Every season comes down to a moment or a game or a situation where everything hangs in the balance. For those of us who enjoy professional sports it may be early in the season as we see the Boston Red Sox sweep the Jays out of the pennant race in August, or it may be later on as we see a pivotal game 7 with LeBron vs Garnett. In each situation there are winners and losers. Like a great big metaphor for life. I have seen the New York Giants beat the undefeated Patriots in the Superbowl, and back to Boston, I’ve seen the Sox come back from 0-3 series deficit to beat the Yankees 4-3 in the ALCS and go on to win their first world series in 86 years. Or if you are not a fan of upsets, look at Michael Jordan’s resume. 6 titles, need I say more. Sports are incredible for that reason, and that’s why we love them, playing and watching, because the impossible happens.
In Ultimate you have smaller versions of these moments in every tournament, but as the season progresses and the tournaments become more important, so do the games. In terms of Liquid’s history, I have seen (and helped) us win against BFC at Regionals in 2007 the year they went on take 2nd at Nationals, and in the same year, we lost to Les Bouettes, a completely inferior team, to knock us out of the top 8. It’s all mental. Especially when you have two respectably even teams in terms of physical ability and athleticism, the mental aspect will play an even larger role in determining the outcome. It’s all mental.
Our big game/moment/situation came Saturday morning against Gecko. Anyone reading this probably knows the result. It was a very close game, a really fun game to play, but a game that I felt the wrong team won, just as in our quarters match last year against RIP. We made our share of mistakes, drops, throwaways, and our intensity definitely could’ve been higher, but we were the better team. That sounds a bit egotistical now, but I still think it’s true. So back to the whole ‘Does the best team always win?’ debate. Gecko got very lucky on a few plays (read: catching garbage throws), didn’t turn it over a lot, but I truly believe they had us beat in the mental department. This may have been from us thinking we would roll over them quite handily. Personally I have learned my lesson in this regard, but the thought still creeps into your mind at times that you will simply demolish a team before the game has even begun. Maybe this is confidence, maybe it is over-confidence. It’s a fine line.
OK, OK, I get a bit carried away with all those thoughts, maybe I should try to see it more as just a game, but I am competitive, like a lot of people playing ultimate (frisbee!) at this level. It’s hard not to get carried away when you have big expectations for your team and then they get crushed. And being the pick-up player that I was this year, I wanted to help Liquid go on a big run to the finals, and since we didn’t, I feel more then slightly responsible. I was on the field enough. I had a few lay-outs that were inches away from D’s. I had one throwaway (first point – too early to matter or big momentum swing?), but no drops. I had a ‘finger-block’ that wasn’t quite enough to get the D. Higy had a few big plays but no D’s that I can remember. Our zone was hot in the rain and muck but they were patient and worked it up and scored anyway. Blue had a big Callahan that I thought would swing the momentum , but in fact didn’t. Our O was good, but not great which it needed to be in a game like that, and not clicking like it was in other games.
We lost by two.
On the bus home I was sitting next to Neenah and on the packed bus there were a few ONYX players standing directly in front of us. “That kind of sums up our tournament,” I said. Neenah looked at me questioningly. “Always looking up at ONYX.” It was a half-hearted attempt at a lame joke, but it was also true. Based on the way they were playing I thought they would win the finals. Chaos won two very close universe games just to get to the finals; ONYX had beaten TFP then Quebec rival RIP quite handily. That, as they say, is why we play the games. Chaos takes it running away.
Invictus had a similar day, beating Blackfish in the quarters, but taking it on the chin against Mephisto, the imminent champs, to end their shot at a national title. I wish I could’ve played for them, although it would’ve been equally heart-breaking I’m sure. I took my last shot Liquid and it was awesome – I just want that one game back. My dream of winning a national title will have to wait, and may have to come with Invictus next year. I’m hoping to get to UPA’s with them but we’ll see how my schedule and finances play out. Got to get my fix in before winter hits, I hear the winter league in Calgary is not great.