Saturday, December 15

Two -> One

I feel like I played two ultimate seasons this year.

The first started in February and Ran through December. I went to Hawaii, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Philly (at least twice), Fredericksburg, and maybe more? I was often late. I was never really playing that hard. I was very intoxicated. I got lost and couldn't find my fields. I yapped incessantly to everyone about anything. Including summer league, I won a tournament (Bell Crack, bitches!), played in 3 other finals, won a spirit award, won 2 B brackets, saw Nada Mooger not win Kaimana, won an MVP, dressed up in a suit and tight pants during play, missed a flight, drove all night, never finished lower than 9th in a tournament, generally acted like a goof and had fun no matter how we finished.

The second started in about April and went through October. It consisted of a lot of practices, trips to Delaware, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Maryland, a couple NJ tourneys, Fredericksburg and Sarasota. I was rarely late, though it happened more this year than in the past. I was always playing at least 85-90%, depending on the situation. Though it was often at as close to 100% as I could manage. I was sometimes intoxicated after something. I won two tournaments, made it to the finals in one other, won a spirit award, won five consolation brackets (Including the awesome 7-1 Regionals comeback), saw Sockeye do it again, dressed rather normally, missed no flights, drove a lot of mornings, finished as low at 15th, generally acted rather seriously and had fun for more of the time than I didn't.

Now... it has recently occurred to me to compare these two. As you might have guessed, the first is the non-Pike season of 07, and the second is the Pike season of of 08. (I was thinking about trying to figure out my season record, but I would need more time to do that) I was spurred to compare the two by someone I had dinner with up at a friend's place (that dry-aged steak was fantastic, Jeff) when she asked about why I didn't try as hard to win in all of the games I play. (She had just played with me at Turkey Bowl) and I didn't have an answer.

It was a question that, up until about 04, that no one would have dreamt of asking me. That was back when I would have done nearly anything to win in any game at any time at any tournament. Why? I was so used to losing with NYU that I had to get it out of my damn system. I had to win games to feel like a not-terrible player. This need led to fights with some of my fun-tourney teammates and to me not enjoying myself at that sort of tournament. I didn't wanna party, i wanted to win. That is all. Nothing else was relevant. And we won a decent amount of games. A lot of them by a point or two because we were playing a lot harder than our opponents. It was always the same core group of NYU almus who loved playing and wanted to pretend that we were good in college by winning against players who, like EVERYONE else, beat us in college.

But of late, when I play at tournaments like that (especially this year's performances at Fools' Fest, Ultimax, Mars, Mosh and Turkey Bowl), I take it so lightly that I'm clearly not attempting to do anything other than something ridiculous. Goofing off, drinking as soon as I get to the fields. Sometimes earlier. Consistently attempting the hardest throw that I think I can complete and never really playing defense except to look for a cheap block. I'm not bad, I just play with abandon.

Now, why? To prove that I can have fun, I think. To myself and to others. And I can. now, why else? no real answer at all.

so as I start thinking about my season and determining which of the two sounds like more fun to me, I still don't really have an answer. I like both of them. I love the fun and carefree feel around the first one. The constant uplifting emotion of enjoying the moment and the day adn all of that. the second is full of such investment and reward. Giving myself to something, to a team, so fully is fun. To work so hard on the fine, detailed points of my game and to work to become a cohesive team. I love all of that too! Why do I have do choose?

Why Indeed.

I would say two pivotal tournaments for me in these senses both occurred at the same fields. Everyone's favorite, John Lee Pratt Park in Fredericksburg, VA. These fields have been used for Fools' Fest and Regionals as long as I've been going to either. And likely before that. They're not great fields, but they're not terrible and it is isolated enough to feel like a separate world, but close enough to stuff (locally and regionally) that it isn't a trek to get there or to find somewhere to get what you forgot. The first tourney there was Fools' Fest (recounted more in-depth here). I played with the Spirit-Award Winning, 30-person strong, mixed runners-up Tight-Ass Country Club. Between Bailey, myself, and some other acutely nonchalant players we ensured that no point would go by without something exciting happening. I think we even lost once or twice on the first day. I guess I could check the files. We had fun though.

The second trip there was for Regionals (recounted more in-depth here). I was all on my serious "face-ripping" game and, while I was trying perhaps to take a bit too much on my shoulders, I was playing well until I went down with an injury. Then I was sour and sulked a bit for ht rest of the day. I did my best to cheer and pay attention, but I was so worried about the next day that I couldn't focus. Same at dinner. The next day, I knew I had a little bit in me, but that I wouldn't be able to play multiple games. So I tried to be the best cheerleader I could be. And I watched the team and the way they responded to different plays and players and celebrations and all of that. I started to see what got us fired up. Then when I got to the game-to-go, I knew what to do. I had to be relentlessly positive, but within the framework of team-level dedication and serious play. A tough balancing act, for sure, but one that paid off. As I worked to keep the team up and believing, we made a phenomenal comeback as all the breaks that went against us early, went for us late. Sometimes you just need to keep believing that it will happen for it to actually happen. If you stop believing, you won't try as hard and it might not happen!

At that point, in that moment and every time I reflect on it, I realize that the key is locked in that moment. Being tied to your teammates and focused solely on that game. While trying so hard and having so much fun the whole time. No yelling, only cheering. Contagious enthusiasm mixed with a strong will to win. Fools' Fest mixed with Regionals.

And that pattern continued at Nationals, until the last game when I soured on life for a while. (Which happens from time to time and has to do with a lot more than just ultimate.) But the experience happened there too. In fits and spurts. The D team would make a run here or there and the feeling would come back. Working as a unit, firing on all cylinders and being all smiles, even coming off of the field after failure and talking about what to do next point. That joy. Keeping yo' head up against all odds, as they say.

now, why would I do anything different at Mosh, Turkey Bowl and Ultimax? I still needed to get away from Pike and kick back at those tourneys. The season ended on a real down note for me personally, and I needed to know that ultimate wasn't always like that. now? I've got to figure out a way to merge it all together. I want to have fun no matter the outcome, but I want to win every game. I want to smile all the time, but I want to demand more from my teammates and have them demand more from me. I want to smile with my teammates. I want to smile at and joke with my opponents while I destroy them.

I want to breathe in the tense of competition and breathe out the joy born of truly enjoying the moment. I want to love both-- to get more basic: I want to love more moments in my life.

In 2008, my goal is dual: Smile before-n-after every point and play every point to win.

Sure, it is cheeee-z, but I think it is exactly where I need to go. I have 2 other things to work on fro 08, but I'm not going into that now.


J said...

I'm trying to find the evil in this. I know it's in there, but it's more deviously hidden than usual.

I'm watching you, Dusty. If that is your real name!

dusty.rhodes said...

it probably has something to do with a smile being the best camouflage for a my sticking a shiv between your ribs.

Mackey said...

There's definitely a place for dicking around at the non-serious tournaments. I think your assessments of what makes either side of the intensity continuum enjoyable are spot on. Ruthlessly efficient and effective ultimate is a great thrill--the precipitate that forms when you mix hard work, the right personnel, and a team desire to excel. But there's a lot of fun to letting loose and seeing what you can do, too. Instead of reeling in, you open up--it's a different means to finding your limits as a player, in a different forum.

I think you gotta have both. The first enables the second--you can't dick around successfully without first knowing what success is, I think--and the second reinforces the first--for me, at least, it's nice to have those moments where I realize, "Whoa, I just got away with what now? Imagine what I could do if I took this seriously!" And then I eventually get back to taking it seriously and find out what I can do.

Enjoying the ride is all part of the experience. It's my senior year at Dartmouth, and I'd say unequivocally that this year's team is shaping up to be one hell of an enjoyable ride, on and off the field. Hope you have success with the same with Pike this coming year.

dusty.rhodes said...

Yeah... I think I can better bridge the gap between those two sides. Instead of recklessly expanding my game, methodically expanding my game. Instead of just letting that guy be open for non-dangerous passes, play real defense. Enjoy that instead of enjoying not doing that.

Every year I've been with Pike has been a hell of a ride. This season, I'm sure, will prove no different.

I wouldn't trade any season or any lessons I've learned for anything short of being part of a team that wins nationals.