Saturday, September 15, 2007

My first Averlast tournament.

I've been with Karine Koba's Averlast Gym for a few weeks now, helping out here and there, helping to make gear and equipment to Karine's specifications. When I first got offered the job of making the Averlast clothing line, I only saw the challenge of doing work for a client for a change. Up until then, anything I made was just to satisfy a whim, a sort of "wouldn't it be cool if they sold..." fill in the blank.

In all honesty, I did not expect to be drawn in to the actual workings of the gym itself, much less become a boxer. When I bought a pair of Karine's gloves and squared off with her in the ring on a lark, I quickly got my first taste of the rafters. The gloves are push gloves, designed to knock an avatar up and away if the av gets hit just right. I am certain that if I took a good look at the ceiling of the old Averlast site (now the main store), I'm certain you'd find an Abel-shaped dent or two as a result of my first in-ring misadventure.

But before long I had amassed a large amount of boxing gear that I had designed, and looking the part was easy. Plus the fact that the Averlast regulars like Hot Rockin, Santana Coppola, and others helped keep the atmosphere of the place relaxed and sportsmanlike. With that environment, it was easy to laugh off further forays into low Earth orbit.

But I never could make it to the tournaments. My work situation in real life is such that I could not always get a ride home to make it in time on a Friday night.

Well, yesterday I finally managed. So there I was, after weeks of growing frustration at missing the gym's big weekly event, at last getting ready for my first public match, in the tournament for the lightweight division.

Prep, part one: I hadn't expected to have gotten there in time, so I was in my regular outfit of t-shirt, pants and biker boots. Upon finding out that I was not, in fact, too late, I quickly ducked into the changing area, and changed into a pair of trunks I had made for Karine's vendor: Yellow with black trim, thinking of Philly's fictional hometown hero, Rocky Balboa (and forgetting, in my nervousness, that Rocky's trunks had actually been black with yellow trim; well, my heart was in the right place anyway). For better or worse, the fightin' city of Philadelphia was represented.

Bout One: Listen to the song Also Sprach Zarathustra. After the first big fanfare of trumpets comes a few measures on the timpani drum: Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. My heart. Sparring doesn't prepare you for some things. It doesn't prepare you for the knowledge of hungry eyes watching you, eager for action and ready to judge harshly if you don't deliver. It doesn't prepare you for the thought that this time, it counts, and will be marked down for as long as any who care to remember whether you stand or fall.

And it sure as hell doesn't prepare you for the hellacious lag that accompanies any large group of people assembled in one sim. What a nightmare. It was like watching a movie where two out of every three cels of film had been removed. The only thing that saved me was probably the fact that my opponent (apologies for not naming all names here; I write this on a computer that is not my SL machine, and I have no way to reference names that momentarily escape me Kev Hastings) was suffering through the same thing (UPDATE: He has confirmed this). I can only imagine what we looked like lurching about the ring trying to find each other.

But we were both game. In the end, I won by decision, by one point.

Prep, part two: Obviously this thing with the lag would not do. So between bouts I dove into my Preferences screen and summoned up every lag-reducing trick I could think of: Shiny off. Sun and Moon as light sources only (I half expected the whole place to go dark on me, but this didn't happen). Particles off. Every detail slider down to dead minimum. If it promised performance in trade for blockiness, I zeroed the damn thing out.

Thus, now in a world belonging to a previous generation of 3D, I found myself able to move again.

Bout two: My opponent this time (dammit, Shaun Arliss something; I'll fix this when I get back to my computer, 'cause this is unacceptable) had his own cheering section. Good for him, especially since they were more focused on cheering on their guy instead of laying abuse on his opponent (thanks for being on my side, jesica). The butterflies were gone by now, and I think I was moving with more confidence and focus. Shaun (or Jae, as he seemed to prefer) and I went at each other pretty good for the first two rounds, and I think it was my best match of the night. In the third round I think I had his number, and sent him flying out of the ring at least twice. That left me 2-0 so far.

There was one weird moment where he had just gotten back into the ring, and we were standing there for a moment when the TKO bell was accidentally rung. This led to some confusion, with us, just standing awkwardly in the ring looking at each other, wondering if that was the fight or what. Like I said: Weird.

Bout Three: Versus Dewran Wopat (his name I remember off the top of my head because I had a talk with him this morning, and he's a decent guy). Honestly, the biggest disappointment of the night, but not because of anything Dewran did or didn't do. I had been looking forward to fighting him because he was more experienced than my two prior matches. The first round showed real promise, but at the bell his client crashed. One of those "long walk" crashes that had him out of the ring and wedged up against the wall of the gym. So we waited for him to get back on, which, fortunately, wasn't long. He stuck with it, even though he was clearly having trouble. He lost, but really it was more due to SL going haywire than anything I did. An honest opponent deserves better than that, and I'll gladly give him a rematch when he wants one.

So that was my 3-0 record established. After the lightweight tournament was over, I had a chat in IM with the division's champion, Alma Despres. During the course of our talk, I felt that, while I'd won, and it felt good, I hadn't yet proven myself. One night doesn't mean a title shot.

But there's always next week.

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