Monday, May 21, 2007

Retirement/White Mountain Open

Well, I guess this makes it official. Since the fall of 1988 I have tried to play at the highest level on the best team that I can, and that has carried me from 1 year on Wild Veal in NY in 88(!) to 3 years on what some would call the best little team in Boston (Earth Atomizer) from 89-91, to 2 years of Boston hybrid stuff (Commonwealth/Big Brother) in 92-93 to 13 years with DoG from 94-06. Well, that goal has now changed in resounding fashion. This weekend I finally 'confirmed' my decision to join Jim in the Open Elysian fields. And the simplest way to do that was to play with the Big Ego Ultimate Masters team this weekend at the White Mountain Open in Dartmouth instead of one of the split-squad Boston teams.

First, the tournament recap. I was only able to play on Saturday as my brother was in town from San Francisco for his 25th Tufts reunions, and we were going to finally spend some time together on Sunday before his flight back. The weather wasn't looking promising early in the week, and it only got worse, with rain in Hanover at 90% by the Saturday morning departure. Nonetheless, I saddled up in the car with Marshall Goff, we left 20 minutes late, and it worked out perfectly as we arrived at the fields at 9:20AM for our 9AM game, and no one was playing yet. When we got to the field with our cleats on in the pretty steady rain, we made iron 8's. We would end up the day with 11 (including 1 partially injured but able to sort of run around). And I was also nursing a strained calf that I had been rehabbing for the last month, including a set back two weeks ago playing pickup, and two visits to my trusty therapist Russ this week. He said I should be able to do a few games, but it might get weak/sore by the end of the day and not let me finish out. The good news there was that I was ultimately able to play all 4 games.

We began against Bro White, the male half of national finalist Slo White. Never having really watched them play (no surprise) I was impressed with the number of pretty good players. It wasn't enough to make a difference though. We got the turnover to try and take half 7-3, failed and ended up taking half 7-5. It was raining pretty steadily at this point. They steadily chipped away until the game was capped to 11, and they tied it up at 10's. We received for the game, proceeded to turn it over twice on drops by the same guy, and then they dropped an easy catch on our goal line, we walked it down to score the big 4 over 2 upset (Oh yeah, we were insultingly seeded 4th out of 5 in our pool).

The next game is against our Masters archrivals Koob (go with it, I'm trying to build rivalries in the heretofore undiscussed Masters division). Unfortunately, they don't fall prey to our loose junky d's, being a little more patient with the disc than Bro White was. It is all for naught as we 'coast' to a 13-8 victory, although it was reasonably close at half. In game three against Chuckwagon, I expected a more difficult battle, but the game was not as close as the final score of 13-11 indicates. Chuckwagon made up almost all of that at the end, with us leading by 3 and 4 most of the game.

Finally, our luck ran out against Boston Y. I had walked up to Forch earlier to say "I guess this makes it official, eh?" to which we both chuckled. We promptly spotted them a 5-0 lead. The first turnover was a short pass to an in cut that Josh Mullen ran by and d'ed. On the way back to the line, I then mentioned to the lineup that we were now going to have to actually run and take this game seriously. Didn't help much as all 5 of the turnovers that spotted them that large lead were poor execution or selection. Granted, this is often the excuse for one team against a clearly superior team, and doesn't grant credit to what the superior team is doing, but trust me, I knew... They eventually took half 7-2, then ran out a few more to get to 12-4. We were now pulling on D. Right before we pulled, I exhorted (yes, I was playing D) my team to see if we could play one hard point of D for the day. It also didn't help that the Boston team hadn't turned it over once to that point. Well, we ran down hard on the pull, and a couple of passes later, they threw a long forehand out of bounds. Woo-hoo! We were on the comeback trail. Well, the next pass from me to Jim on a comeback to the sideline is dropped, and they score to win 13-4. Considering the motley crew we had gathered for the day, and the inspiring victory over Bro White, all in all a successful day. More importantly, we smashed seed and got the first round bye in the morning.

Apparently that was wasted as they played Colt45, who had defeated Red Tide in a play up game from Div II, and after leading 12-9 and 14-12, lost 16-14. Jim was disgusted with the loss, mentioning that he was already looking past it for the next game against Boston X. Also to be noted was that on Sunday, they had dropped from 11 to 9 players, still including Gary Bernard whose bum calf now caused him to actually limp on the field. Our expectation is that for the Boston Invitational/Masters tournament in two weeks, we will be getting a bunch more of the band back together, since the slugs won't actually have to travel for the tournament. One of the nicest parts of the weekend was that I was finally able to uncork some long backhands. I feel like I threw more long backhands in one day than I did all last fall including practices. And props to Alec Ewald for showing that he is still a stud on the field. I'm looking forward to playing with him this season. I'm sorry those guys didn't get to play some more iron 9's with the Boston X guys (and I'm sure they are disappointed also).

Now the retirement piece.

I have been blessed to be on some great teams and have great teammates in my career. If you ask me in person, I'll give you the alternate history of what happens if Ted Munter doesn't cut me from Z back in the spring of '89. Hmmm, maybe I should try out for the new boston team so that I can have Ted complete my career in the same fashion that he jumpstarted it. I won't rehash the boring details of the circuitous path which led to DoG, much of which I cover here. I am more than happy to grant serendipity a lot of credit for my career, but I'll take a little credit for being in the right place at the right time with the right skill set, some of which I also cover here. I freely acknowledge that somebody like me would have LONG odds in making it to the pinnacle of the sport nowadays with the emphasis on raw athleticism. Knowing how difficult it is to win a national championship in any sport, much less ultimate, and especially now with the explosion of players at the high school and college level, I feel immensely blessed. When I finished playing in college, I'm sure I never could have imagined that I would be one of the main handlers on a team that won 6 national and 3 world championships. Thanks to Jim, Dennis, and Mike, the original Tea Party members, for making my initial foray into the Boston ultimate and party scene a memorable one. Hard to believe that Jim and I have played on the same club team through thick and thin for 18 years now.

I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to fill all these weekends that have suddenly freed up. I'm trying to get in with my local high school team to help them out, but the main contact isn't being very responsive. I have also noticed that I'm trying to dig up as much pickup as possible, since I really don't know what else I will be able to do to keep in shape, as I HATE working out. And I was only able to tolerate doing track workouts for DoG because of the end goal. Just being in shape isn't enough of a goal for me. I need something that whets my competitive appetite, much of which I discuss here. And Masters ain't gonna be able to cut it because there won't be any practices for the most part. So pickup, random tournaments, corporate league, coaching?!?!?, here I come.

Looking forward to sharing a beer with all of you back in the day guys I run into at Nationals, now that I won't have to officially wait until Saturday night to start drinking. Woo-hoo!

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