Friday, April 10, 2009

WEEK IN REVIEW: The Tianjin Ultimate event

TIANJIN -- Manure is part nitrogen, part phosphorus pentoxide and part potassium oxide. The composition ratio depends on the type of manure -- farm yard manure, compost manure (a rural and urban variety), green manures, sewage and sludge, oil cakes, bone meal, sheep and goat droppings, Nickelback albums... just to name a few -- but for the sake of simplicity, we'll focus on three elements: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Together in fertilizer, they are sometimes expressed as N-P-K. These are the building blocks of manure, and they are, in isolation and proper proportion, excellent sources of food for the soil, like nature's vitamin. (You will remember from high school biology that the nitrogen cycle involves ammonification of compost and living detritus by bacteria and fungi, followed by nitrification to produce nitrites and nitrates that yield nitrogen (N2) into the atmosphere while feeding it back into plants and animals. Manure, essentially, helps plants soak up atmospheric nitrogen in a process called nitrogen fixation, thus feeding both the soil and itself.) Phosphorus, a desiccant, purifies the soil while potassium facilitates absorption; working in tandem, they set up nitrogen like a pair of practiced eunuch wingmen.

Now, that said, it all still smells an awful lot like shit.

Ergo, should never, ever be used near a sports field.

Manure is best utilized on grass, but there was none in the gray, drab, utterly depressing conurbation of concrete and construction dust that was Tianjin. A man could set foot in the city and lose his soul. An extraterrestrial scout may land in this dustbin and figure Earth another asteroid, devoid of cause for salvation. This is where spirits go to die, like the lone gray grassland wolf with its tail between its legs, sniffing talus and rimrock, having traversed a desert flaked with the seed and saliva of the deceased. Never mind that there was no green grass -- there wasn't even green artificial grass, as the turf was mostly covered with black rubber pebbles -- artificial manure. Slick and hazardous. The "grass" fields were awash in yellow, with large blotches of black, like tarmac, probably due to Chinese New Year's fireworks. Surely no groundskeeper was fertilizing this area, since they didn't even bother cleaning it up. What, then, could have been the source of the stench?

And I assure you, it was as foul a stench as they come.

I submit to the panel three possibilities:

1. Pit gas poisoning. Pit gas poisoning describes the release of hydrogen sulfide gas, produced through manure degradation, into the atmosphere in excess quantities. If you've smelled sulfide gas -- think rotten eggs mixed with curdled milk -- you know this isn't pretty.

2. A large pit of filth and excrement situated directly underneath the turf field where the showcase games were played, connected via pipes or tunnels to smaller pits and repositories underneath the school's squat toilets. This is actually the most likely scenario.

3. A game of farting one-upsmanship between Joe and Jeff taken beyond its natural conclusion. Or, simply: gaseous brinksmanship. This, incidentally, is why nuclear states are so worried about rogue states like North Korea possessing atomic warheads: because lunatics control them. Mutally assured destruction? Deterrence? Forget it. One fart and the world goes KABLOOEY.

The after-party was good, though. I will let the pictures and videos (they'll be up as soon as China re-unblocks YouTube, I promise) speak for themselves. Just know there was good food, then battle caps, then announcements, then guys taking off their shirts for, it seemed, little to no reason, then Yin taking off her shirt, then Jeff's China Nationals announcement, which he was only allowed to give after he took off his shirt -- after much hesitation, mind you -- and -- the cause of the hesitation -- noticing two strips of bandaids covering his nipples, ripped them off like a man. He did not whimper or wince, or if he did I, along with everyone, was too mired in laughter to notice.

Someone from Air Kazak stood and -- shirt off, of course, because half-nakedness was our version of the conch -- announced to the room that Kazak only had 10 players at this tournament so maybe they underperformed, but come China Nationals, "We're going to have a surprise for you." The Tianjin players, sitting in a roundtable next to ours but opposite from Kazak, only smiled. (I have Tianjin pegged as the favorites, by the way.)

Then there were disc races, the first one won by the team of Joe Pellicano and Jason Lippman -- barely -- over Shanghai's Phil Wiese and Phil's partner. This went on for a while. Again, videos will surface later.

All in all, a successful tournament. Edward Wang -- tournament director -- was the star of the show, and befitting a star, he chugged at least one full bottle of beer at the after-party -- shirtless, of course -- this on top of the beer he drank at lunch (yes, they served beer at lunch, along with pretty delicious box meals) and all the drinking he did afterwards, much of it prompted by Beijing's Jim Kirchhoff. We're not entirely sure what became of Edward, but if he survived the night, we'll see him at China Nationals in about a month.

This last paragraph was written while on a wine buzz and I absolutely, positively cannot think of a witty/good way of ending this post.

China Ultimate's coverage of the tournament here.

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