A young African American mat coordinator approaches me and asks,
Under normal circumstances, I’d find this ironic.
But my sense of irony was lost five pounds ago.
I am White Masters.
White Belt, Masters division.
Even though I was competing at the Worlds, I was considerably less nervous than previous competitions.
The IBJJF Worlds, or Mundials as it is known to Brazillians, is the most prestigious Gi Jiu-Jitsu Tournament in the World.
The day before, I drove down with AW as my co-pilot.
He impressed me by being able to navigate the Sunset Strip only using knowledge gleaned from Grand Theft Auto.
We stopped at the Comedy Store, had front row seats ($40/ticket) to see Joe Rogan, Bryan Callen and Chris De’lia. De’lia roasted me for five minutes for using the restroom in between sets.
The next morning we awoke to our hotel being protested by a labor union.
Bullhorns, picketers and a giant Inflatable Bed Bug all were chastising our hotel.
It ended up being a blessing in disguise, because they allowed us to stay in the room until 4 P.M.
We drove to the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach. Checked our weights and returned to the hotel to sweat out the subsequent three pounds.
Only three American-born Black Belts have ever won gold at this tournament.
Which means our solidly Swiss-Irish lineage would be a disadvantage.
I say, disadvantage, because AW lost by an advantage point in his semi-final match to a guy who ended up winning the whole tournament.
An advantage is an extremely subjective ruling that determines the winner of close matches and is generally awarded to the competitor that demonstrates more Brazillianess or whose team has more clout within the IBJJF.
Wait? Did my tongue slip there? My fingers? Or did AW go up against a student of the most decorated IBJJF competitors in recent history, Rafa and Gui Mendes?
The Mendes Brothers are to Jui Jitsu Competition, what the Menendez Brothers were to their Parents.
Ten World Titles between the two…..
And I had to coach my little brother against them, standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
The “Who the **** is this guy’ looks were palpable.
“PAUL VINCENT WILSON WHITE MASTERS!” my mat co-ordinator is excarbated.
I guess I just wanted to squeeze every ounce of irony out of the situation.
My division is being summoned. The white belt, masters division(over 30).
My first match was uneventful. I won on points.
The second match, more of the same.
I remember noticing that my opponent and I were wearing matching Under Armour Underwear. Which gave me pause.
Even though I dominated him, took his back, almost finished him….blah blah blah… I ended the match exhausted and wanting to vomit.
I remember clearly thinking to myself.
“Paul even your dog has the decency to puke under the couch. It can wait. ”
Fortunately, I had enough time to watch the other semi-finals between a guy from Kazakhstan and an American from Werdum’s gym.
I have a robust fear of anyone from an Eastern block country who is making enough money to travel to America.
So when the American won, I was naturally relieved.
My final match against the American was a rout.
I lost on points.
9-0. No excuses, the guy was better than me.
After my match I went to the sidelines, took my Gi top off and my ref yelled at me in Portoguese.
I understood him perfectly, but wanted to amp things up in the same vein of my White Masters dilemma an hour ago.
I left my shirt off, and repeatedly ask my Ref “What’s the problem.”
He got so angry and flustered that what little English he knew had escaped him.
It took him about 3 minutes to finally stammer, “Put. Shirt. Put Shirt on”
It was a small moral victory, in my otherwise Silver Medal effort.