Epic battles of air hockey (and Arianny Celeste!)

Arianny Celeste loves air hockey.

On the projector inside the Palms Lounge on Tuesday morning, Greece and Argentina were tied, 0-0, in a World Cup match. Below the screen, a different battle was about to begin. You could say it is worldly, too — not in the FIFA-sense, but instead by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Michael "Ricochet" Rosen (right) and Goran "The Mallet" Mitic play air hockey... and more air hockey... and more air hockey.

Michael “Ricochet” Rosen and Goran “The Mallet” Mitic stood, two professional air-hockey players — yes, those exist — in preparation for their attempt to break the world record for most consecutive hours playing air hockey. Spirits were high. Sponsor Zwack, which apparently is the national shot of Hungary, was handing out free shots, which the waitresses called samples. (After all, it was only noon.) “Eye of the Tiger” had blared over the loud speakers — twice. Arianny Celeste, the gorgeous Maxim cover model and UFC ring girl, was there to kick things off.

Flash forward 24 hours: At around noon Wednesday. It’s been a long day and night of air hockey, broken up only by some 5-minute promo stints, a 20-minute nap and a half-hour massage. (Players were awarded five minutes of break time for every hour of play.) The competitors have been loading up on protein and fruit, avoiding dairy products or anything that might upset a stomach, and one-handed texting when necessary. Celeste, who no doubt left the Palms Lounge to get some beauty rest, is back for a photo shoot. She’s wearing only a black Zwack bikini.

“Air hockey is about concentration,” Rosen is telling me. We’re facing Celeste. “You can’t get distracted.”

Michael Rosen shakes hands with Chris and Peter Ferrara (NHL former Rangers players)

Riiight. That can be pretty difficult sometimes.

In their 24-hour marathon, Rosen and Mitic more than doubled the number of total points scored by the previous record holders, which was at 1263. “We’re professionals,” Rosen explains. The two previous record holders were not. They were just two dudes, Canadians, at a Dave and Busters.

That’s the wonderful thing about air hockey, Rosen adds; it crosses boundaries. As long as you can understand the concept of hitting the puck into the goal, it doesn’t matter what country of origin, age, race or preferred language is ... or if you’re a professional beautiful person. At the start of their record attempt, Celeste uses a spare air hockey table to challenge me — first to three wins.

“You can tell a lot about a person by playing with them,” Rosen tells me. “It’s a social game. You can see whether they’re defensive, competitive, have killer instincts. It’s a good dating game.”

Celeste agrees. She tells me she used to play air hockey all the time. “Playing brought it all back,” she tells me afterward our match. “I’m a very competitive person.”

For the record, I won.


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