Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It was about noon central time, and I'd been in a car now for about eleven hours. Before having left Boulder Saturday night, I'd spoken with several Kali players who had informed me that they'd lost a close game to UCLA in semifinals after several players got cases of the dropsies.

"It's cool," I'd reassured them, "just play your game and don't dwell on it." I got in the car and started driving.

But eleven hours into the drive, the Nebraskan and Iowan landscape had given me little to do other than feed my own doubts about how the weekend would turn out. I flipped between nightmares of Kali losing and those of the Hodags losing. I was uneasy. It was during one of these periods of unease that my phone rang. I looked at the screen. It was Alex Snyder. It was shortly after 10 a.m. in San Diego. Something wasn't right.

I picked up the phone and my worst fears were affirmed. I couldn't make out any words, through the sobbing. "Why?" was all I could understand. "Why?"

My head reeled back. It was Alex, it was early, and she was crying. They'd been eliminated. They'd come out flat and someone jumped on them and now their season was over. I was crushed. "This weekend will end in ruin and woe," I thought. I felt the emotion beginning to overtake me too, along with the fatigue and the impending headache this whole thing would cause.

But, as my eyes made plans to join Alex's, something happened. She uttered a coherent sentence. Then another. Something about who they'd be playing, then something about their possible opponent in the following round. Then I made out another word. "...migraine..."

I almost shat myself in relief. She was vomiting. The nausea was overpowering. Her legs were on pins and needles, her arms numb. Her vision was blurry and she wasn't sure if she'd be able to play a point. But I was still sighing with relief. I knew Alex. I knew that it wouldn't take long for her to lace her shoes up. I knew what would follow afterwards. It would rain goals in Kali Nation. I told her so, she said she was going to lay down until the first half of the game was over, and we hung up.

I smiled. I know warriors and I'd just spoken to one on the phone. Later, exhilirated from the Hodags' victory over CUT and driving home with renewed energy, the reports started trickling in. Kali was going to nationals. Alex Snyder had taken her pain, bottled it, and handed it out to Santa Barbara and San Diego as door prizes to their game. The headache was all theirs.