by David Porter, MOJO Manager

Mojos arrived in Las Vegas in small groups this year. Ron and Joe brought Jerry Channel and a bottle of Grand Marnier with them on Thursday. Rick McCoy arrived like a Saudi prince with his entire family and, rumor has it, a couple of very nice goats. Peter and his wife snuck in on Wednesday. Glenn, Lisa, and Jim Hilliker arrived like sensible folk on Friday early. Again, the jungle drum gave word that Dr. Don might be with them. I can only attest to any of this secondhand.

I joined Lyle, Sharon, Roddy and Joanne at one end of PDX while Eric and Mattakazi took up positions at the other. It was midday Friday and our goal was to race planes to LV. We'd staked our hopes on Alaska and The Durable Duo were flying America's West. When the dust settled on the tarmac in LV, it was a win for Eric and Matt who'd arrived far enough ahead of us that they'd reached baggage claim by the time we were sorting ourselves out. Without further ado we called Glenn for transport while the two couples picked up a rental vehicle of their own.

Dusk found us checking in at Tuscany Suites, Cellblock N. By six pm, we were convened in the third floor and beginning to carve out our strategy. But, putting first things first, we brought the Juju in and ensconced it in a prime place under the corner lamp.

Coach JuJu

Everyone was in agreement that food was going to be needed soon. And alcohol. Some dispute existed as to which should come first, but that was quickly resolved with the agreement to send an expeditionary force consisting of everyone to the nearest Quickie Mart or similar establishment. Each person had their own objectives. Eric, for example, was killing a viral thing and prescribed bourbon and red meat followed by sleep as his goal. Together we marched in jolly procession to the nearest intersection where one could purchase anything from massage to liquor. Having acquired a supply of chips and beverages of various sorts, we marched in even more jolly procession back again. Imbibing occasionally shortened our journey.

Upon our return to the "N"otorious block we found that others of our crew were in the bar waiting our return. The MOJOS home base was established in my room, and arrangements for dinner were quickly put on the table. I cannot testify to what happened to the crowd that headed with high spirits off to the Japanese restaurant down the road a piece. I can only imagine, based on the photographic evidence of Dr. Makande using chopsticks on a rather sizable fish, that it was not a great display of manners. As manager, I was concerned about my responsibility to 'sign in' at the Tournament HQ before 10 pm. I joined Eric and Mattakazi in the restaurant of the Tuscany Suites which allegedly featured Tuscan cuisine. Other members of the crew departed under the leadership of Glenn and Lisa to endeavor to learn the use of chopsticks and the five secret names of sushi. Having dispatched our various critter based meals, three of us set off for Harrah's where team check-in was scheduled. Jim Hilliker had returned from a initial foray into the heart of gaming and was ready to have a little constitutional. So he, I and Mattakazi walked to registration, a pleasant experience compared to the previous year. I actually got the "manager tee shirt".

Meanwhile, back at Cellblock N, arrangements were being made for more arrivals. Rock and Scott Denis and his wife Marty were due in just before the witching hour. A fair amount of alcohol was sacrificed in the effort to fuel preparation for the morning's big event, the match against Shamrocks. But uncharacteristically early, Mojos sauntered off to their various abodes with the goal a sleep before battle.

Dawn came early. Glenn and others were up in the twilight looking for breakfast. Those of us not so hearty were pouring coffee into our gullets and hoping we had at least two shin pads in our possession. Confusion crept in as we attempted to assemble. Some thought we were gathering at the parking area, cellblock N. Some thought we were assembling at the lobby so our far flung comrades could find us. Some, Rock for example, were sure that someone was coming to get them... soon. The confusion became apparent as the horde of Mojos wandered through the grounds of the Tuscany Suites. Roy (who'd arrived before anyone and was 'staying with a client') called in to ask our GPS location. Peter checked in from his luxury suite somewhere on the Strip and left hurriedly in search of the Jockey Club and Rock. The rest of us piled into a menagerie of vehicles and began issuing conflicting directions to the fabled fields of the Washington-Buffalo complex.

Pictures courtesy of Sharon McBride and David Porter.



So it was that vehicle after vehicle pulled into the parking area and its occupants were heard to say, "Is this it? We're really gonna play on these fields? Man, these are good fields." In numerical order, eight, level, sizable, well-marked, lit fields with a cushioned artificial grass surface descended in lovely terraces through this complex which put anything we'd seen in Portland to shame. Our field lay glistening and chemical green under the morning sun. A slight breeze gave a fresh character to the early day. Mojos began running about on the field with balls. Coach Juju, ever attentive, was placed on the penalty spot at one end of the field. With a slight sense of uncertainty, players asked each other, "Is this really our field?" in that it exceeded anything we'd ever seen in the tournament before.

The answer, though, was clear at the far end of the field where a cluster of green jerseyed Shamrocks were assembling. We'd seen them before. We'd see them again. The appointed moment for the start of our match came and went. No officials presented themselves on the scene. Casting our gaze over the distant landscape, we saw a cluster of Ref uniforms, where they were apparently being briefed on the tournament or having a religious ceremony. After a few minutes, our pair of officials arrived. And so the 2006 Tournament began!

What became apparent within minutes was that this Shamrocks team was not the one we had faced the previous year. True there were some familiar faces, but there were also big rangy guys who looked like they'd graduated from their college soccer careers in the early Nineties. Shamrocks moved the ball well- guick and organized passing of the sort we always tell ourselves we should do. Our strategy of beating them with control broke down pretty quickly. Fair enough, we were assertive, but they welcomed our physical play with their own. Eric, who'd asserted that he was going to 'own the goalmouth' was very assertive, coming out fast and hard against the waves of attack. In one instance, though, the ball got loose and ended up in the net. In another, a hard shot just under bar slammed through his fingers. Our counterattacks were mounted more as stabs into enemy turf than campaigns and the Shamrock defense handled most of the play without much difficulty. On the sidelines, unbeknownst to us, Coach JuJu was steaming! By the end of the game, he was hardly visible behind the window of the juju shrine. As we gathered up to take a post game picture, we were shaking our heads over the four - nil result, but good cheer was the dominant emotion: we had survived our first game as the neo-Mojos and were determined that a brighter future lay ahead.

The next important question was whether to return to the Tuscany Suites or to seek out nourishment somewhere close by. Various Mojo contingents chose different options. Rick McCoy had yet more family members arriving and needed to return to home base. Glenn, Lisa and others felt that finding breakfast or some similar sustenance in the area was desirable. Team manager Porter believed that a quick trip to a nearby store was desirable: supplies for Mojos Central being a looming critical issue. Thus it was that I found myself wandering the aisles of K-Mart and piling sodas, juices, waters, chips, and similar items of quick refreshment in a cart driven by Scott Denis and Rick McCoy. Rick's son's plane was arriving imminently and so we scooted through the aisles. At the least, we were better prepared for the next phase of Mojos in Vegas. Martha Stewart didn't make an appearance.

Back at the Tuscany I packed away the supplies knowing that there would be a gathering later. As the day wore on, it became clear that the logistics of reassembling the Mojos at the field was going to be challenging. Despite the challenges, the gold and black trickled back to the venue in the warm sunlight of the early afternoon. Around us, games were being won and lost as the tournament progressed.

Power Outfit

In the hard midday light, though we were treated to a sight seldom seen by soccer players anywhere. Sam Imperati, legendary counsel to the movers and shakers of the world, arrived to bolster Mojos' ranks. Attired in his power outfit which included delicate black fairy wings and a cap adorned with bumblebee antennae, Sam blew the illusions of the tournament wide open. This was about the best costume! Forget passing, shooting, and trapping. After making his respects to the Juju, Sam led the Mojos in revving up for the next match. Our opponents? The Mongols from Tucson were up next. I kept asking myself how that made sense. Mongols? Tucson? Are they trying to mess with us? There aint no Mongols in Tucson. And indeed the team trotting onto the field in the warm afternoon sun were not direct descendants of Ghengis Khan. They were, however, decent soccer players.

Playing again on a decent, level, well marked, artificial turf field, Mojos put their best foot forward. And all the indicators were that we could win this thing until the Mongols scored, and then scored again on a penalty kick. Despite putting the ball in front of goal more than once, Mojos couldn't bring the bacon home, and the penalty sealed the deal. [two - nil, Mongols]

We'd played the first round of King Cup and come home emptyhanded. As the long light began to settle over the city that never sleeps, we beelined back toward Tuscany and the soothing elements of the Las Vegas night. Time to lick our wounds and gird ourselves for battle the next day. Oh....and to go out and have a super Mojos Dinner.

(The Following Just Posted 3/16/06!)  
There was, however, a slice of time before the trek to dinner was made. Some of the Mojos, resourcefully, bulled their way into the hot tub where, as was noted in photo documentation, they cavorted with juvenile dolphins. Other members of the entourage were simply overwhelmed with the challenge of gathering their entire clan in order to journey to the meal. Based on serious consultations with the Juju and the analysis of the configuration of several pairs of discarded soccer shorts, Mojos had decided that returning to the legendary Blondies Sports Bar, in the narrow avenues of the Aladdin Casino was the best of all possible worlds.
So it was that the Mojos began to make their way, by car and other transport, to Blondies.

SATURDAY NIGHT Coach Juju was the most inventive in terms of transport. Using his charm, he talked his way into the front basket of a Segway operated by a woman who may have been an off duty showgirl. Reservations for twenty some on Blondie's 'outdoor' plaza had been made by Rick McCoy who'd actually gotten through on the phone. In order to insure that we nailed down the seating, cars were dispatched to reach the Aladdin early and confirm. Alas, late afternoon traffic interfered and we arrived at the pub to find that they'd voided the reservation because our entire party was not present on time. Scott Denis and his wife, Marty, had gotten there with some relatives. And Rock had arrived from the Jockey Club, but they'd only managed to grab a single table. As Mojos began to gather with some frustration, we took matters into our own hands and began commandeering all the empty tables into a coherent row. Manager Dave sweet-talked a quartet of Canadian students into shifting to another table. Shortly, a single long table accommodated the rowdy soccer crew. Orders of food and beverage were made, and an atmosphere appropriate to the occasion fell over the crowd. It was an exciting scene. Across the way from our seats, a daring family of contortionists were giving periodic samples of their show. It included the lithe young female member bending a bow with her feet in order to shoot a golden arrow up into the rafters. Hundreds of tourists out for the night in Vegas ambled past us. The crowd inside the pub and many on the plaza were transfixed with the NFL game on the telly.

But that was not the only entertainment on the evening's agenda. Dr. Don and Sam had pledged to strut their stuff on the dance pole in the bar. Once most of us had fortified ourselves appropriately for such a spectacle, they made their way just inside and, with Don in the lead, climbed to the bar. Don's style seemed to be primarily vertical and embellished with thrusting motions, while Sam was all over the place, including Don. Their jaw dropping display took the bar by storm and other patrons rushed the bar, sticking green bills into Sam's available pockets. Gleefully, Sam dismounted and ran around the plaza waving his loot. We returned to our dinners. And beer. Somehow a stack of Guinness cans was assembled at an Irish commentary on the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

And, so we end Day 1. We now must await David's Day 2 installment.