Posted on Aug 18, 2021
It was now 8:00 AM, time to get the action started. What's holding up my $4G? Let's get this show on the road, I thought. Dr. Tomberlin went to the microphone and welcomed everyone, thanked the corporate sponsors, and made a few other announcements, including the introduction of Miss World Domino. Now, it was time for some action but wait, let's pray. A minister from the local Baptist church prayed. Afterward, we heard someone sing the National Anthem. Upon completing the anthem, we heard Dr. Tomberlin's famous two words, "PLAY DOMINOES."
At this point, I am still not nervous. There was no reason to be. This is what I had been waiting for the past 3 and a half weeks and now the time has come. My first-ever competitor was a guy from Mississippi, Paul Dudley. After Paul finished his shuffle, I thought I had better cut those bones, and I did. I picked my seven dominoes, and I was ready to play. Paul had the down because he drew the highest domino when we drew for the down. This was not "domino down" which meant you started with the highest double and kept your down if you dominoed. I downed the second hand because we were playing rotate the down. The down would rotate back and forth until the game was over. The very first domino played in competition at my very first World Championship Domino Tournament was 3-2.
You see, when playing rotate the down, you can start the game with any domino of your choice. Paul played the 3-2 and called a "nickel." His accent was pretty heavy, so when he said nickel, I asked him, "what did you say?" You see, I was pretty sensitive being down in Alabama among all those white people (400 people, 5 Black). I thought he had said something else, you know, like, give me an "N" word. Black players had a slang about downing the 3-2. We called it the "white man's down." We would play it and say, "Give me that white man's 5. Why was it called a white man's 5, you asked? Because a negro could not get a score behind that play was the reason. This comes from a belief the white man does not want to give a black man anything, period. Paul went on to win the first game by 95 points, a pretty sound whipping, but this was the best of 3 games to 250 points. No more big 6 to 150. I had graduated to the big boys' level. I came back to win the second game by 30 points. It was now time for the tiebreaker. For the first time, I felt a twinge of nervousness. I had to win this game or go home and wait a whole year. Yes, I could be going to the Consolation division, but that was not why I came here, I thought to myself. Sure, it paid $1,500 for first place, but my mind was set on the $4G for first place in the championship division. I lost the tiebreaker.
My heart was broken. This had to be an anomaly, I thought. I know this white dude did not just beat me playing dominoes. I made excuses about the style of play because that was my first time playing where the down would rotate. I made an excuse about the long game of 250 points. I had never heard of anything more than 150 points. I said no, Travis, you just lost. Welcome to the big times. We would play doubles the next day, so I had to get my head together to compete again and forget about the fact it would be 365 days before I would seek the World Championship again in the singles division.