Thursday, April 28, 2016

2016 FIMBA Pan-American Games in Costa Rica

Newark International Airport
Friday April 22, 2016
Day One
Newark, New Jersey
4:00 AM

                      
                      Do you know the way to San Jose?

Dionne Wawick is fly...video
                 Life is great. The renovated airport stretches 
and yawns with the early morning sun, as other people 
step with purpose, travel anxiety, and large baggage.  
I patiently stand at the counter of American Airlines, 
and hand over my flight info, and passport, all the 
while holding hands with Coltrane dancing in my ears.  
A Love Supreme  Others are in somewhat of a rush, fumbling 
with printed itineraries, and carry on luggage.  While I, 
the experienced world traveler, max and relax, stepping to 
a different, seamless rhythm. 
                I'm on my way the 2016 FIMBA Maxi-
Basketball Pan-American Games in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Did you get that? San Jose, Costa Rica. FIMBA website  
The week long, festive, extravaganza host over 150 male 
and female basketball teams from all over the world.  
After participating in numerous fifty & over Masters 
regional competitions for the past five years, with my
New York City Sugar Daddy team, I was fortunate to 
get the long distance call from Seattle to play on the 
USA Men's Basketball Team in the over age fifty-
five division.   [Madd, Madd Shout to Tony Greene,
Whimp Ransom, Corky Ortiz, Johnny Pugh, John
Marques, Lorenzo Holloman, and Warren Storey 
to name a few of our regulars]

        2016 FIMBA Pan American Games Opening Ceremony

                                "Experience of a Lifetime...Incredible"

Like I said, "Life is Great."  Right about know I'm feeling
so good at the airline counter that I could almost fly to
Costa Rica without the need of an aircraft. I glance back
at the extremely long line that has formed with weary, 
predawn travelers, and I wonder how many of them
will be going to the FIMBA games in San Jose?  Nobody
behind me is taller than 6'1".  The pleasant, middle aged
reservation agent hands me back my passport and boarding
pass and she says,"OK Mr. Woods, you're all set to go...Just 
place you're luggage up here on the scale, and you'll be on 
your way to San Jose, California." That is the moment 
when I stopped holding hands with Coltrane...and the 
music stopped dancing in my ears.















So somehow, someway, my prepaid, round trip, economy 
class, Travelosity ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica was 
booked, and paid for, and printed as a round trip, economy 
class passage to San Jose, California!  Dionne Warrick is 
fine, but I not trying to go to Cali right now. The ticket
agent didn't miss a beat, and starts typing a thousand 
words a second, exactly the same pace as my heart.
An eternity passes, and she says she has a flight to
Dallas, and a connecting flight to San Jose....Costa
Rica for only $1,545.00 ...I calmly and respectfully
say, "That's not gonna happen. Please keep typing."
She never looks up, and if she did look up I 
wouldn't have know it, because my head was 
buried in my hands. She types for another eternity
and finds me a significantly better opportunity,
we press the plastic and I'm out.

Unificacion en Las Americas Video 


                          


                           The FIMBA USA members present an
                         Award of Appreciation to "El Presidente"
                       Dr. Ruben Rodriguez Lamas the founder of
                           FIMBA MaxiBasketball FIMBA Maxi Website
                                   
The Scouting Report  
Day Two
Sunrise
Aportel La Sabana Hotel
San Jose, Costa Rica

...I am up early and head down to breakfast area...
at pool-side...next to the waterfall...right next to the 
palm trees...   "Ola, come estas?" I respond 
confidently, "Pas y Bendiciones."  "My man's and 
them" Marlon has got the fire red taxi warmed up 
and ready to take me back to the Juan Santamaria 
International Airport in Alajuela, to get the rest of 
my luggage. [I'll tell you about that dramatic episode 
later.] We wheel down Highway One and before 
you could say "arroz con polio" we were at the 
airport.  Bueno...I collect "my untagged black bag", 
and want to kiss all within arms reach.









      





Back to the hotel in no time, I hit Marlon with some
0f those "pretty colones" and he nods his approval.  
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED and I enter the 
tiled courtyard and meet some of my teammates 
for the first time.  


                         The currency in Costa Rica: Colones

And now, drum-roll...Por favor...Damas y Caballeros, 
Hermanos y Hermanas...Ahora es un grande fiesta de 
baloncestos de la Pan-Americanas...FIMBA Maxi esta 
muy bueno por las Americas y el todo mundo...Bueno
...peta te...Permiso, allow me at this time to introduce 
the band de Los Estados Unidos.   

  TEAM USA 55+ at FIMBA Pan American Games, Costa Rica



#3-Julio Davila 
[Miami, FL] 6' 7" PF
University of New Orleans [1978]
A consistent scoring presence 
from the baseline to the 3-ball.  
Period. Julio's Theme Song



#6-Kevin Johnson                                          
     [Gilbert, AZ]   6'4" G/F,                          
     Perpetual movement, great 
     defender, Olympic speed, 
     good scorer, with a gift
     for finding the open creases
       in a defense.
       Kevin's Theme Song



 #8-Neil Nelson 
      [Ballard, WA] 6'6" F, 
      Low post scorer, and solid 
      defender, a strong rebounding 
      machine with great hops, 
      who can shoot the mid-range,
      good passer.
         Neil's Theme Song




#9-Dan Vahalla                                     
    [San Diego, CA] 
    6'5" F, Great mid-range 
    shooter, who can hustle, 
    rebound, and defend.
    Dan's Theme Song 





#10-Roger Larson
[Seattle, WA] 
6'8" F/C
aka Chew Bacca aka
The King of Strat!
GM who's a solid defender, 
and rebounder, always in the 
right position, Teammate/Coach/
Friend/Juggler/Magician
Roger's Theme Song  

 

#12-Lahh Woods 
[Bronx/Harlem, NY] 
5'9" G
aka "The Dreamer" 
City College of New York-1975
Good defender, high energy,
ball handler, who also happens
to be the best writer I know.
Lahh's Theme Song



#15-Jay Cheesman
[Orem, UT]
6'10" F/C
aka "Jay Buckets"
Let's just call him "The Shooter" 
with great range, and consistency.
Good defender, and rebounder.
Jay's Theme Song




#60-Ricci Greenwood 
[Chicago, IL] 
*6'3" G
aka "Slick Rick"
Superb floor general who can score,
pass, and defend, a true leader who
is efficient in his movement & words.

*I list him as 6'3" because he always
                             plays bigger than he is.
                             Ricci's Theme Song




This has been a quite amazing experience for me.  I 
have played in many games, and tournaments in my
lifetime.  I have also been blessed to have traveled,
a bit, and have organized countless cultural events, 
and tournaments for over 30 years. This past week
seems to be a culmination of all that I have witnessed,
all that I have received, and produced.  I am thankful
and humble.

The shear magnitude of over 150 teams from all 
over the world.  Primarily, from the Americas, 
north, south and central, and don't forget the
participating countries from the Caribbean.  But 
there are also basketball teams here from Croatia, 
and Russia.  They are all age 35 and older...and 
THEY ARE BALLERS!  Regardless of their skill-
set or aptitude of the game, teams are balling from 
first whistle till the last horn.  Diving. Shooting. 
Pushing. Pulling. Digging in deep within themselves, 
and linking arms in a sincere effort to work with 
their teammates for just about every tick of the clock,
irregardless of the numbers on the score-board.





Teams are playing with confidence, pride and
dignity, not only for their countries, but also
for each other.  This has been a real eye-opener 
for me.  Here I am thousands of miles away 
from what I call home...almost a lifetime 
away from the cold, hard concrete, and PS 18
Night Center...Light years away from the
battles in front of the rent office in Patterson 
Square Garden in the South Bronx.  I am here
in San Jose, Costa Rica at the feet of ancient
volcanoes, eating fresh cut pineapples, guavas,
and mangos, by the pool...next to the waterfall
...waiting for the van that will take Team USA 
55+ to our first game. Nobody. I should say, 
"No one, wake me up."

Game One 
USA vs Uraguay


There is a buzz of the crowd as we walk into the arena.  All eyes are fixed in our direction, as our tall team steps 
confidently and drop our bags in the east end of the building. All seasoned vets. Collectively we've played thousands or millions of games.  However, for me, this one was different.  This one was almost dream like...because every comment, every bounce of the ball, every stare, every nervous or welcoming smile, from complete strangers confirmed for me a number of things. First and 
foremost it confirmed our humanity.  How we are all 
connected on this earth, in spirit and in truth.  If you come 
in peace, you will receive peace.  If you come as an invading 
force with no respect, you receive no respect in return.  
Bueno...Now with all that said, once the ball goes up in the
air, with all due respect, I'm trying to bust your *ss! And I'm 
sure, in the mind of my opponent, he has identical intentions
por a me.  In my ear, on my head-phones I have MOS DEF [Mathematics] on 9.  Mathematics...Check it Out 

We shook their hands and I made an effort to speak in 
espanol...Que Pasa Hemano?...Primo, como estas?....Tu 
familia es tambien? Bueno.  After a good stretch, I get 
the nod to start in the back-court with Ricci Greenwood 
[Chicago] I see he's got that "assassins" look in his eyes 
and I laugh to myself knowing that this is going to be fun
...I'm feeling great, confident, and calm.  I've been training
injury free for months, ready for this great moment to
arrive.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I was
surrounded by a team of BIGS, who don't mind banging
and can shoot very well.  This USA 55/60 team is a
high performance, formula one vehicle...and I'm the
wheels.  All I have to do is feed the shooters, take
what's mines, and defend and disrupt. Good Times!

This Uraguay team is very strong and right out the
gate they let us, and the referees, know that this was
going to be a physical experience.  They push, we push 
back.  We go up a few points.  We are running well, and
playing solid D.  We go up a few more points, and the
physical play is countered with experience, and offense
from Julio Davila [Miami] and Kevin Johnson [Arizona].
I feel good, a few deflections, a few assist, and my
man on D is having to work very hard to get what he
gets.  He was a short, stocky, baller, must have been
a hand full to deal with thirty plus years ago.  Good
team.  It seemed like five minutes into one of the
biggest games of my life, I double down on the block
and get a steal off one of their big men.  The ball is 
headed out of bounds on the baseline and as I run
to grab it...I feel an incredible shot of pain in my 
left lower calf.  Don't quite remember if I was able 
to save the ball or what?  I hobble down court 
realizing, to my horror, that this was serious.  I 
signal to the bench for a sub...as I skip directly
over to the trainer for assistance.  Laying on
the training table, speaking in my best Spanglish
I direct the trainer and get taped up.  I center
myself and begin to pray to the Creator for two
things. [1] The recognition of a positive lesson
amidst all the pain of this situation [2] Allowing 
me the very best effort in this FIMBA experience
injured or not.  
I can run, and move at about 55%...I cannot 
elevate or push off, beginning a new and 
challenging experience here at the FIMBA Pan 
American Games.  I return to  the bench as 
Roger Larson [Seattle] and Neil Nelson [Ballard] 
inquire about my playing status.  I assure them 
that yes there is pain, and I'm going to give it my
best.  Sargeant Larson barks out my marching 
orders, "Just stay in front of your man! Play
from top of the key, to the top of the key alright?!  
None of that diving around the floor stuff alright?!
...None of that acrobatic stuff! Okay...Just keep 
it basic!"  I focus and his words as I see Team 
Uraguay with a bounce in their steps with the 
game relatively close.  Minutes later I'm back 
on the court...Our lead goes from seven to 
twelve points, and the crowd is hoping to see 
something dramatic.  Neil Nelson [WA]
and Dan Valhalla [San Diego] aka 'The Bruise
Brothers" turn up the volume on both sides
of the boards, as they lock down the low post.
Jay Cheesman [Utah] knocks down a few 
buckets as Slick Ricci Greenwod [Chicago] 
orchestrates defensive and offensive scenarios 
that put us in the right place at the right time. 
All I have to do is stay in my lane, complete
my part of the play, and make good decisions
in the moment.  And trust that everyone 
around me will take care of the rest.  And 
they did.  USA by 13.  Details at FIMBA.net

                  Challenges are opportunities for growth &
                    blessings....at the FIMBA Games...LW
  


San Jose, Costa Rica
Universidad de Abogado
Day Three
Game Two 
USA vs Panama A

We arrive at the Universidad as the youth division [70+]
were wrapping up their contest on the tiled floor.  The
two teams were locked in spirited battle and if I'm
not mistaken, Argentina had a small lead on Chile.
Just like all the other division, teams play with pride
and strength from the first whistle to the last buzz
of the score-clock. 

After I'm given a massage, and the proper taping in
the trainers area, I walk into the playing area.  I read
the US 55+ Team, as they casually lean back, and chat
politely on the cool concrete bleachers.  Any opponent
who does not know them, could easily underestimate
the collective ability of these battle seasoned vets.
This tournament is my first time playing with this US 55
Unit.  Over the past three or four years I have played
against several of these players in various masters
tournaments around the country.  The only player
I had previously played with was Slick Ricci 
Greenwood.  We played together in Jacksonville
Masters 2016 for Team Burlington. [LCI] from 
Toronto, coached by Doug "Puffy" Combs.  
In Jacksonville our team got "snowed out" in 
Charlotte, and had many roster no shows as a result 
of the winter elements.  We didn't fare particularly
well. Frankly, we got our tail feathers kicked by
Warren Prehmus, and the good old Georgia Boys.

          The sportsmanship, and character displayed by
the team representing Panama was on an incredible
level.  They smiled, and welcomed my handshakes,
and informal "Spanglish" introductions of myself to 
them. "Que pasa hemano?" [What's happening bro?]
"Tu eres tambien? [You good?]  Tranquillo Primo. 
[Take it easy cousin] "Bueno. Me jente!" [Good. My
People]  Sometimes they would fire back responses
that I could not catch in spanish, where I would smile
and raise my hands and say "Yo no comprende bro!
Yo obla poqito espaniol."  It was great, at the moment,
to remove the traditional invading army vibe that many
ballplayers bring into the contest.  We are not enemy
combatants, out for the scalps of our balding opponents
on the hardwood.  So let's play the game of basketball!
       Even as a child, back in my Biddy and Midget ball 
days, there's always one.  By the time I was traveling a 
little bit around the city playing pick-up or organized 
ball there was always one.  The one I am referring to is 
the player who always wants to be "extra" physical, 
before the game...during the game....after the game.  
Why is this?  Please tell me. Why is there always 
one guy who just has to go there?  How did he make
the team?  I never did like all of that Detroit Bad Boys'
bravado, or the Boston Celtic tough guy goons coming 
off their bar-stools with five hard fouls to give to a 
more talented player.
 
Sometimes you can spot his chubby behind on the 
layup line, with an egg sandwich gently balanced 
in the palm of his hand.   Or you might bust him 
eating some other sweet snack as his teammates 
are stretching or warming up for the game...and 
he's always thirsty, "Agua, Agua!" and he's
always asking players do they have gum.   Now 
he doesn't have to be one of the heavier players
on the team.  Oh no...he can be as skinny as me,
but his mission is always the same.  Make the
other team feel the pain. Well like I said, just 
about every team has one, and so does Panama B.
Now that I'm thinking about it, who fits that
physical first style of play on USA 55?  Hmmm??
       Panama had a physical presence, like many of the
other masters teams. They have skilled players who 
complemented one another in a unique way.  They 
were specialist.   They had ball handlers who could
get the ball to the shooters, and they hung with us
right up until half-time.  Team USA 55+ regrouped
and began to separate ourselves from them by stepping
up the defensive effort and hitting a series of mid to 
long range jump shots.  I believe that Panama may 
have erred in their rotation at one point, where they 
had no ball handlers or scorers on the floor at the
same time.  We exploited the situation on the floor
and secure a fourteen point win.


                              Team Panama A at FIMBA Masters 2016

USA 55 defeats Panama B by 14 Points

                               THE 2016 FIMBA DINNER AND DANCE IN COSTA RICA



Details at FIMBA.net

Day Four  
Game Three 
USA vs Puerto Rico B

Today at the FIMBA games the sun seems to shining 
brighter and brighter as we are blessed with another day
of sharing and experiencing the Vida Pura.  Today we
played a very tough Puerto Rican team...Before the
game, I slowly walked around the grounds of the 
Universidad de Abogado, in the tropical setting, and 
thought of the blessings of being here at fifty-eight 
years old.  Such a long, long way from playing ball in 
front of the rent office with the Green brothers, in 
"The Square" in Patterson Houses in the South 
Bronx, NYC.  

Every-one on this Puerto Rican team knew all of 
the people I grew up with, played with, and against 
from NY [The Bronx & El Barrio/Harlem] who 
had stellar careers in the Superior Balocestos
League in Puerto Rico.  Players like "my mans 
and them"...Chicky Burgos, Carmelo Rosa, Billy
Santos, Caesar [RIP], me Hermano...Corky Ortiz, 
George Torres [We called him "Pretty Boy"...And 
of course, my neighbor on the first floor of building 
281 E. 143 Street...Angel "Machito" Cruz.  
       We played fairly well as a unit and we are slowly
gelling during this tournament.  We never had a 
commanding lead due to the great effort of the 
Puerto Rican ballers.  They never gave up and
played with "Mas Fuerte!" [Very Strong] 

USA wins by about 10 or 12 points.

Details at Fimba.net

                    

Day Four
Sunrise 
Country Tour of Coffee Plantation
Poas National Volcano Park Website

La Paz Waterfalls & Nature Preserve Website 

Alajuela, Costa Rica


                                  Pas y Bendiciones....La Paz Waterfalls

Day Five
Sunrise
Aportel La Sabana Hotel
San Jose, Costa Rica
       We had a day off for scheduled events, and many teammates
relaxed about the Aportel Sabana Sud Hotel at pool-side or
in their rooms.  Some casually walked the neighborhood and
shopped for groceries and gifts.  I bunkered down in my 
Roger-less room, [head-phones booming] Toumani Diabate Kora Master 
and finally began writing some of these words you are 
reading now.  I'd been there for almost a week, over-
whelmed, and blessed.  However, I hadn't wrote a syllable.

But, before all of that, and right after another incredible,
fresh, sunlit breakfast...I was off to the wooded area of 
the park, across the Avenue of the Americas, to play 
my alto saxophone with the incredible audience of
sun beams, tiny brown squirrels, gold and green bees, 
and an assortment of black birds with hats on. 

Day six
The Medal Round One
USA vs Panama B

Day Seven
DJ Rockin Rob
                    [Ladies] Peru vs Guatemala 






 Flag of Guatemala                                                  Flag of Peru

Details at FIMBA.net 

                                             THE LADIES OF TEAM GUATEMALA 


                                                         THE LADIES OF TEAM PERU

                        *************************************
Moskow Never Sleeps 
The Black Russian


Russia vs Argentina
                                                  





   

Flag of Russia                                                     Argentina's Flag

                                       video
                                               RUSSIAN MEN'S [45+] Head Coach

 
Lahh Woods [USA] with Yuri Kovalev [Russia] and Guatemala







PUERTO RICO vs MEXICO 
[LADIES 35+]
 
 PUERTO RICAN DAY [NYC]
                                          COACH of TEAM PUERTO RICO [LADIES 35+]


National Flag of Mexico

video
                                          INTERVIEW WITH TEAM MEXICO'S COACH

                              The Ladies of Team Mexico  

Details at FIMBA.net 

Day Seven
The Medal Round Two
Semi-Final Game
USA Men's 55+ vs Equador



 








          This FIMBA 2016 final four game was a bit of a 
challenge for the US 55+ team.  No excuses, we had a 
week of injuries and sickness, and I'm sure other teams 
did also.  With that said, we were challenged by the 
offensive and defensive heart showcased by this tough 
Equadorian team.  This was an emotional week for
this courageous team of ballers from Equador.  As a 
result of the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake 
that took place two weeks ago, many of these athletes 
lost loved ones, friends and fellow citizens in the 
Central American nation. 

Massive 7.8 Magnatude Earthquake 2016
How could they persevere, deal with all of that loss,
and continue to participate in an event like? I know
their hearts are worn, and their minds were without
a doubt at home.  My prayers, my heart, and 
my condolences to the loving, courageous, and proud 
people of Equador.  They were true professionals 
during these FIMBA Games in every sense of the 
word, from the coaching staff on down to the players.  
Mucho Bendiciones.  
    In regards to the game, they spread the floor on 
offense and scored three pointers and baskets to keep 
pace with the US Team 55.  They played physical, and 
made some great shots from beyond the arch and in 
the paint.  Equador came with a large crowd to support 
them.  However, now that I think about it, they had the 
support and sympathy of many who had attended the 
contest.  How could you not root for them, after all 
they've been through?  They never gave up and the 
US Team secured the win by six points and qualified 
for the Gold Medal Match-Up with Brazil. Pas 


video


USA defeats Equador to advance to the 2016 FIMBA
Pan American Games Age 55+ Championship Game 

Brazil Men's 55+ defeats Uraguay A       ********************************************



Men's 50+ Divison
    2016 FIMBA
  Championship   
Puerto Rico vs USA





                                  USA 50+ Men Defeat Puerto Rico in FIMBA 50+ Final

           USA Men's 50 secure the 2016 FIMBA Championship defeating Team Puerto Rico

                                  **********************************************


Men's 55 + Division
     2016 FIMBA 
     Champioship   
     Brasil vs USA








The United States Men's Age 55+ were crowned Champions of 
the 2016 Pan American Games by defeating Brazil 64-40.

Details at FIMBA.net 





TO BE UPDATED!!!   IN 55 MINUTES....BENDICIONES