Re(1): Magic City Observations & My Own View of "Holding" Posted on October 7, 2021 at 01:47:30 AM by Stu Neiman
I am both surprised and glad you watched Bada and appreciate your positive comments regarding the commentary. The "holding" you mention and the hand raising that day I can try to explain.
First, if you have the time I would suggest watching a Magic City performance from beginning to end to see the full pari-mutuel product. We start promptly at 1:30 and are done in 2 hours, 40 min max. "Early" players are scheduled in our first two games then middle, then "feature" singles are games 6 & 8. In doubles a weaker player is pared with a stronger player and partners do not rotate.
Your first observation was of the player "Juice." Like many of our players he first picked-up a cesta in January of 2018. He holds onto the ball comparatively longer than his opponents and I don't see that changing. That is his "motion." He's had a long, difficult time coming back from knee surgery in January and then his doubles partner was (is) out for an extended time. We were quite happy he managed a win. I'll further address "holding" in a moment.
The bearded player is "El Barba" and his throwing-his-hands-up in victory annoyed all of us that day. Off the court he lives a perfectly clean lifestyle, no drinking, active in his community & church and is a great dog parent. He picked-up Jai-Alai in 2018 at 40 as one of the UM recruits and is fiercely competitive with a low tolerance for frustration. We encourage players to show individuality and emotion on the court but are still fine-tuning the boundaries. The prior week he had been reprimanded and fined for acting out in H2H where we are (have to be) a little less tolerant as we are building-out this new product for an entirely new audience. So what you saw was some residual frustration (probably mostly with me) being acted-out. What frustrates me most about him is that he has some of the best Jai-Alai instincts of any of our first year players but this is a tough game to pick-up over 40. I have allot of respect for him even as he often drives me nuts.
The subject of what does and does not constitute "holding" is a tough one because it is relative and "relative" is uncomfortable when one is speaking about rules, policies and procedures. Jesus Olivera has posted MANY examples questioning "good or bad" in social media. If you look on YouTube at videos from the 1950's & 1960's both reverses & forehands were all "quick-release." In essence the momentum of the ball being caught pushed the cesta back and it was thrown without what we now call "gathering or controlling" - which added another step to the process around 1970. So many of the legends of the sport saw play becoming more "dirty" into the later 70's & 80's ("dirty" = "holding" to some). In the 1980's some players were taught to play "dirtier" - holding the ball for maybe an extra 1/2 second or second, taking a step or "taking a picture" (scanning the court) especially on the costado. The best example of this was probably when the Miami players Billy and Ramon II went to play at Milford for the summer and the judges blew the whistle shortly after they caught the ball and "began their throwing motion." Jump another 20 years and there are some who believe that Goiko catching the ball at the 13 line and throwing it at the 11.25 line is "a little dirty." My point is that the concept of "holding" has either evolved or devolved over time.
What most of us do agree on is that every Jai-Alai player of whatever skill level has their own unique posture when catching and throwing. I am as honest about Magic City's faults as our benefits and not training-away some of the bad habits has been an unintentional consequence. Why not change it? This is how these players earn their living and our focus has been on maximizing and rewarding "effort." So the judges were not giving him any break - he plays like that every day. Thats how we know when one of our player's "holds" they add something (step, swing or motion) to how they throw every other time - and that is really how its been done in the traditional Jai-Alai world (at least here in the US for the last 30+ years).