Luck Is Believing You’re Lucky

Luck is believing you’re lucky.

-Tennessee Williams.

As much as I love Team Limited events, Grand Prix Louisville is a tournament I’d like to erase from my memory. It was the first time in all my years of attending GP that I have EVER gone 0-3 drop. It was barely lunch time and my teammates and I had already collected our gear from the hotel and hit the road for home with our tails between our legs.

On second thought, last weekend actually had some pretty interesting moments and so maybe it isn’t best to completely strike it from the record. I guess I should start from the beginning…

The weekend started in rocky territory. I found out on Friday morning that our B seat player Kyle Boggemes was not able to make the trip. Kyle, Stu Parnes, and I had spent three weeks practicing building and playing Sealed pools and now it appeared we might not even be able to attend the event!

By some unreal twist of fate it turned out that another Ann Arbor grinder, Alex John, hadn’t been able to pull a team together either and answered our call:

As much as I was bummed that Kyle couldn’t make it (he’s a great player and a fun dude to hang with), I was equally relieved and psyched that Alex would be joining forces with Stu and I. Alex has had success at Team Sealed GPs in the form of a Top 4 finish alongside Ari Lax and Matt McCullough. Aside from being a tremendous Limited player, he’s also a genuinely cool dude to hang out. We had some pretty hilarious encounters when we teamed together at PT Dublin.

On the one hand, it was pretty unlucky that a teammate had to cancel at the last moment, but on the other it was pretty lucky to find a good replacement player on such short notice. Was it extremely unlucky, lucky, or just par for the course in that situation?

I guess it all comes down to how one chooses to look at it. We wouldn’t have needed to get lucky in finding another teammate if we hadn’t gotten unlucky to lose one in the first place. Yet, it does seem kind of unlikely to find such a good player on such short notice.

The strange luck didn’t stop there.

When we sat down for deck construction there was a bit of a miscommunication about where exactly we were supposed to sit. We sat down on the end of the table in an L shape and the other team wanted to sit three across. It was one of those, “we can sit however you guys want—I don’t think it matters one way or the other,” scenarios.

As it turns out the team next to us opened the best sealed pool I have EVER seen:


And, it was a foil Archangel Avacyn to boot!

And we opened the worst Sealed pool I’ve ever seen.

I’ve participated in four team vs. team Sealed Deck builds (which is building roughly eight pools) and their pool was easily the best I’ve ever seen by a wide margin and ours was easily the worst by a wide margin.

If we had just arbitrarily changed seats with those guys like they suggested it could all have been ours!

One of my biggest pet peeves with listening to local sports talk radio is that so many hosts put out “hot takes” about how the home team is bad and will lose. It’s kind of a foregone conclusion when it comes to the Detroit Lions, but with the Tigers in the wildcard hunt the popular “hot take” is that they will miss because they are a bad, flawed team.

The team might not be running away with anything but how bad can a team really be when they are 12 games over .500? To me, it seems lazy to say “the team is worse than their record and will fall short” because the implication is that IF they miss the broadcaster gets to to act like they were smart to pick them to lose and if they are wrong and the team strings a few together, nobody cares because the home team is winning.

Having to play a bad Sealed pool is a lot like being a sports talk radio host in a city with a puzzling team chasing a wild card spot. It is easy to say, “pool is bad and you’d be foolish to put your faith in it to carry,” but it is also not very useful or productive to draw the conclusion that all is lost before the games are played.

A good local sports talk host (or a good Sealed player with a questionable pool) will tell you the things that have to go a certain way in order for the underdog to beat the odds that seem stacked against you.

We built a GB Delirium deck, a UW Skies deck, and a RB Vampires deck and hoped for the best. Stu played our RB Vampires deck, and it was by far the worst RB Vampires deck I’ve seen built across 5 Sealed builds.

This was the opposite of an Arrogant Vampire deck…

Stu actually played the heck out of that deck to a 2-1 record! Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and we went down 0-3 after three hard fought rounds.

The upside is that getting to team up and play with three friends is a ton of fun. It is certainly more fun to lose alongside three buddies than to go down in flames alone. Nobody likes to lose, but we (and our opponents) were still having a pretty fun time even in the haven’t-won-yet bracket.

Also, it felt very unlucky that there were constantly insane Pokemon like Ivysaur, Exegguctur, and Scyther in the “sightings” radar and I never spawned any of them. Talk about a real bad beat… (Yes, I am addicted to Pokemon Go and I don’t care if you think less of me for it).

When we get back to the motel (which we had booked for another night) we walk up to our room to find the door wide open and unlocked. Obviously, we are terrified that all of our laptops have been stolen (it would be just our luck, right?). Miraculously, despite the fact that the door was left wide open and there were multiple shirtless dudes wandering around the second floor balcony smoking cigarettes and drinking from paper bags, nothing was missing. Remind me again, is it unlucky the housekeeper left our door open or very lucky that nobody wandered in?

Maybe we can turn our near disaster into a windfall and get our reservation cancelled for the following night (since we are going home early anyways). After all, they did screw up by putting all of our property at risk by leaving our door open and unlocked. If we had been planning to stay in Louisville another night I wouldn’t have wanted to stay in that roach motel another night.

Another opportunity for bad luck to turn into good luck…?

Have you ever been to a motel? Yeah, 0% chance of that happening. Stu did a good job of presenting our case to the manager but I could see her eyes basically glaze over as she went into a disengaged loop of, “uh-huh” and head nod while Stu expressed his concern at a very messed up situation.

As we walked back to the car I frustrated mutter: “Guys, at some point on this trip something is going to happen where we don’t get completely tased…”

Fast forward three hours…

We are driving up I-75 North a few hours from Ann Arbor. Stu is asleep in the backseat. Alex is behind the wheel and we are having a random conversation about the pros and cons of dating people older or younger than yourself.

We’ve been making decent time despite the fact that our speed has consistently been five under because of light rain and drizzle for the past hour and a half.

Neither of us even noticed that there was sitting water on the road until it was much too late. Honestly, I don’t even think that it would have been possible to tell if we had been specifically looking for it. Wet road all looks the same: shiny and black.

It all happened very fast although it felt like it was going in slow motion. We hit standing water and started hydroplaning hard to the right. Alex tried to regain control of the vehicle by pulling it hard back to the middle of the road and we went into a spin.

Although the whole ordeal only lasted a few seconds it easily felt like minutes. As we were in full spin and facing the wrong way on the freeway I remember seeing a car swerve hard to our right to avoid hitting us head on. Alex was trying to bring the vehicle to a stop as we were sliding hard left, facing the wrong way, and heading toward the guardrail on the side of a hill. I remember thinking, “There’s no way we are going to stop in time.”

Fortunately, we somehow came to a complete stop inches from the rail—facing completely backwards. Nobody was hurt. There was no damage to the vehicle. Stu had woken up during the spin and though disoriented was snapping into very concerned mode and asking what the heck just happened. Alex was visibly shaking. He explains, we didn’t hit anything and it looks like everything is all right…

We had come uncomfortably to the brink of something very bad happening…

But it didn’t. Long contemplative silence. Stu says: “Remember when you said that at some point on this trip something is going to happen where we don’t get completely tased… So, yeah…”

Is it unlucky to have almost gotten into a horrific accident? Is it very lucky that given the extremely unlucky circumstances the outcome was best-case scenario?

I don’t know. Yes?

All I know is that nobody complained about how unlucky our bad Sealed pool was for the rest of the drive home. We rocked out to Die Antwoord (which I had never listened to before) and told stories about other fun times we’d had with friends at tournaments over the years.

I won’t even pretend to understand how to qualify or quantify what luck is, yet I am certain I am lucky to have such great friends.

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