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. Tripoli had done his best to get the Wisconsin boys on floor space for free out here, but despite that we still had three tent-loads of duders come and crash in our backyard, even though we were already hosting nearly a dozen girls from Texas. After we finally got on the same page, the entire Madison contingency, representing three different tourney teams, made our way up the mountain to play a round of disc golf at Ned.

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 Boulder. It would begin a pattern all weekend of the rain holding off until the last possible moment. We returned, everyone hung out and passed the time fidgeting restlessly, counting seconds till tomorrow.

I awoke without any effort the next day at 6:40. 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 Colorado tournament record since I moved here and the thought of it ending because we came out flat in our first game was chilling. I resolved to reduce my errors and tighten up the defense when we turned it.

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.

Andrew Brown - Photo by Rick HodgesAfter 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 Windy City players just got blown all over the field that day and closed out their weekend on a 0-3 run.

Dave Popeil - Photo by Jessica CampioneThat 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 Boston and Truck Stop respectively. As a note, all three of Truck Stop’s games Sunday were decided by a point. They must have been plenty frustrated. On our end, we played haphazardly and let Boston come back in the second half after bursting out of the gates on a little 3-0 run. The final point was a backhand Parker huck to Popes, who used every inch of his tall, lanky frame to snag the disc near the back of the endzone on a game-saving layout. As I tracked the disc behind him I was thankful he caught it, somewhat unready to start playing defense in the event of a turnover.

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.

Beauned - Photo by Rick HodgesWe won, my Colorado tournament winning streak extended to 16-0, and we celebrated with free Flashflights and car bombs on the sidelines. With rain looking to threaten our parade again, we left the field for the Boulder Creek and some Qdoba burritos. But first, I had to ride my bike back home, which in this direction is three miles uphill. I didn’t intend for it to get as serious as it did, but alone with my thoughts and a little high on victories and such I started to talk to myself about finishing the ride and before I knew it I was scaling the hill, legs pumping on the easiest gear I could find, trying not to let my legs cramp up. When I finally came up over the hill and coasted into the driveway, I was sweating and feeling a thrilling sense of accomplishment, the last of my endorphins released. I dropped my bike off, got in the car with my brother, and headed to the creek where the Sub Zero Madison boys took turns jumping into the cold water to reset their souls before the drive back. Like before, as we were getting ready to leave the rain came in force. We said our hurried good-byes, got into our cars, and drove to Qdoba to eat and relax. Later we drove up the canyon to Beau Esrey’s house and met up with people from Jam, Texas, Ozone, Colorado, etc for some relaxing games and drinks. I laid my head down that day thinking not of our accomplishments that weekend, but of the work still left to put in before our trip to ECC in two weeks.

We’re coming in numbers and we’ll be ready. Out.


degs said...

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.

Silence is not consent dude.

Notice the updated pics.

Anonymous said...

What went wrong at ECC. The team didn't look ready. Any plans to tweak anything this close to the series?