Thursday, February 16, 2006

I've been reading the criticism that has been receiving on rsd with some amusement. People have ragged on everything from the design to the content with various levels of vitriol. Some offer friendly suggestions, others start hating. While I have a few quibbles about the site, mainly the overhyping of Wisconsin, I've not felt interested in joining in. I give them mad props for all the work they have been doing so far, and I'm sure they will work out the kinks as they go along.

Yet in a brief visit the other day, I saw something on the site that made me have to click the back button immediately lest I were to spill the drink I was holding from laughter and incredulity.

What had me so appalled, so humored, was their current Power 16 ranking for best tournaments. In it, they rank College Centex #1 and the UPA College Championships #2. Clearly, Cyle from Florida, you have never been to Nationals.

Forgetting that the rest of the list contained some tournaments that are either incredibly forgettable or run haphazardly year in and out (are there really 16 college tournaments worth ranking?) I couldn't believe they would rank a midseason tournament over the Championship. Are you serious? Clearly, Cyle from Florida, you have never been to Nationals.

In my college career we won and lost at some of the most competitive tourneys of the season. We made finals or semis and battled in game after game against the best competition at Easterns, the Stanford Invite, and other tourneys. After losing close games, after being eliminated from competition, or after losing early and making our way to the shitbox fields for consolation, I never saw a single one of my teammates shed a tear. The accolades we received from our successes we pushed back in our minds, and the disappointments felt we used to drive us the rest of the season. These tourneys were a time to fine tune our plays, scout the rest of the field, and ready our minds and bodies for the real task at hand that season: the road to a national championship. Clearly, Cyle from Florida, you have never been to Nationals.

Centex "hands down the best?" Whose hands? The people who have hands down for Centex are the same people with their hands down grabbing their ankles come Memorial Day Weekend. In the list, their explanation for why natties is #2 is filled with more criticism than praise. While allowing that there is no trophy like it, they denigrate it by saying only a handful of teams start their season hoping to go, much less win. However, with Centex being an invite-only tourney where most of the 24 teams have little chance of winning, the same could be said. But nationals - ah! Nationals! Clearly, Cyle from Florida, you have never been.

College nationals might not field the best 16 teams, but it is the toughest tourney of the year. It's a feeling of such expectation and anticipation when arriving at the fields for the first time that it forces a bowel movement. Here is that girlfriend that leaves you broken or in flight with a word, a tourney where regardless of the outcome at its end you will embrace your teammates glassy-eyed and express your gratitude. This is a tournament full of false bottoms, where cocksure teams have found they can always drop lower, until they find themselves losing to a team they've ridiculed all season playing with more heart than what they decided to show up with. It's not the best 16 teams, but the best teams are there, fighting tooth and nail, trying not to drown in its gravitas, showcasing 32 weeks of hard work that hopefully manifests itself in the best disc they've played. This is peaking. Cyle from Florida, it is an otherworldly experience, different from any other tourney you'll play. I am sorry you have never been to Nationals.

Friends disappear for the summer. Brothers and sisters you breathe in unison with go to their separate corners after nationals. Teammates you injured yourself for get a job and move away and wistfully remember natties, and some you never see again. It is the last tourney of the season, for many, the last college tourney of their career. Everyone knows it. Everyone plays like it. You walk the fields on Saturday as rounds end and they are littered with players prone on the field, or held up in a friend's arm, grown men and women and Callahan could-have-beens crying. They know why they cry. They didn't get this emotional losing or winning Centex. At that moment Centex doesn't mean shit to them. They cry because they love this sport and the friends within it and Nationals is a time to give them your thanks by playing as hard and selfless as possible. At Centex if a superstar feels a tight hamstring they'll nurse it and if aggravated, will rest and save themselves. It is a long season.

But at nationals those same superstars have a hamstring colored like Picasso's mural to Guernica taped twice over, they've taken all the ibuprofen they can and maybe sprinkled in codeine and they are out on the field running around as if pursued by the Hound of the Baskervilles. No one is saving themselves. This is why we save ourselves! To play till our organs burst at the end of a long season and have for the rest of the summer three days of memories we can thumb through in our minds over and over. For the rest of their lives, for some. Clearly, Cyle from Florida, you have never been to nationals.

But maybe this is your year. Florida has some studs, won Vegas, and is looking very strong. Though I think you'll find yet again that the season is long and as you begin to tire Georgia, backed by everyone's Callahan favorite Dylan Tunnel, will win the region again and you'll lose the subsequent backdoor game to the best NC team. Not everyone knows how to plan a season carefully and peak when the time is right, when the stakes are highest, and when the outcome of the best college tournament is on the line: Nationals!

Clearly, Cyle, you have never been.


Tarr said...

Hey Hector, could you tell me who won Easterns and Stanford invite in 2003? I can't remember.

Anonymous said...

Stanford I believe won Easterns. Not sure about the invite winner tho.

Anonymous said...

Does point out stupidity make it less humorous?

Gambler said...

Great post, Hector. All the complaints about the fact that Nationals doesn't have the best 16 teams don't affect the fact that it is the tournament with the highest stakes. Guaranteed, any team that wins Centex hopes it is a stepping stone to a much more important win at Nationals. There's only one championship title.

-twoks said...

i can vouch on a somewhat parallel plane that winning Tune-Up (heavyweights, whatever it's called) has nothing to do with club nationals.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, Hector. I can say with some certainty that, back in the day, I could have easily laughed off a Centex loss. But nationals crushed me every year. Even when we won. As you pointed out, regardless of whether you win or lose, the end of nationals is the end of a team as you know it. As time goes on, I remember this feeling more acutely than anything else.