s most expensive extended Florida vacation – we bought a pretty much worthless bed and breakfast in a town most people never heard of, Avon Park. (Click on any pic to expand.)
We were there just a few weeks when I noticed a senior recreation club, just 200 yards from our house. I stopped by one day to find out if my wife and I could join their group. They welcomed us with opened arms.
I didn’t realize until we moved back to our home town of St. Louis, Missouri how lucky we were. Both pro’s and amateurs took us under their wings. We knew literally nothing about shuffleboard. People like John Bushee, Ralph Day, and Dick Davis taught us about drift, strategy, and shuffleboard etiquette.
We played 2-3 times a week and joined the Sebring Shuffleboard Club and added Friday nights to our shuffleboard schedule.
Over time I started to compete in some local tournaments. Eventually, my game improved and a couple of our pro’s invited me to partner with them for some pro-am tournaments.
Besides shuffleboard, I discovered that Dick Davis and I shared a love of fishing and would go out on his boat almost weekly to fish together. He soon became my closest buddy, and I thoroughly enjoyed him both as a shuffleboard mentor and a friend.
We never did make any money from the B&B, despite pouring thousands of dollars into upgrades such as high-speed internet, satellite tv, and new flat screen high definition televisions. We did everything imaginable to market the Lake Verona Lodge Bed and Breakfast. We joined the Chamber of Commerce, advertised on line and in local newspapers and radio, and even gave away free sandwiches at one of the district tournaments held in Avon Park.
It was all to no avail. After just under 3 years we threw in the towel. No one wanted to buy the house as a bed and breakfast and we ate a big loss selling just the house. We moved back to St. Louis, my wife hoping to return to former field as a programmer analyst.
Three years ago I entered the St. Louis Senior Olympics. It had been a while since I had played shuffleboard, but I still managed to win a gold medal in the men’s single competition for my age bracket. One of the guys I competed against told me about a group of shuffleboard players that played at a local park.
I joined this group that eventually became the St. Louis Shuffleboard Club. We meet twice a week and purchased 3 courts from Allen Shuffleboard Club. Our club president Glen Vanmatre arranged for the Gateway Salvation Army Community Center to let us play there in the winter and when the weather is bad.
We have a pretty competitive group of men and women. It isn’t a large group but our members have done well in local and regional tournaments. One of our members, Joe Blumenkemper, took first place in the National Senior Olympics in the 50 to 54 division.
I consider my time in Florida as getting my Bachelor’s Degree in shuffleboard. Sadly, due to injuries and illnesses, and this past February, getting my right knee replaced, my game has deteriorated. I consider my skill level to be about 25 percent down from when I lived in Avon Park.
Sometimes I fantasize about coming back and getting a “tune-up” with my shuffleboard game. Lately, my wife has been making noises like she wants to become a “snow bird” and eventually move back to Florida full time. I hope so, now I want to go on to my Masters and PHD in shuffleboard.
I am retired, but she, 10 years younger than myself (I’m almost 69) has a few more years before she can collect social security. She never did get back to programming, and has worked a couple of low level administrative jobs since our return. She regrets that we moved back to St. Louis. Like me, she misses our friends, the lakes, and yes, our beloved shuffleboard.
We’ll be back. I can’t say exactly when, but we’ve both decided we’re ready. I’ll have to dig out my “Maine to English” translator so I can understand Dick Davis again. “Pahk the cah.”
I can’t wait. Stu Cassell. 2017 06 16.
Stu: Your “Moving Story” speaks volumes about the sport we all LUV!! I am going to suggest to Tom Clayton, the current President of Avon Park, that a copy of your letter be posted in the Club House.
Stu and Mary Rose; HURRY BACK!! The members of Avon Park and Sebring will WELCOME YOU WITH OPEN ARMS!! You will however; still need your “Maine to English” translator. Some things never change. Stan McCormack. 2017 06 16.