30. Jacks Championship
The following article appeared in Volume 1, No. 1 of The Black Lightning Newsletter, an unofficial publication of the 268th Combat Aviation Battalion, dated 14 October, 1968.
Competitive Spirit in the 134th Assault Helicopter Company
Competition is thriving in the 134th in all aspects of everyday life. Men compete as to who can spend less time at their duty station, who can drink more, who can be the grossest, etc. However, the pinnacle of all competition is that grand old American pastime, just this year admitted to the Olympic Games Jacks.
Our current champion dethroned the Invincible just two nights ago at the grand arena of the 91st Evac Club. The match was set for 1900 hours, and the air was filled with excitement in anticipation of the battle soon to begin. Men drifted in wearing dark glasses to conceal their identity. These people, known as "hustlers" could never compete with the two combatants about to take center stage.
At 1830 hours the challenger strolled in, displaying a calm confidence and a brash attitude of complete awareness. After slugging down a few drinks, double shots on the rocks, and lighting up a thin black cigar, Cpt Cappone went to his corner to limber up his fingers. The crowd gathered around him in awe as he did so, throwing his custom made ball against the wall and deftly snatching it out of the air with fingers as quick as a fly's tongue.
Suddenly a hush settled over the room. Without looking up, all knew that the champion had entered the arena. Looking over his shoulder, Cappone noticed a tall dark shadow standing arrogantly in the doorway with his cape flung back to reveal the red lining. As he moved forward, the crowd parted to let their hero through. He regarded the challenger with a look of casual indifference and it was evident the challenger was shaken by the presence of "The Master", Cpt Chrobak.
The champ, with uncanny knowledge of the forum, shook off the offer to warm up. The two took painstaking care in getting their stances just right as they faced off around the table. The time was right and the combatants were ready. The 5 perfectly balanced imported silver jacks were thrown on the table, and the bright red Bolivian ball rolled to the center. The challenger got the nod from his cocky opponent, and almost as fast as he began, he went all the way up to 4'sies then stopped for a fatal second and studied the board. The ball went up through the smoke-filled air but his lightning hand missed the 5th jack as the ball came down. It was now the champion's turn. With skill never before witnessed, he cleared the board until he too was confronted with 5'sies, and he too bumbled the ball as a wild cheer went up from the crowd. It was a standoff!!! Cappone gathered his wit and again sent the Bolivian into the air. This time when he gathered in the sphere all five of the sparkling jacks were in his palm. BUT WAIT!! The champ had noticed he used two hands. An argument ensued and bottles began bouncing off the walls. Partisans in the crowd grappled for an hour or more before order was restored. Finally, the decision was left up to the referee, who with a glint of fear in his eyes, ruled the catch legal. Another two hour, wild free-for-all ensued. By this time the champ was visibly shaken in the face of the now grinning Cappone. Blood streamed down his face from a stray bottle thrown by some unknown assailant. As the champ threw the ball up he was stopped cold by a glass of ice that struck him in the face, and the ball fell to the floor undisturbed. Another fight started and the club had to be closed.
Jacks have now been banned in Southeast Asia but the newly crowned champ will always be remembered for his dazzling performance that night. The old champ? He left the area in disgrace, to practice on lesser foes in Saigon.
Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022