Saturday, August 29, 2009

Grand Master Nationals 2009

I had to go back to the score reporter to refresh my memory on the details. That's what happens when you take this long a break to report on #8. I guess the bigger question is if winning masters nationals is a -1, then winning grand masters must reset me to zero. So, more details on my zeroth national championship (shout out to Isaac Asimove and the zeroth law...).

A whole bunch of people descended onto the plush fields of the Dicks Sporting Goods complex in Denver the weekend of July 11-12. I don't know if any other teams had problems getting in but I assume they must have. Most of us arrived Friday night and Denver was getting hammered with microbursts. After we circled for a bit they diverted us to Fort Collins when we started running low on gas. We hung out on the runway for awhile while we got refueled. We were running against the clock because the control tower at Fort Collins closed at 10PM. Jeff Brown told me to listen in on one of the radio channels that was plugged into the pilot's channel. At 9:53 the control tower chimes in, saying "can you guys be ready to take off in 5". The pilots answer yes and we get everyone seated VERY quickly, take off, 20 minutes later we are in Denver airport. I was staying at a buddies of mine Friday night 45 minutes outside of Denver in Longmont. We had been talking on cellphones trying to coordinate whether he should hang out waiting or whether I should go with the team. He ends up waiting for probably 2.5 hours (and napping) before I arrive and head to his place. The key here was that 1) our pool didn't have a first round game, and 2) we had a first round bye, making our first game at noon! Of course, we had 4 straight after that, but it was well worth it. After a leisurely morning checking out their barn, 2 horses, and having some awesome home-cooked eggs benedict, it was off to the fields. We get there around 11:15 and go set up. And it was a HOT one out there. At that point I had had the cast off my right hand for about 8 days and had done very little, including not throwing the frisbee a single time. During warmups I threw my first forehands and it HURT! I had already popped 4 ibus early morning and was planning to keep the ibuprofen bath all weekend, with lots of water of course. The backhand was largely unaffected although it was also pretty tentative.

We had heard from other people that morning that the 3rd seed in our pool was grossly underseeded and they confirmed it by crushing the 2nd seed, Old Glory (OLD SAG) 12-6. Old Glory was a team that definitely came in planning to play for the championship. Given this warning, we actually started out pretty effectively against them (Yomo Fog Oho). However, it was a VERY chippy game as neither team was willing to give up anything, knowing that this was quite likely for the pool championship (and theoretically easier path in the morning). We largely traded throughout the first half and into the second before finally getting a few breaks at the end to pull away 13-7. The game was much closer than the score indicated. Yomo was going to be a tough out.

The next two games were against Thirst'N'Howl and Austin Antique Road Show Players. Nothing remarkable about these games. 13-6 and 13-7. During the 2nd game my calves started to seize up with the heat and lack of water. I took the second half and the 3rd game off and got a few massages and stretched the *&#$)@(*#U$*(I out of them to try and prep for the last round against Philly. Fortunately for the last round of the day the clouds had come in and it cooled off significantly. I also switched from the defense to the offense, figuring that it would be easier on my calves when I was the one choosing when to sprint as opposed to having to react to an offensive player. It worked out well as I was able to play through the entire game. We had made the calculations to figure out how many points we had to score to 1) advance, and then 2) win the pool, but as always you don't want to lose the final game going into elimination. This was yet another tough game against these guys (they are never easy) and we didn't pull away until the end yet again, winning 12-9 to send Old Glory to the consolation bracket.

Tonight I was going to be spending on the floor at the hotel. I opened up shop with Zaz and Simon, setting up my therma-rest in the corner of their room. After the shower, headed down to the banquet hall to check out the party. Found enough eats for dinner and some free beer. It was a pretty mellow crowd unfortunately so packed it in around 11:30 after catching up with people I hadn't seen yet. Nothing to write home about.

Next morning Simon and I go on a quest for breakfast (and Zaz's sugared treats). Then off to the fields for a 10:15 quarterfinal against the Ozark Hillbillies from Arkansas, who had smashed their #18 seed to go 3-1 and qualify for the semifinals including a 10-9 thriller against Boneyard's Boneyard for the last round of the day to advance. Unfortunately I think we probably were looking past this game a little bit, but that didn't last long. We could not stop these guys as they scored probably 9 of their first 10 points on hucks, most of them to the bearded dude. And they only turned it over once or twice during that run while we gave them numerous opportunities to score against our offense but nobody broke. We finally broke through the last point of the first half to break them upwind. We broke again on the last point of the game to win 12-9, never having gone upwind receiving the pull. It took the bearded guy actually dropping a huck goal for us to score. I stayed on the offensive squad for the first two games of the day although the hitch was usually Marshall Goff as his hand was doing much better than mine...

Meanwhile in the other bracket the second team from our pool, Yomo, had smashed Confluence, the second seed over all, 13-7. We had expected Confluence and Surly to battle it out in the semis (and hopefully face us in the finals) so it was surprising to see them go down so hard. Surly had an easy quarter winning 12-6 to set up the semi against Yomo. We had Big Sky, 10-9 winners over Southern Comfort. This game was a repeat of the quarterfinals as the game was ridiculously close for the entire game until we pulled away at the end again. The same thing happened as Big Sky scored at will on deep shots.

After our game was over I quickly ran two fields over to check out the other semi. I saw 13-5 and asked who was winning expecting to hear Surly. Imagine my shock when they said Yomo was winning. And Yomo scored the last two points on defense to crush Surly 15-5 and set up a rematch for the championship.

This game started as a replay of our first round game. Intense, a little chippy, and with a little back and forth. It was moderately windy although both teams were playing man for the first half. Can't remember who took half but it was a one point half and then I think we tied it coming out of half 8-8. They scored on offense to make it 9-8 and then the wheels fell off. They scored the next two points on d to take an 11-8 lead, AND DoG now going upwind. At this point the game was not over but I was definitely feeling a little bit like going through the motions. We scored on offense to make it 11-9. I stayed for the next point of D as middle middle and we threw on the (dreaded) 2-3-2. They worked it around for a LOT of passes before turning it over in their half of field. A few passes later we had made it 11-10. Naturally, thinking that was the best idea since sliced bread we put on the zone again but this time they shredded it easily downwind and scored to make it 12-10. Offense comes on and scores to make it 12-11. We play man this time, get a turnover and we score upwind to make it 12-12. Exciting stuff! Throw on the dreaded zone again, and in fewer passes they actually turn it over on a dump going towards their endzone. Quick few passes and we are up 13-12. Who knew? They score downwind to make it 13-13 and it is now universe point (yes, the only REAL time universe point is applicable, finals of national championship) and we are going downwind. They pull, we slowly move it down the forehand sideline and then Coop sees Simon cutting completely across the endzone and throws a longish forehand to the forehand corner. Simon, one of the fastest guys on our team, and his defender are stride for stride before Simon catches it right on the sideline in the goal and then proceeds to take out the observer, the UPA sign, and a photographer (or some combination thereof) for the game. 14-13 DoG! #8 (or #0)! My personal highlight in this game was probably that I stayed in the game from 11-8 through the bitter end, playing the final 8 points on offense and defense.

This whole time we were trying to make our 7:15 flights out of Denver. But naturally the Hawaiian women's team had to boat race us. Unfortunately Jeff Brown was on our team and was a heavy weight in the middle of the race. I think the video of the race is on Youtube which I leave to the reader as an exercise to find. If you find it you will note that Simon and I each take roughly 3 second while Jeff takes roughly 9 seconds for a cup. Ugh! I tried valiantly to make up the time as the anchor but missed by about a half second. Meh.

Oh yeah, and while we were in the security line, with Simon getting us into the supposedly shorter first class security line, Damon was going through his bag and pulled out a can of beer which obviously wasn't going to make it through the line. We sort of looked around and then I did a biter, shotgunned it, and casually tossed it into the garbage...

This was an interesting tournament victory and team. While we had components of old and new DoG on it (weird to think of masters players from DoG that didn't play with DoG back in the day as new DoG), we also had dug deep into Boston history to fill out the roster just to get it up to 20. A lot of the older DoGs (Mooney, Greff, John Bar, Lenny, et al) were unable or unwilling to attend, so we ended up with a number of people that hadn't even played real tournaments in the last 5 years, much less never played with DoG, including Richie Robinson, Mike Jaff, Vinnie Shelton, Bennett Goldberg. And Rob Barrett who had emailed us a few months earlier to express interest as he was turning 40, never responded to any further emails or cell phone messages ever again. We finally got Arnold Sanchez his long awaited National Championship, although I expect not in his preferred division.

As for the GM division? I really can't say. It was nice to win the first one and add to the DoG coffers. At 11-8, if we had lost, I would have said nice try and then probably poo pooed the division. However, when we scored on double game point, it still felt awesome. When the team brought it in I shared with them that a national title is still a national title regardless of the division, and it did still feel awesome! Whether this division deserves a spot in the UPA pantheon I can't comment on. Although I expect that once some team starts racking 4 or 5 national championships in this division and moves people up the overall title list..., I expect that I will complain :) Regardless, it was very well run, great site (since the rains held off).

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

and the shin ain't listening...

Well let's see. Last time I came off a major injury (broken throwing hand), I won a national championship. Granted, it was Grand Master nationals but the UPA is counting it so I have to also. I need to get to that in another post. However, more immediately, now I am hoping that precedent holds true for the fall season.

I was staying with my kids at my parents in Rye for 2 weeks and I decided to get some ultimate exercise in. I hooked up to play some pickup in Pelham last Sunday which ended up being more running around than quality ultimate, but still good conditioning. I then talked my way into a scrimmage with the new NY masters team run by Adam Zagoria that was going to play Tuesday night at a field in Riverside off the West Side Highway. Of course, Arnold Sanchez warned me after the fact that he always skipped those games because of the field.

I found out late that afternoon that cleats weren't allowed, only turf shoes. I don't even own any, but I brought both cleats and sneakers just in case. I drive to New Rochelle to Sanj Khanna's house, drop off my car and he drives us in. Get to the field, other people look at my cleats and say no, so I put on the sneakers and start warming up. A little running, a little throwing, and then off to stretch my calves. I'm doing the right soleus on the end of a bleacher wearing my sneakers. Normally I'm wearing cleats and the cleats grab onto the edge of the seat. I'm a little more leery with the sneakers for slipping off so I'm not pushing quite as hard. As I'm finishing up I go for one final push and the sneaker slips off and I drive my shin with my full body weight behind it into the bleacher. Unfortunately it catches the corner instead of the side and rakes my shin. I quickly pull up the leg and there is a 4 inch gouge along the shin bone immediately dripping gobs of blood. And I can see the bone along the gash (look at your shin and see how frickin' close it is to the skin...). Canada Rob is right next to me and immediately says 'Uh, I have to walk away'. I grab the two flaps of skin and quickly press them together to try and stanch the flow. Sanj hands me a wad of napkins that I press against it, then we tape it down tightly with athletic tape around the leg. We hobble to the car (a LONG walk) and then decide to drive back to a New Rochelle hospital instead of taking our chances at a long wait in NYC. Fortunately he knows the backroads and we get to Sound Shore Medical Center in less than 30 minutes at the height of rush hour. We get there at 7:10, in a room at 7:30, and out at 8:20. The doctor spent at least 45 minutes with the wound, cleaning it out, shooting local anesthetic all around the wound, stitching up the inside and the outside. Sort of cool watching him do the outside as he had the stitches pull the skin together.

So, leg elevated for the next 4 days, stitches out in 10 (can't get it wet in the meantime), running in 2 weeks, play ultimate in 4, which would get me back basically the weekend of Sectionals. He said the skin there heals REALLY slowly. If it still looks ugly at Sectionals I'll play with a shin guard. Funny, these are the injuries I would have expected to incur when I was a much younger player. Meh...

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