Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Croquet Match, Spanish Edition

Alice playing croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs

Todd and I attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.  That’s where we met more than 30 years ago (how could that be??) and started an intense and somewhat volatile relationship that has managed to weather many storms. 

Todd and Steph cerca 1988

Todd and Steph, Christmas 2015, nearly 30 years later
It is funny that Todd is in the Navy, coming from St. John’s.  The NAV is full of former midshipmen who attended the Naval Academy, right across the street in Annapolis.  When they learn that Todd went to St. John’s, they can’t believe that a Johnnie would do something like join the Navy. 

Who is this Johnnie and what is he doing?

How did a nice wild Johnnie turn out to be a straightlaced Naval Officer?

Maybe that’s because their closest experiences with St. John’s is either through meeting the wild girls who are not subject to the Naval Academy’s strict regulations (I know of a Johnnie who regularly seduced middies and kept a part of their uniform as a souvenir—rumor has it that over time she collected the entire uniform, bit by bit), or attending the annual Croquet Match between St. John’s and USNA. 

Middies in formation.  Those uniforms ARE tempting!
Why croquet?  Back in 1982, a freshman named Kevin Heyburn was at some sort of function, chatting with the commandant of the Naval Academy.  “You guys might be smart,” the commandant was rumored to have said.  “But we can beat you in any sport, easy.”  “What about croquet?” asked Kevin.  And the challenge was on.

St. John's back campus...oh, such memories...
Croquet is hilarious.  You have these silly awkward wooden clubs, which you can use like in golf, or swing between your legs for better aim (my preference).  You have to knock a wooden ball about the size of a grapefruit through little wire wickets.  The best is that if you hit another player’s ball, you can put your ball right next to theirs, step hard on your ball, give it a good whack, and send your opponent’s ball flying down the field far away from where they want to be. 

Silence please...we need to concentrate here....
So when we landed here in Spain up at the Rota Naval Base, a number of the sailors happened to have attended the Naval Academy, including CO Greg Pekari, Mike Carsley (of Mike and Ana—he was smart to marry an española), and the XO of the hospital Todd Wagner.  I realized that they had been secretly yearning to play St. John’s in croquet and hand down a resounding defeat—after all, in the 34 matchups between USNA and St. John’s, Navy has won just 7 times. 

This year's St. John's team and 2016 champions....again....
It just so happens that for whatever reason, the Spanish like croquet, too.  Costa Ballena Golf Club has a lovely croquet field, complete with a bar and spectator seats, so we booked June 11th and announced the 1st annual Cádiz Croquet Cup Championship:  USNA vs. St. John’s.  Since there were only Todd and me, I claimed the entire Spanish Navy for our side.  

St.John's/Spain on the left, Navy on the right

Todd was the bullrilla for the Spanish St. John's side
We were joined by my brother David Ressman, who had attended St. John’s for a year in Santa Fe before transferring to the University of Chicago.  He and my sister-in-law Jennifer happened to be visiting us just in time to play in the Cádiz Cup Championship.

Watching the game.  Where are Jennifer and David??
The day dawned sunny and warm, and the St. John’s side had a clear advantage, as the Navy players had attended a fancy banquet the night before (hangovers don’t help swing clubs).   With 10 players on each side, 5 games of 4 players (2 from each side) were organized, with a time limit of 30 minutes, and game on!

Gorgeous weather, perfect field, a bar, and spectators.  What more could you ask for?
Todd and I crushed Navy in the first game, 12 to 8, even though I dug my mallet into the turf several times trying to send my opponent flying.  Mati and Ignacio strategized and bickered, but hung in there with a tie 12-12 score.  

Navy looking worried
David and Jennifer sent several balls out-of-bounds, and turned in a respectable 11-12 near-win.  Javier and Maribel won the “best-dressed” award for our side, perfectly turned out in whites and panama hats, and beat Navy by two points, 12 to 10. 

Best-dressed by far
So when Manu and Nuria, who have never played this crazy game, were up to play last, Manu whispered to me, “All we need are 8 wickets.  Then we’ve won!   And sure enough, with enough luck and missed shots, Manu and Nuria hung in there to clinch the title, 57 to 55.  St. John’s wins the first Cádiz Cup!! 

Ole ole y ole!
Then the next challenge was issued:  Seeing that all Johnnies were departing (David the following week, and Todd and I in September), the USNA officially challenged the Spanish Navy to a rematch next year, and Ignacio (Capitán de la Armada Española) solemnly accepted the challenge.  Hmmm…we may just have to fly in next year to play….

USNA looking good and ready for a rematch

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