I have stolen a precious hour to devote myself to scribbling another "blast from the past" for those of you who enjoy the good ol' days!
Ok...let's talk about the greatest rivalry in Jai Alai history in Basque Country: Txikito de Bolivar (for most experts, Bolivar was THE best player EVER to grace the cancha) versus Uriarte (Cachin).
The former leads me into the narrative of my excursion to the charming town of Durango, province of Bizkaia, 20 minutes from Bilbao (the capital).
I awoke to discover from my bedroom window a humidity-laden, dismal, soggy summer morning in Bilbao. My friend, Luis, had reminded me the day before the partido via telephone that he would pick me up in front of my hostel at approximately 2:00 p.m. Punctual as always, I climbed into Luis's lemon-yellow Renault and we headed toward Durango with much excitement and anticipation.
We parked the auto and leisurely walked with umbrellas in hand up to the plaza in the center of town. There were mobs of locals lining the bars and restaurants trying to shield themselves from the pelting drops. We managed to score a couple of stools in a reputable bar known for their delectable cuisine. We partook of some of the most mouth-watering pintxos I had ever tantalized my taste buds with ("pintxos" are "tapas"...appetizers made-to-order...usually eaten with a fine glass of wine or a cold beer)!!
Fully satisfied, we made our path across to the Eskurdi Jai Alai. As expected, there was a very long line of aficionados with umbrellas in tow, waiting for the doors to open of the fronton. Luis and I stepped up to the threshold of the entrance and proudly displayed our highly coveted tickets in hand: Row #7, middle of the cancha! It was a sold-out venue, with folk of all ages dispersed throughout the fronton. The main partido was Txikito de Bolivar and Markoida (red shirts) vs. Uriarte and Arratibel (blue shirts). My heart was pounding when the players entered the cancha to practice. It was a superb match;the 6'3" giant, Markoida, who earned his reputation in Bridgeport Jai Alai (CT), played an outstanding game. He caught the impossible as well as the possible...he was on FIRE! Bolivar and Uriarte delighted the crowd with an exquisite repertoire of shots: cortadas, caroms, chic-chacs, dejadas, and just one costado (A "costado" was not utilized very much by these legends, but today, most FC players pull this shot out of their tool box.). The match was a nail-biter; Uriarte tied the score at 34-34 with a powerful cortada...pandemonium ensued!! The referees halted the next point for 10 minutes in order for people to place bets on the final outcome! Bolivar hand-selected a brand-new pelota and passed it to Arratibel to inspect its quality. As the crowd hung in the balance, Bolivar bounced the ball a couple of times and served the the ball. Who says that serving isn't a difficult task? Don't tell Bolivar that it's a piece of cake!! He underserved by a country mile!! The fans went ballistic and Bolivar turned his eyes and arms towards the heavens swearing at God Almighty! After the initial shock had passed, the audience supplied a standing ovation to all of the players for such athleticism and showmanship! Luis and I could not cease commenting upon all the highs and lows of the game all evening...whoooo...it was unforgettable, believe me!
Well, another hour, another adventure. God Bless Jai Alai, Laca and the USA, as usual.
Tony and the Crew