Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I apologize for the title of this post as it belies the content. If you were expecting something like Hector's recent pieces on tournament preparation you will be disappointed.
To the 5 of you still reading, congratulations. Two months ago my right ACL was torn by a somewhat late bid on defense. I see no point in excoriating the team or the player here, as they have been shat upon in private. (Though I would like to give a shout-out to Blackfish, who offered me shade and ice — from their beer no less — on the sideline following that painful pop.) But also it is a disservice to think about that time you got hurt. Lingering on that instant of pain and the dread of a season ending in June do very little to rehab your ______.
No, Hector's season and mine are very different now. But to be sure, they weren't the same from the beginning, having different team and individual goals. Johnny Bravo would do well to win Nationals; Sack Lunch would do well to qualify. Those of you playing this Series have practices and workouts, while some of us have PT workouts. We (the injured, editorial we) are putting in our time and it couldn't be more important. You will not keep a good mark in your last game at Regionals if you do not work out in the next 6 weeks. If we do not work out in the next 6 weeks we never play again (at an acceptable level for the elite ultimate player). Relegated to league and disc golf? No sir. I'll be back. You just won't see me at Solstice... twice attended, twice injured.
As for the Game Ready, I recommend this for anyone who injures something that requires constant icing. "Game Ready" is a bit of a misnomer, but I suspect the origin for such a product was the need to ice professional athletes like baseball pitchers. And besides, "Injured On Your Ass" didn't make it out of focus-grouping.
I am also participating in a long-term study for ACL reconstruction patients. Why not help the torn ACLs of 2017 if all it takes is four surveys (present, 2 years post-op, 6 years, 10 years)? Plus the stipend is off the hook... $80 or something.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Oh, oh. It’s happened. There’s been a break-up, and now your fellow ultimate player is no longer together with his hot girlfriend. Which means only one thing to the predators circling her chum-infested aura: the hunt is on.
You’re resisting, though. You’ve always thought she was cute. Busty, great smile, maybe she’s got some dimples you find irresistible or you have a thing for the way she moves when she’s playing disc. Because, of course, she plays. You all play. And maybe, you and him play together. That’s the sticking point, isn’t it? You’re not quite sure if you should go after her, after all, how will he feel? You’re not like, super close to him, but you’ve hung out. You kinda like the guy. And lately, since the break-up, he’s been looking a little forlorn.
You hem and haw for a while, unsure of whether to go for it or not. Meanwhile, other guys are cozying up, taking test bites to see if they can approach for the kill, but so far she’s politely resisting. It’s been too soon. But at the very next disc party the ex checks out early, heartsick from watching dudes strike at his former girl all night. And somewhere between the third Long Island and the fourth Jaeger Bomb, you say “fuck it” and approach.
Her face is flush with the new attention, her complexion rosy, her quivering smile betraying her own mix of rum and shots. As you approach, Timbaland’s "Way I Are" blares from the house speakers and you blend bodies and start to grind. It’s fun, it’s comfortable, you’ve known each other since she was a freshman and you’ve gone out in big groups before. The song is bangin’, as they say, and the flirting is fun.
And as your cheeks get closer and the Malibu bouquet of her breath whispers down your spine, you remember old John Lyly’s Eupheus: the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war. Love, in these circles, is a math equation whose range is limited by the number of available mates at any one time. There are only so many hims and hers. And with so much time spent around disc and its people, meeting others outside the scene is tough. It requires effort. So as Timbaland fades to Rihanna and you begin to make out, looking for an appropriate exit to quit the evening and find comfort in each other, you tell yourself the harsh reality of our dating scene:
It’s not your girl, it’s just your turn.
And if it wasn’t your Schwinn she’s precariously trying to balance on as you coast downhill to her place, it’d be someone else’s. You know that. The ex knows that. And somewhere in her subconscious, she knows as well. That’s why he had to leave the party, that’s why you had to act, and that’s why you’ll remember bitterly those sweet beginnings of your relationship the day you jet out of a club with your throat in knots and her arms wrapped around some buddy of yours. It’s tough. But you’ll get used to it. After all, another couple is looking like they’ve hit a rough patch, and you and she have always been close…
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I've been watching this clip all day. I can't stop staring at the power of sheer determination and grit.
The clip is of the last lap of the 10 K in the Sydney Olympics. It shows an epic battle between Kenyan Paul Tergat in a red shirt with black shorts, and Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie in a green shirt and red shorts. With a lap left to go, Tergat finds himself boxed in and realized he has to make a move to the outside. A hundred meters later, a hole opens to his right and he blasts through it. Coming from so far outside and and blowing past everyone, he's striding and feeling confident he may have gotten a surprise jump on the front runners. Gebrselassie, then in second place, catches him in his periphery, and realizing the danger of letting him go, unblinkingly follows, leaving the current leader behind.
At 1:35, you can watch him turn to look at Tergat, then, as if knowing what was ahead, looking down at his legs and demanding that they give everything they have now. He begins to sprint all out to keep up with Tergat, who's increaing separation. They're still hopelessly far away yet they find themselves at top speed. Keep in mind these are the last 300 meters of a 10,000 meter race. Being passed is a psychological letdown in distance running that's proportional to the difference in speed between you and the guy burning you. It's hard to stay focused or not lose heart. That makes Gebrselassie's immediate reaction initially admirable. But watch closer. For the first two hundred yards of that sprint, he makes up no ground on Tergat. In fact, Tergat increases his lead. But Gebrselassie doesn't stop. He holds that pace because he knows, deep in his lungs, that he will do whatever it takes to hold this pace - his maximum effort. And he knows that Tergat, at some moment before the finish, will slow.
As they round the last bend, even the paraplegics in the crowd are on their feet. No vocal chord stilled. The mass gets louder and louder as the legs of the two runners get heavier and heavier, but they keep going, seemingly pushed by the very shockwave of sound the fans are creating. With 50 meters left Gebrselassie pulls even with Tergat and they begin their test of wills, measured side by side, stride for stride. As you watch the last hundred meters, notice how the announcer hasn't stopped talking but aside from slight feedback his voice has been overrun by the unbelieving mob. The cheers seem to peak the moment when, 10 meters from the finish line, Gebrselassie pulls slightly ahead of Tergat, but then defy their own logic and find one more level of volume as both runners cross the line, Tergat bowing his head slightly at the finish either in one last gasp for victory or a reverent pose of concession toward his competitor.
Gebrselassie wins the gold by 9 hundreths of a second. By .09s. The 10K. Pause it at 6:01 to see how close the finish was. There's a different angle that begins at 4:20 with Tergat making his move, and shows them on the final kick stride for stride until Tergat's feet slacken just a hair and Haile pushes that much harder. Tergat's face after the race is a mixture of incredulity and abject defeat. As soon as I stopped rewinding it I went and immediately worked out, hard. Unless you're dead to the world and its constant struggles, I guarantee your reaction will be the same.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
(continued from Part 1)
You see, despite the fact some our most committed organizers are gone and behind bars, I began to think of the ways that my own personal interactions with ultimate will be affected. And after doing some soul searching, I realized the immediate effects won’t be much.
Thoughts first turned to the Open division of Club, since we’re in the season’s full swing. Without the UPA, there will obviously be no Championship series. But that’s hardly gonna dampen our desire for competition. Since the ‘elite’ nationals qualifying teams are all colluding buddy-buddies anyway, there’s going to be a flurry of emails while they decide which tourney will be the “championship.” We'll probably go with a points-based series comprised of Colorado Cup, Emerald City Classic, and Labor Day Invitational with maybe one or two east coast or larger tourneys thrown in there. The new championship will be held sometime in October at Whitaker fields in
Then I thought about my high schoolers and the team I coach. “Oh no, their season is ruined,” I lamented. But I gave myself some time to step back and think about how things would really change. Here at Colorado Youth Ultimate no one’s waiting for permission from the UPA to get things going. We’re already forming this year’s league. Captains and coaches like myself are voting on issues of gender divisions or co-ed play, we’re announcing the existence of our teams, and creating schedules, all without UPA oversight. Aside from this season’s trophy not reading “UPA” just before “Colorado High School Championships”, this coming season is going to run just like the last.
Then I thought of my beloved Hodags and the very fun college series. The UPA’s control of the legitimacy of college rosters is not going to be immediately replaceable, unfortunately. This will be a true test of Spirit of the Game, and a test the players of this sport have not always passed. Can 100% of the players be trusted to be legitimately eligible players? Probably not, and history might asterisk the next few seasons till we develop a framework for college validation again. But Easterns will still go on. Centex will draw teams looking to scrap. The Stanford Invite will keep inviting and High Tide will still send an underage college kid or two to detox from excessive partying on a Savannah St. Patrick’s Day. College players will still find ways to play.
The UPA is a repository of information, but it was put there by the players. There are now differing opinions on what the best way to play the game is that throw into question basic well-known rules or even the tenet of SOTG. And sure, in the vacuum of one real governing body of the sport in the
The UPA does a lot of work, but there aren’t very many of them. I believe that the grass-roots enterprise of this community would pick up the slack and unify in time to pick the sport up and get it running again. New faces, new boards of directors, maybe even new ideas, but the same level of commitment, tenacity, and love for the game. Under-age players will still drink at tourney parties if they’re committed to it, over-age players will still use craftiness to win, and I’m still going to be on the field, as a player, coach, or fan, watching plastic thrown around.
Monday, August 13, 2007
By now I’m sure you’ve all read on CNN and Fox News that tragically on Saturday night, eight seniors drunk off Schlitz and shots of Goldschlager they acquired at the UPA sponsored Youth Club Championships party commandeered two golf carts used by the UPA officials themselves for quick access to any field at the tournament site. They decided on racing as their fun for the hour but lasted only 3 minutes, when one cart hit a moose during a hairpin curve, clipped the other, and both flipped into an irrigation ditch. The carts having just been refueled for Sunday’s tournament needs, they exploded in a ball of flame and only one of the eight players survived, albeit with burns to 90% of his body.
“The biggest difference on this issue between Purple Valley and a UPA event is who feels the impact if something goes wrong. If something tragic happens at Purple Valley and the Williams team gets sued we're talking about one program of maybe 100 guys and girls and a couple of tournaments that are affected. If something tragic happens to an underage player at a UPA event and the UPA gets sued and loses we are talking about serious impact to an organization that hosts almost all of the competetive structure of the sport in the US and serves over 25,000 members.” –Kyle Weisbrod
The response, and litigation, was swift and furious as the sun rose on Sunday. Games began with a moment of silence but it was obvious to everyone the feds and suits would descend on the party soon. Descend they did, and buried Phil Q and the rest of the UPA in enough litigation to ensure it was expunged from history’s books by today, Monday. Even as I write this Will Deaver and Sandie Hammerly are answering questions in front of a congressional panel, and the Blaine Police Dept is pursuing charges against Meredith Tosta, who left the keys to the golf carts in the ignition. Our sport is in deep shit.
Or is it? I know all of you ultimate players out there are in a state of panic thinking ultimate is dead, but hear me out! Stop running around the room like chickens with your heads cut off. We’re fine. Ultimate’s fine. Yes, it’s highly likely that most of the current UPA employees are going to jail because of criminal negligence and the government will dissolve the players’ association, but the sport is far from dead. In fact, it may only get better. Let me explain.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Just a minor point.
Stop talking about "Team X". You know your Team X. In your message boards and team emails you keep talking about how you're going to pound them in the showcase game, how you're taking them down in finals.
"I'm going to shut down John Doe, man!"
"Fuck yeah! I'ma point block the shit out of Joe Smithy, dog. They're going down in finals, fo' sheezy."
Ahem. Cough. Excuse me, I have a question. What if they don't make finals? Will you be prepared for your opponent then?
It may not seem or feel like it, but all this talk about how you gotta beat Team X is just another way of joining the worldwide dick-suck on that team. Your mouth says, "We're gonna trounce 'em in Finals in front of friends and family," because you're psyching yourself and your teammates up. But what you're really telling yourself, deep down in your primitive cerebellum is, "Team X is 100% making finals. Hope we beat them if we get there."
Talking about that shit is inconsistent with the "it's about us" philosophy. I don't care if it's Finals, the showcase game, or pool play and I don't care if it's Bad Larry, Observer Dave's summer league team, or NYNY in their prime, I wanna squash that bug. I wanna play my best and hardest and I wanna do it by sticking to our team strategies and executing everything that's asked of me as flawlessly as possible relying on solid fundamentals. I'm gonna keep it boring.
But if you're telling me how we gotta take down Team X, you're just getting yourself overworked about that game. Relax, think about what our game play should look like all weekend, and put something in your mouth. 'Cuz I don't want to hear it.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
I am feeling yesterday's workout, let me tell you. There were some times where everything was hurting and no matter how hard I pushed my body kept decelerating, wanting and needing to stop.
"Enough," it said.
"No," I responded.
I leaned harder on my body, pushing it more and exhaling deeply. I completed all the sets - barely. I don't go this hard too often, I'd break down, but from time to time you need to find the walls of your limits and push against them.
For some background, I wrote here a while ago how my brother, training for his last season, had enrolled in a 16 week strength and fitness program with a personal trainer. All season long, as the Hodags' fitness coordinator, he brought what he learned from professionals to the team and designed the workout program that laid the foundation for the Hodags' dominance of their competition. That same knowledge and philosophy, continued by Muffin last year and this coming year, led to one of the most dominant runs through Nationals competition ever. And now, with my brother's arrival on Bravo this year, he has resumed that role in weekly (and optional) workouts for the team. It's beginning to pay off, several teammates have said. And why?
It's not a secret, but it bears remembering: If you do not flirt with pain and exhaustion in your workouts you won't know what to do when they start a conversation with you on the field.
This is perhaps the hardest thing to do with my high school kids. Many of them pull up at the first sign of pain or exhaustion, the moment their bodies start taxing. I understand, when I was their age I rarely wanted to push myself too hard. It takes work. Gritting your teeth and going that one level up is something our body naturally resists, and will whine as much as it needs to place itself out of harm's way. But it can be practiced, and each time your mind and body get more comfortable with performing under duress. You focus less energy on how you feel and more energy on performing well.
Naturally, nutrition is as important as your workout. If you don't eat something with protein and carb within 45 minutes of the end of your workout, you'll be doing more harm to your body than good. You might as well not have worked out and stopped your body from consuming its own muscle mass. Food and stretching after workouts like these are vital if they are to be beneficial instead of detrimental.
Your ability to push your body past the point where it wants to quit is a skill that can be developed like any other. But when the moment comes it is entirely about will. You have to block out the desire to quit as you do other distractions and focus on the correct form of your movement. It feels a bit like taking your body off autopilot and manually working each of your muscles. Teams love players like this, because it shows a conscious unwillingness to quit, and that's a powerful intangible. When you complete a season with only one loss luck may have something to do with it, but it's those invisible mental pushes for more - a renunciation of your body's discomfort for the sake of your common goal - that fill out the W column.
I'm getting ready.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
"You've been here before."
It’s a little something I say to myself from time to time on the ultimate field, when adrenaline pulsates the veins in my temple, my legs and lungs burn hot, and I feel my field of vision narrowing. It’s those moments when stress and stakes are highest that I need to remind myself of my ability to perform the task at hand and, more importantly, recall each step required using a quiet analytical mind. That mantra, “you’ve been here before,” allows me to find that quiet space and remove myself from the emotion of the moment while remembering the fundamentals.
These little pauses, the two second study sessions, serve me best when I’m with a disc. In positions when I have the disc on the sideline with a four-man cup trapping, I know when the disc gets tapped in there’s going to be a burst of noise and movement, a hundred distractions all pushing themselves over for my attention. Going over personal and team strategy just before making my decision allows me to deal with only the distractions that impede my throw. Setting up on defense and being isolated in the middle of the endzone, I know that when the disc gets tapped in if I’m going into it without a plan, I’ll get easily beat by just reacting instead of anticipating. The moments on the line before pulling or receiving are also among my favorite times to recite this and start visualizing my plan.
Minor conscious adjustments in my positioning and technique just before the disc gets tapped in greatly increase my success rate in completing the throw or taking away and shutting down the cutter’s first few moves. In short, repeating to myself – You’ve been here before – is my own little mnemonic device that allows me to recall quickly and efficiently the plans and strategies I’ve learned for problem-solving on the field. This in turn has helped me get out of sticky situations and allowed me a modest level of success at this playing level.
“But what if I haven’t been here before?”
Here are a few points I think about in those tight must-have situations.
When I’m about to tap the disc in while marking I…
- remember team marking strategy. Is the dump defender taking away up the line? Am I shading upfield or downfield?
- think about what this teams tends to throw. Am I taking away the inside-out or the around break to start?
- See if he’s a lefty. The type of throw (forehand v. backhand) they’re likely to throw can affect the mark positioning as much as the force can, so if it’s force flick and I’m on a fellow lefty, I cannot mark him the same as I’ve been marking others. His bigger threats will release from different points.
When I’m about to check the disc in trapped on the sideline I…
- identify what will probably be my two most likely targets.
- think of the marker and team. Is he consistently stalling too quickly? Are they always double-teaming? Does he foul late in the count? Is he a flailer, or someone with a plan and control of their bodies?
- square my shoulders to the marker and have him engage me at a different angle than he was anticipating.
- Remind myself to commit to the dump reset the moment it’s obvious there’s nothing open upfield, and certainly no later than stall 5.
When the cutter I am defending and I are isolated in the endzone, I…
- position my body so that their first option is blocked by my body and they must run through me to get there.
- make sure I’m close enough to dissuade throwing an inside-out break up the gut.
- focus on not getting caught chasing the cutter to the open side, but to use my body to constantly force him break-mark.
- check to see if Whit’s marking. If he is, then the break side is closed.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
As Thursday arrived, I found myself inside my new room, on the top floor of Mitch’s house, staring at several haphazard piles of clothing and boxes that I’d packed in a rush just the day before. Wanting to do anything but unpack, yet knowing my Madison friends both on Sub Zero and Madison Club would be arriving soon, I reluctantly set about the task of arranging my life back in order under the more constricting constraints of my new digs.
No matter, once I got going and set up my sound system and computer I blasted some Little Brother and let myself get caught up in the few days ahead. Andrew Brown, ultimate’s Best Man You’ve Never Heard Of, was arriving that night and about 20 Hodags from this year and last weren’t far behind so I wanted to exude some measure of control over the mess that’s followed me since the Black Bear attacked my 4Runner two weeks ago (true story – for later). Though Brown got to the Arnett House early in the afternoon, it wasn’t until later in the evening that my room was unpacked, clean, and ready for living in. I drove to Arnett, hung out, and shared stories for the rest of the night with Brown, getting more excited about the tournament and the weekend in general.
Friday saw the Hodag Love arriving in staggered groups, and each went to stay at a house of a friend or Bravo teammate.
The course, which lacks nothing in its adventure and creativity departments, was awesome. And though some played with ultrastars (the preferred disc for this short, but obstacle-rich course) and others with actual disc golf discs, it seemed everyone was having a great time, staggered through the course as we were. As we neared the home stretch, we detoured up the mountain to play the course’s Hidden Holes and hike to the summit. The view from the top at around 8300 ft, with ridgeline after ridgeline slowly fading into the midst of encircling rainstorms, and the pictures we took of the group while up there, were classic. It was a moment for me as an alum to connect with an increasingly younger team and tan in the warm glow of their recent season. Possibly the most fun I had all weekend, and that’s with us winning the tournament to boot.
After the photo session, clouds and wind moved in on us with the speed of conviction. Brown was on pace to challenge the course record, so it became imperative to hike back to where we’d left off and finish the round. In the end Brown’s -15 wasn’t enough, but the rain held off until the moment we began driving back down the mountain to
I awoke without any effort the next day at . If you know me and my morning habits I don’t need to tell you that I was excited. I had it in my head that I would prepare all my things early, shower up, and load my things into Mitch’s truck so I could ride my bike to the fields. Pleasantview Soccer Complex, that pristine pitch that’s a privilege to play on, is only 3 miles from my house and entirely downhill. The plan was to use that light wind created from cruising down hills to slap my mind into a centered state. I’ll be playing on the O line this year, and there’s an invigorating feeling I get from an early morning bike ride that I wanted to feel. Without it being too hot that early, I worked up a nice sweat and passed several cars of players headed for the fields. I was glad I’d ridden.
If you haven’t had any for a while, when you find yourself about to get some again you’re having trouble stopping all that excitement from erupting out of you all at once and spazzing everywhere. You can’t help it, you’re so jacked you’re bound to blow your wad too quickly. So it was no surprise to see us faltering against the Condors in our first game. For many it was the first competitive game they’d played since Nationals, and we were all over the field at all times, but never on the same page. The result was failed opportunities to break when we had the chance and stupid mistakes that led to us being broken. Highlights during that stretch include me throwing a hitch pass to Ryan that got monstrously blocked and the handlers refusing to complete easy passes to each other. It wasn’t until late in the game, too late, that we settled into a rhythm and got our mojo back but by then we couldn’t overcome the horn. The hard cap blew as our defense broke them again with a long huck and the moment we caught the disc, the game was over and we’d lost 13-12.
Here I must get cliché and say losing to the Condors was the best thing that happened to us all weekend. Certainly, it focused me. I’ve been nursing an undefeated
Predictably, we sought to correct our errors from the Condors game and used Truck Stop players as props to this end. I was really unimpressed with their level of conditioning. I understand we’re at altitude, but it’s not that big a change that you can’t run anymore two games into a tournament. In a very telling development later, as I walked past their fields shortly after they’d lost to Boston on double game point, A.J. was trying to bring his team in and one of them kept yelling at him, “Why? What are you going to say? What are you going to say? What the fuck do you have to talk about?” Sounded like a rough weekend for them, though they did nip Machine by 1 for their only victory of the weekend.
After Truck Stop we felt warmed and ready, and I assumed Sub Zero would feel the same way after their own 15-7 drubbing of regional rival Machine. I knew they’d be fired up to play us and prove to us they can actually hang, and hang they did – for a while. But then intimidation set in, as it so often does to them when they play us, and they began to give us the disc. Their offense locked up like cheap brakes, and soon they started dropping easy passes and turfing open throws. Brown was, as usual, the only Snowman making any noise, including a couple nice catches for scores. A late-game lapse by us allowed the final score to seem mercifully closer than the game had been and the hard cap ended things at 14-10.
We finished off the day with an exhausted Revolver, lacking any ammo to mount a real fight. In a game where both D’s were too tired to effectively break the offense we came out on top 14-11. At the end of the day the four games had taken their toll and all teams were glad to be done. Plans to cheer the Rare Air ladies in the showcase game were scuttled quickly as an afternoon storm settled above us and began pounding the fields and players with monsoon rains. I watched several hard-fought but sloppy points, ate free Glacier Ice Cream, and headed home.
We started out Sunday with a Machine team that played like they wanted no part of us. Not sure what happened to them here, because it wasn’t like they played us so hard they were too exhausted to continue. But, sure enough, after we dismantled them to the tune of 15-7, they went on and lost the next game to Truck Stop on double game point. The
That brought us to the Jam game, which was billed to us as a must-win to assure our passage to finals by the captains. We came out hot and stayed that way. Sack Lunch acquisition Dave “Popes” Popeil had a coming out party as he went deep for the first several of our offensive points. He’s going to be a monster this entire year. Personally, I toned down the risk Sunday and kept the disc moving with passes to open hands, which helped me establish a rhythm and reduced my turns from this game onward to just one. Felt good. Mangry played awesome defense and toward the end of the game I began to feel Jam slacken a bit as it cut this one loose and focused on our eventual rematch in finals. 15-10.
The last round of games would not affect the finalists, and both us and Jam phoned in our performances, leading to double game point victories over
The finals vs. Jam wasn’t much different from our pool play game aside from the crowd looking to heckle. The game was played pretty cleanly and only a few early calls went to the observers before both teams settled in. Zwick had a huge sky D in the endzone that was not converted, Mangry pressured Gabe on nearly every pass, and our offense was broken once, I believe. I threw a huck to Beau that felt silky from the moment I released it and somewhere in the background people were still talking about the fact I was wearing pants. The last two points were not, as reported, hucks to me, though in the first one Beau called me off and in the second, on game point, he asked me if I wanted it or not. Too busy thinking of catching the disc, I said nothing and he felt liberated enough to go and get the disc over me and two Jam players. This is how Beau operates on and off the field: if he asks you something and you say nothing he will proceed as if you’d given him the thumbs up.
We won, my
We’re coming in numbers and we’ll be ready. Out.