I ran a first of it’s kind tournament on Saturday. I tweeted on Saturday night that I felt a bit like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. Well, I built it, and the competitors came, but regrettably the audience didn’t. All in all just about 45 people paid in to watch Chris Bowe lift the first ever Ireland’s Best Grappler title which was a major disappointment considering the feedback and excitement the tournament had been generating. This makes it an impossible proposition for next year unless sponsorship steps in. I do want to do it, and I did have support from the guys at Tatami, but when you lose a sponsor 1 week out then you’re always going to be struggling, and couple that with the disappointing attendance and you have a recipe for a headache.
Luckily, the tournament itself was excellent, and I think everyone enjoyed the day as either a competitor or a fan. Here’s a short diary of how Grapplepalooza happened. Enjoy.
Friday 21st- 4pm. I’ve been out working and coaching all day and I’ve just picked up the sponsor’s banner, the projector for my big screen scoreboard which I hope will look good, and now I’m standing in the engravers office, picking up the trophies and discovering that a mis-communication has cost me about €400. Originally, the Elite competitors were going to get a slightly larger medal than the daytime, then I decided they’d get trophies instead. But somewhere in the emails and phone calls, the engraver has gone and made about 100 of the larger medals for the daytime competitors, instead of the smaller (and cheaper) medals they were supposed to get. It’s too late to get them replaced, so I take them off him. He kindly knocks €20 off the bill but it’s still an overspend of about €400. What a way to start the day.
4.30pm- The first of the mats are arriving at the venue, and I’m sorting out the bar with the venue manager. They want to know how many people are coming in the evening. “I don’t know” doesn’t seem to cut it so I say “Definitely anywhere between 3 and 100”. They don’t appreciate the sentiment, but that’s my genuine answer.
10pm- The hall is clear so Shafty, the mat man and I are laying the mats out and setting up the tables and chairs. The mats look great and while I’ve been gone the lighting guy has been and has dropped off the lights for tomorrow night. There’s more of them than I’d thought so I make a snap decision to light the mats for the daytime tournament too. It’ll be daylight of course but the hall can be a little dull. Midnight ticks around and we’re not done but we’re in at 9am so I drop Shafty home and go and eat a delicious reheated dinner that I don’t even bother to reheat that much. I’m dog tired. I was up until 2am sorting the last entries the night before.
8am- I hop up with the boys to go and realise I’ve forgotten to take the scales from the gym. I contemplate going to get it, but then I remember what Facebook is for. I stick a request up and hope one of my guys sees it and brings one. If not someone is running to Argos before 10am.
9.30am- Someone is supposed to have opened the venue up by now, but instead I’m sitting outside in my car with some firmly locked gates in front of me and the first 30 or some competitors in their cars causing obstructions on Collins Avenue behind me. Eventually someone arrives at 9.40 but they have the wrong key. Some fiddling later and they get the place open. All my guys arrive saying “I saw on Facebook you forgot your scales” but none of them bring one. Hanley runs off home to get his. I remain calm.
10.05am- Hanley has arrived, scales in hand. Colin has started up the computer and we are about to start registration for our 10.30am start. Looking good. The venue looks fantastic but some people are doing their usual thing- ignoring the ringside chairs we’ve laid out in favour of taking chairs down and placing them where they feel they might be more comfortable- usually right in the way of the fire escapes, registration steps, toilets and so on. Getting a bit ratty now and it’s only 10am
10.35am- Advanced divisions start 5 minutes late but not bad considering we were delayed out on the road for 40 minutes. No 3rd laptop for the 3rd ring though. Stephen is due to bring it but he texts to say he’s stuck in traffic. 3rd ring is due to take it’s first division at 11am.
10.55am- Stephen arrives, on his motorbike, laptop in hand. Just in time to get ring 3 going. Looks a little groggy and I suspect my first phone call maybe woke him up but all’s well that ends well and ring 3 starts on time.
1pm- Motoring through the divisions and myself and Colin have had a peaceful day except the system doesn’t like a lad called Ciaran McIlvenney. He was due to go in blue -73.5kgs but the system doesn’t recognise him and he misses the division. We don’t know why or how but he’s a good sport and moves a weight division up and wins silver! Later we decide he must work for Apple, and that’s why our PC doesn’t like him.
1.05pm- Myself and Colin have a coffee from the flask I brought along. Everything going swimmingly except Finlandia runs up and wants to know what we’re doing about Ciaran McIlvenney and the -73.5kg blue belt division. I see a vein on his forehead sticking out. he’s shouting. Apparently they got a mixed message and thought I wanted to re-run the division with him included. The finalists haven’t gone yet. Be calm I tell him. Be Zen like me. Ciaran works for Apple. That’s the problem. Chill. Then he leaves and I weep softly into my own hands.
1.30pm- The last weight class division starts, and we call the absolute. We’re nearly done.
3.20pm- Fín. We crown the last medalists of the day with a thrilling blue belt absolute match between Chris Fields and Andy Brady. Now the work starts on the evening event. We have mats to strip up, a new ring of mats to make. A big screen to erect and DJ equipment and lights to set up. We fly through it and Finlandia and Tom go for pizza, which is their specialty.
5pm- Pizza consumed and arena set up, I nip home to spray on deodorant and put a shirt on. I’d like to look reasonable when handing over the prize money.
6.30pm- The competitors are in and we’re drawing the names out. We do the draw openly in front of everyone and Andy Ryan picks the names. There’s some spicey first round matches. It’s pretty cool.
7pm- Em. Where are all the people who were so excited about this tournament? No one seems to be coming.
7.30pm- Here we go. Not the world’s biggest crowd, but the event is everything I’d hoped for! It goes really well and I’m thrilled to see such a great final with Chris Bowe beating Darragh O’Connaill in the last match. He’s the winner and a very worthy one. He scored 63 points in all and conceded just 2 in the final against Darragh.
11pm- It’s over, the mats are in the van and I’m in the bar! Never again, until next time!