Shakehands Metal Night
OFFICIAL METAL NIGHT RECAP – Courtesy of Jeff Wyrick
It was a perfect night for pong in many, many ways. The northern Amarillo wind was howling like a winter wolf and a beautiful freezing fog was settling in, coating all in her path with her icy saliva. Harleys and sirens rung throughout the Hello City. The stage was set and somewhere between 28 and 36 of this area’s finest pong talents were laced up and ready to roll. It was Metal Night, a most anticipated change of pace after enduring the kinda gangsta rap that’d make y’mama blush and the weirdness of the Oktoberfest prog playlist. Wallabee Walton the People’s Champ was hellbent and determined to have fire so he rolled out four barrels at The Spot to burn anything that was dead to keep players and spectators warm in the unseasonably cold fall evening. That’s because he’s the host with the most and dude can light a fire like nobody’s business. Tonight, he would employ the use of a leaf blower to create enough gusto to set aflame about 15 pallets that were chopped to pieces. Yeah Yeah Mezel not only okay’d an additional table, but also put on another layer of epoxy in The Spot and told Walton that burning pallets to keep warm on his property was “yeah yeah, cool.” Always nice to have community that’ll let you go to such lengths to feed that bigger picture. Can’t say enough about Mr. Mezel and his lovely bride.
Gotta pay some bills right quick. First, Pizza Nomad for coming in HUGE, not only booking this thing about a month and a half ago, but seeing the vision early and approaching it with a try-anything mentality. That’s Amarillo, for ya. Do it and ask questions later. Nobody’s gonna do it for you. Just gotta do it yourself. These dudes turned out 30 beautiful pies with a deadly efficiency. One of which I’m enjoying right now as I type this…The Meat Sweats pizza that has sausage, pepperoni, and bacon. Once I’m finished typing this, I’ll probably die. Or, at least fall asleep. They lock themselves in a tiny food truck with a brick oven that burns at 800 degrees and can cook a pie in 90 seconds. Folks, I can’t warm one up in the microwave that quick. So, pretty much, they rule. Keep on cooking, Nomad.
Rogue Ales and Tracy and Shawn at Budweiser Distribution hooked up the brewskies for the night. Rogue 6-Hop IPA, Honey Kolsch and, the cornerstone, Dead Guy Ale rounded out the offering for the evening. Saw many trips being made to the fridge throughout the evening. Our compliments to the brewmaster.
Footnote, for those who didn’t know, Pondaseta Brewing Co. opened up on Saturday in Amarillo. Kaleb and Trever got something good going in Nuevo Amarillo (tip of the hat to Wes). Craft beer is starting to take up in Amarillo. ‘Bout damn time. Bigups to Colin, William, Joe-Michael, Kaleb, Ben, Jared and other thinkers and tinkerers for keeping the thirsty satisfied.
Free Cheese Prints for the run on the Metal Night Skullhands shirt. Good people over there busting their ass to do something cool in the Hello City. I invited them to join us and they said they started working at about 9pm on a Saturday night. Folks, in any country in the world, that’s a sick work ethic.
Sean at Paddle Palace Club for being curious enough to call and being interested in what we’re doing here. It’s often like we’re just renting space so anyone that knows better than we do about pushing table tennis to the masses, that’s who we want to know. It’s many miles from Portland, Oregon to Amarillo, Texas, but thanks for making it seem like next door. Looking forward to doing bigger thangs and growing both of us.
So, as with anything that involves humans, there’s a lot of coordination that goes on. Twenty minutes to go-time and I had 12 players missing in action, becoming increasingly clear that we were gonna need some backup plans. I called Henry and dude wasn’t even in Amarillo. I called Jinx Currie and dude acted like he was surprised I was calling him which could only mean that dude forgot what in the hell he signed up for. Justin had a good business day and was busy working all day and couldn’t make it. Ryan no-showed, but we still love the dude.
Onto the action…up from Lubbock we had four players. One fell through and another was a substitute. Good enough for us. We’re just glad they dared the headwind and freezing fog to come 100-plus miles to play this sport with us. There’s still room at the table. And if there’s not, damn it, we’ll buy another. Our door swings wide open.
They hop out of a Camry like whaddup. Stephen Miller, not of “Fly Like an Eagle” and “The Joker” fame, but rather of Panhandle Table Tennis fame walks in Harvard hoodie and a gentleman named Dilshan and Matthew, both in standard grey hoodies, like the kinda you got in competitive athletics in junior high roll in. They survey the place, nod approvingly, and then start unpacking their gear. Good start.
Other new players included Strong Arm Dean, Matthew and his son 12-year old son Nate, all of which showed up ready to go. After a few announcements, we got into it. Put the playlist in motion which jumped off with Metallica’s “Blackened” to set the mood. Heads nodded throughout the night.
A few changes for this evening because, you know, growth requires some tinkering. We introduced a round robin for our elite players. The realities of the table tennis/ping pong community worldwide is that we have varying levels of players. The “X” bracket was composed of Mohamed, Tracy, Jaime, and newcomer to Shakehands Dilshan. I announced his name and assumed I butchered it because he smiled and nodded as to be pleasant and cool wit it. Introducing this bracket was necessary to protecting the general population from the col-blooded assassins and, let’s be real here, professional players. We put them in center court and the A and B brackets flanked them. Definitely the eye candy was on that middle table.
Matthew from Richardson by way of Lubbock got off to a quick start taking Devin Damnright in two straight games only to meet his sensei, Stephen Miller (not of “Take the Money and Run” fame) and they battled, but Matthew got knocked down to the losers’ bracket, making him a definite shark in the water there.
Aforementioned Stephen Miller asserted himself early a definite killer, taking out Matthew Wright, Nevarez, Operaman, and Jeremy Pepper without blinking. Other noteworthy wins from early play was Josh Fore taking it Sandman Seth in two straight games. ALL CAPS Patrick got off to a swift start taking out Dexter, Wallabee Walton the People’s Champ only to get buzzsawed Jeremy Pepper. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to watch ALL CAPS play, but the guy is a candid and enjoyable watch, arming himself with a number of aggressive forehands with jerky footwork. If ping pong had a point guard, that’d be Pat. I’m more like a lumbering, slow as hell Manute Bol-like center. Pat is like pint-size Canadian like Steve Nash. Dude is fun to watch and has fun doing it.
In the B bracket, Brazo Fuerta floored it out of gate, pillaging competition methodically. He might spend his daytime fighting for the little man, but he spends his night whooping the little man’s ass on the ping pong table. John Power, who first appeared at Six Car in July, reappeared and, after suffering defeat early to Strong Arm, flexed in the losers’ bracket mowing down three players including myself, Quite Lucky, who was Quite Unlucky when I crossed paths with Strong Arm and John Power. Holy smokes.
In the X bracket, it was the tale of two players: Mohamed and Dilshan as they rose to the top as the two player to beat. As play progressed rather quickly, before we knew it, the two of them were meeting in the final round for The Beat and The Bison trophy. I remember Dexter asking me on a live Instagram feed who I had in the match and I, of course, tabbed Mohamed. I’m an Amarillo guy. I guess I was just hopeful.
Look, let’s be clear here, if you’re a guy who, say, played for a national team, you don’t show up at Shakehands and say, “Hey, I’m _________ and I played for the __________ national team.” People don’t do that. They show up and play their matches as they’re gonna play it. It’s like Not Very Good Gary who, straight up, told me he wasn’t very good (and I have the message exchange to prove it) and then he shows up and mercilessly kills everyone in his path. You just come and do your work. That was Dilshan who, as the evening played out, I was told he played for the Sri Lanka national team. Sure, he’s not gonna offer that sort of intel on himself, unless of course, you’re one of those dudes that’s brash enough to say that. He is not one of those dudes who does that. But when you watched him play, it became crystal clear that he’s not just a table tennis player, he’s a professional athlete.
So, here we are, in a warehouse in North Amarillo on a cold night watching an Egyptian national player battling a Sri Lankan national player. It’s a bizarre world sometimes. The phones came out, live feeds began, and we all sat somewhat motionlessly with mouths slightly open awestruck at what we watching while Megadeth played at deafening volume in the background. Dilshan beat Mohamed in two straight games and it was all smiles around The Spot as I handed out the first of three trophies for the evening.
With Pat beating Nevarez in the losers’ bracket, it ensured that at least one of the three trophies staying in Amarillo. Thank goodness. I don’t know how I could sleep until the next event if we lost all three trophies to Lubbock.
In the A bracket, it would come down to Stephen vs. Operaman with Stephen sweeping Operaman, earning the Owl.
Folks, we lost two trophies to Lubbock on the night. I want to come back to it, but let’s just deal with it here. I’m a born-and-raised Lubbockite. I left when I was 21 and, if I’m real with myself, I would’ve stayed there forever had circumstances not played out the way they were. I’m just a Lubbock dude. I had a sense of pride when I watched one trophy go to Lubbock, but after two made the 100 mile trek down I-27, I soured a little. They had three people show up and two of them left with trophies. That’s a .667 success rate and, in any sport, that’s impressive. The thought of The Bear and The Bison trophy and the The Owl leaving Potter and Randall County for the first time…both on the same evening…I got really worked up. They got us tonight. That’s for damn sure. When I handed them out, I made it very known that, by taking these trophies, you agree to come back and defend them at the next tournament. Dilshan and Stephen were in agreement. My ass still burns a little now 24 hours later.
Operaman vs. Strong Arm for the 3rd place trophy. Operaman made quick game of Strong Arm, snagging the Delroy trophy. We got one of them still.
Most noteworthy discussion of the night was when Dexter hypothesized that when aliens come to earth, they’re going to see how we kill mice and that’s how they’ll trap us, leading to methodical killing of humans by setting traps on a beer fridge and when humans go for another beer, aliens will have them rigged with some sort of bludgeoning device that will kill us instantly. I like Dexter and I’m glad he lives in my neighborhood.
Okay, this gotta little longwinded. I’ll close with this:
The Panhandle of Texas is a wretched, God-forsaken land that’s flat and smells like shit. Most people that live here, ended up here like they were in a broken down wagon with a busted wheel. They just got stranded. If more people wanted to live here, the nighttime satellite images of the Panhandle wouldn’t look like a torso with two gunshot wounds. The cooler people in Amarillo prefer to live here. It’s hard to explain, but I was very proud of Amarillo and our neighbors in Lubbock by coming together last night and having a blast, breaking bread, conversing and enjoying good sportsmanship. It ain’t a perfect place to live, but I hope we can make it a little closer to perfect.
Oh yeah, technically speaking, Lubbock is not in the Panhandle. It’s Northern Permian Basin. Amarillo owns the Panhandle…all 26,000 square miles of it.
Next tournament is in January. January 12th to be exact. It will be a charity event, raising warm gloves, socks and hats for our homeless population. And we’ll be playing tons of James Brown. Tons of it.
If you know anyone interested in what we’re doing, this is where you find us. Hit us up and I’ll jump you in.
Hand on the plow, nose to the grind, pong on.