Monday, October 06, 2008
At a recent meeting with the Hodags' current captains and officers, held to decide what role, if any, several alumni would have in the development of the team this year, we shot the shit for a while before getting down to the nitty.
Talk inevitably turned to the current crop of Hodag hopefuls, and their various merits. Aside from whether they could throw and how well, or their field awareness and prior experience, aside from all other tangible qualities the tryouts possessed, in the end the category most talked about was whether or not said hopeful possessed Kill Mode.
Kill Mode. Never clearly defined, over those tacos and beers, but agreed upon as a trait that could almost singlehandedly get you on the team. To claim that someone did not have kill mode was to cast a vote of no confidence against them in those moments when you need them most, to emasculate them and deny they posses the agency to step up and produce when the chips are down. To say they did not have KM was the beginning of an argument for cutting them. It was straight damning.
Maybe we first need to understand Kill Mode a little more before I go on. I'm not going to define it; kill mode is different things for different people. But while agreement on what it is is hard to come by, everybody knows when they've seen it. A refusal to be denied. Bids without regard for the landing. A spark that lights up the D's powderkeg. KM is how you know, soon as this guy goes in, he's going to do everything he can to accomplish his goal, that anyone could judge him at point's end and declare confidently, "he did everything within his limits, and when the moment was most crucial went beyond them." Kill Mode is a a refusal to lose, to give up on oneself, a knot in the mind that can only be undone by the accomplishment of the goal, or death.
It's been the big buzz phrase with the Hodags for the last several seasons and speaking to several of last year's outgoing class, they could clearly state moments when they felt the team collectively make the switch. As we reminisced on these moments and talked about people who it was agreed did not have KM, I wondered, is Kill Mode something innate or something acquired?
Can Kill Mode be taught? If so, some of these young whipper-snappers vying for a spot on the team deserve another look. Seeing it in action might spark it within them, and create the type of fearless defensive machines that the Hodags are looking for. But maybe it's not that it's taught so much as discovered and unleashed, a matter of finding the right end to pull on so the whole trap is undone and the beast is loosed.
So with two weeks left to go before the final roster is announced, captains and officers pay attention to the mechanics and throws, but they're looking for a little more. They're looking for signs of a dormant animal, a tinge of glow stalking the sidelines, an energy begging for a reason to bubble out of them, trapped rage like a knife fight in a closet. The Hodags want Kill Mode.