Sunday, May 07, 2006

Two men enter, one man leaves. There can be only one.

In business, in sports, in movies, we are conditioned to view conflicts and struggles as clashes between two mutually exclusive entities. The victor. The vanquished.

The higher the stakes, the longer the history, the more pressing the odds, and people clamor for it. We, the voyeurs, toss a thumb in the air and demand a conclusion. So it was small surprise when I arrived at the finals fields and saw scores of spectators and alumni lining the pitch, their unbridled bloodlust barely contained by the perimeter separating the players from the hooligans.

Discs were flying subject to the whim of the violent wind, random rays of lights escaped down through the supercell clouds enveloping the sky; nature wanted a hand in the outcome. Some had allegiances, others were there to witness, to say they were there years from now, all were slick-handed and licking their lips. History would be made.

But in the center of all these people, history'’s peeping toms, were twotightlyy controlled nuclei, on in cardinal red, the other baby blue. They had tucked the rest of their life in an envelope and stuffed it into the back pocket of their jeans, manila with words reading: Open after regionals. Those that say they put their life on hold for this game would be wrong: this game was their life. They had been preparing for eight months. They were ready.

They didn'’t need to be reminded of the history they'’d soon be a part of. It was already stitched into their skin. Carleton with seventeen straight nationals appearances, the longest streak in college ultimate. Wisconsin the frontrunner for the championship. Two finals appearances for each. One trophy a piece. Only two regional losses for CUT in the modern era. And a pre-quarters matchup in Wisconsin'’s favor the year prior that placed them in this do-or-die situation now.

Carleton has dominated the rivalry at regionals. The history between the two has been mostly one-sided. But the times have changed. The sport is growing, and CUTÂ’s small-school influence waning. As more juniors are exposed to the game, Wisconsin's 50,000 students weigh in with growing influence. Witness the two times prior to this Wisconsin and CUT have faced off in a season-ending game: both in semifinals at Spokane and in prequarters at Corvallis the Hodags emerged the victors.

So although as both teams crisply warmed up they looked focused only on the fundamentals, the confidence and doubts wrestled within each mind. The same history, each team with a vastly different telling.

"This game is ours. We own Wisconsin at regionals. Always has been, always will be."

"“We beat them when it matters. When the season's on the line, we know what it takes to win. One team is going home to pout, and it's not us."

And, softer voices, asking questions. Which stats to believe? With two different tales colliding, who gets to write the ending? Both teams exuding confidence, both supressing doubt.


Anonymous said...

ok man...part II