I’ve seen a lot of sport fanatics, but nothing prepared me for the ‘Tournament of Shuffleboard’ on the transport/recreational ship I was taking from Maizuru to Otaru Japan. It was a 2 day trip. Deck chairs, loungers and a small pool the sole outdoor amenities. There was a cafeteria dining room closed in the afternoon and after 7:30 p.m. too. The beer and snack food machines throughout the ship very expensive or dear, if you’re British.
I thought it rather odd there were so many Seniors on this trip. My wife had purchased my ticket and had said this date difficult to get. I was already an oddity as some looked at me with somber disapproval walking away shaking their head negatively. However, there were many who wanted to speak English and bought me bento and sushi. From badly broken English, I learned this trip was a grudge match to decide the true Shuttleboard champion of Nippon: I knew they meant shuffleboard, but pronunciation of f gave them difficulty.
At first the match seemed civil, but soon there was a slight quibble, then a brouhaha ensued. I heard words I had read on bathroom walls innocently trying to improve my Japanese reading and writing skill. Any observer on this ship could tell who was and wasn’t a practicing Buddhist. As I watched in amazement, one man slapped the puck hard and it flew in the air. I guess he knew I had missed breakfast, but it was okay after a few chews.
Soon pucks were flying in every directions; but mostly in mine. I got a black eye and it hurt, so I left and got some ice. I could hear the players demanding each side be disqualified, so they got their wish. The horn went off and all games cancelled that day because of a puck shortage. Everyone silently packed up their equipment. A few sumimasen were said, then off to the bar they went.
Everyone had calmed down with goodwill abounding after drinking Osake and singing shuffleboard songs. They all got along, so I proposed a civil tournament in the morning. The leader of each side shook my hand, instead of bowing because they liked the plan. So, everything was set and they gave their word of honor to be civil in their unrest. Everything looked kosher. It was the sweet smell of success, but the wind fragrance the next morning would cause any mariner to sense a dangerous tempest.
The night been calm and swaying on the waves lulled me into a deep sleep. However, after breakfast the sea started getting rough. Waves with white caps started slamming into the ship. The shuffleboard players seemed unconcerned as they set up for match play. They wore magnetic shoes because of previous similar experience that had once ruined an important game.
They seemed oblivious to the buffeting winds and the rocking of the ship. Their wives held up a large tarp to keep the Shuffleboard surface from getting too wet. They were amazing competitors and the match close and exciting. The intensity of the storm had grown, but one man, drenched by a wave, did not lose his focus when pushing the puck for what should have been the winning shot.