Domenic Mobilio knows Wayne Gretzky always plays with the left side of his shirt out of his hockey pants. He knows San Diego Sockers forward Paul Wright is the fastest man in the Major Soccer League, but he also knows he "kind of struts, at his own pace" off the field.
Mobilio, the Baltimore Blast's All-Star forward, is a people watcher. This week, while he is part of the East team getting ready for tomorrow's 8:05 p.m. game at the Baltimore Arena, he plans to study the players he usually only gets to see as competitors.
"I'm going to watch everything and take it in," Mobilio said as he awaited yesterday's first practice. "I want to see how some of these guys prepare for a game. I want to find out their little quirks. . . . How can you not notice that a guy walks around for a half hour before the game with only his shorts on? Or that someone else doesn't want to get taped until exactly 15 minutes before a game?Some players need two hours to get ready to go out. Some guys like to be the first out of the locker room door or the last. I like being the third one out."
He also puts on his left sock and shoe first. Once he forgot and had to take them off and put them back on "the right way. I know it's weird, but it puts me off if I don't do the left foot first," he said.
Ever since he can remember, Mobilio has been watching for the little things that set one player apart from another. In 1979, he was a 10-year-old watching the Vancouver White Caps.
"I'd watch how they did everything," Mobilio said. "There was a player, Kevin Hector, who wore No. 11 and was my favorite player. After he'd score, he'd run with his hands in the air. The Vancouver guys I play outdoors with in the summer get on me now, because when I score I just turn and run with a hand in the air. That's it, I run around like an idiot."
Growing up in Canada, Mobilio also has seen a lot of kids playing hockey with the left side of their shirts out of their pants imitating Gretzky. He imagines that in Dallas, a lot of little kids are imitating Tatu.
To Mobilio, the All-Star Game is a time of discovery.
Last year, he learned Wichita forward Chico Borja is not Mr. Nasty.
"It was something of a shock," Mobilio said. "I had never met the guy, and around here the fans pretty much hate him and other players don't say great things about him. It was a shock to find out he is really nice. But if you watch him just walk, you'd never believe he could play the way he does. He kind of hobbles. You wouldn't think a guy who seems to have so much trouble just walking can be that dangerous."
This is Mobilio's third All-Star Game, but the first time he has been chosen by the vote of his peers, rather than by the coach.
"This time, I feel like I belong and I'm going to make the most of it," he said. He is particularly interested in watching the forwards.
"I want to watch their moves and try to make some of them part of my game," said Mobilio. "I think we all make the same runs, but every forward has his own little peculiarities.
"I'm an opportunist," he said. "But Preki takes guys on and simply beats defenders with his moves. Tatu likes to go to the boards and when he has possession of the ball, it is almost impossible to kick it away from him."
Mobilio likes what he's seen of Cleveland's Zoran Karic, too. Maybe because they are somewhat similar. Both of them show at the top of the box, but Karic has the ability to turn with lightning speed and get off an accurate shot. Mobilio would like to develop that move.
"My ego wouldn't allow me to just walk up to him and say, 'Ah, Karic, can you show me how you do that?'," Mobilio said. "I'd ask a Carl Valentine or a Dale Mitchell about something, because I know them pretty well. They've played here. But not a guy on a different team. I'll just watch and take it in."