Like so many other games in our thrilling 13th season, No. 372 went down to the wire last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square.
We drew nine folks for the final tilt in the 2018 Bar Room Brawl Series, including observer Ben DiPaola–the reluctant Diplomat, former Sneak member, and father of the Red Wednesday tradition–and safeties Chris Kelly and Brian Shelden. The presence of the safeties was fortunate, as we had to tap Kelly (France) to make seven. Shelden promptly skulked home for some much-needed sleep, but DiPaola stuck around to watch the game, advise newcomer Joyce Merkel (Germany) as needed, and sneak in some professional development reading. DiPaola slipped out at around 9:30 to buy some cigars for the post-game discussion…so he wasn’t present when we needed him to conduct a dramatic draw vote on the penultimate turn.
With all seven players in the game and our impartial observer in search of tobacco, we turned to Founding Weasel Dan Burgess’ custom draw cards to resolve the vote. Mike Morrison (Austria) shuffled the votes and then revealed them one at a time, planning to stop on the first green “Continue Playing” card to shroud the vote count in at least a bit of mystery. Alas, the first green card was the last one revealed, so as we played the final year, with Jim O’Kelley (England) and Kelly tied at eight and Christian Kline (Turkey) at seven, we knew someone thought he or she could improve his or her score but could only guess as to whom. (After the game, Christian Kline copped to the green card.)
As 1905 wended to conclusion, it looked like all three contenders would improve their scores. In fact, the odds kept shifting among all three, various combinations of two, and different sprinters alone finishing with nine centers. But Merkel–who had declined the novice privilege of selecting from France and Turkey, and channeled namesake Angela throughout the evening–and the three minor powers had other ideas. The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
Austria (Mike Morrison): 2; 1.709 points.
England (Jim O’Kelley): 8; 27.350 points.
France (Chris Kelly): 8; 27.350 points.
Germany (Joyce Merkel): 6; 15.385 points.
Italy (Jake Langenfeld): 1; 0.427 points.
Russia (Ravi Betzig): 1; 0.427 points.
Turkey (Christian Kline): 8; 27.350 points.
A couple of final notes.
First, we played on the first Wednesday of the month rather than the second because the Red Lion will be closed next week. Trusty barkeeps Joe and Sue deserve a break, too.
Second, in the category of pop culture references, “When you come at the Scorpion, you best not miss.” Morrison, Langenfeld and Betzig opened against Kline. They finished the game with a combined four centers, half as many as their target owned.
It was a great year for the Brawl. Betzig and Merkel were two of the 11 players who participated in the Brawl for the first time. Betzig will play at the Pyle next week (Aug. 12 at the American Legion hall in Evanston) but will then head back to Providence, R.I., where he attends school at Brown. We will miss him. As for Merkel, we hope to see her again. She seemed to have fun, negotiated well, listened to everyone’s advice, but consistently turned in her own moves…which could be described, fairly, as effectively wild.
In all, 30 players participated in the 12 Brawl games this year. The field for the 2018 Bar Room Brawl Championship will be announced at the Pyle. The game will be scheduled later.
As for the 2019 Bar Room Brawl Series, it opens on September 12 at the Red Lion. Hope to see you there.