Kris bounded out of bed this morning after sleeping through a good three minutes of the alarm and enduring an insistent nudge from me to start his day. The sky was still dark, the dogs still snoring away in their beds. On his way to the bathroom, Kris called out "Ul-ti-mate!" in the jingle we use to sing the word, and might have done a small jig.
For the first time in just under two years, Kris was going to an ultimate tournament, and we were going together. Sure, he's been at practice for the last comple months, and talking about various ways to improve the team, but this is the first tournament he's signed up for, and the first one with the Cows.
Seems so weird to be playing with the Cows, almost as if I've come full circle. On one of my first visits to the Bay Area to spend time with Guy, I wandered into the Cows practice at Stanford. When I asked if the game was a pickup game, I was swift rebuked: no, it was a closed practice with the implication of don't bother us. And the rest was history. Without that rebuke, I would most likely never have met Kris in circumstances that allowed us to become close. And how much sadder would my life have been?
"Why do I get up a hour earlier for ultimate than I do for work?" Kris asked me as he pawed through his clothes to find his ultimate clothes. Though I really have no idea why ultimate players do it, we do. And we do it for free. Must be about the love of the game.
As we were piling our bags into the car, I commented to Kris about just how excited I was to be playing in this tournament. Heading off to the tournament was invigorating: I was going off to Do Something with Kris, we were playing ultimate together, we were on a team seeded 12 out of 13 having only up to go, we were going to hang out with a cool group of people all day, we were playing ultimate together, the team had no expectations of winning even half its games, much less the whole tournament.
That last one was key. We had no expectations.
Ultimate was fun again. It wasn't a win or die of shame situation. It wasn't a high pressure situation. I wasn't going to have people on the sidelines asking, "Why is she on this team again?" I could play, run hard, or not, and that was OKAY. Fun! Fun! No pressure! No expectations.
We left 20 minutes late, with Kris driving, so really we would be 20 + driving-like-an-old-man-delay late, which was before Chookie left his house. He passed us around SFO, to my incredible delight, as Kris had commented a half hour before "We should have carpooled with Chookie." and I had asked him, "You want to call him at 7:00am?" "No."
Our first game at 8:00am was against Classy, the first seed in our pool. First point of the game, as we were in our endzone and I turned to cut, the woman defending me elbowed me in the boob, grabbed my shirt, then tripped me. When I called foul, she contested the foul. So when the thrower asked what happened that stopped play, I announced very loudly, "She punched me in the boob, then contested the foul."
We scored that point.
With no expectations and more experience than Classy had any reason to expect, we went up 4-2 before they woke up. Of course, "waking up" meant playing an open game on a mixed field, and their course of action was to put in four male handlers, none under 6' tall, and skip throwing to their women. I am way past the point where this bothers me any more. If the women want to both hamper their own skills development and fail to be an integral part of their team's offense, then they can just suck it on a team that will rarely rise above Sectionals.
We kept the game close at 5s and 6s, then lost momentum, losing the first half 6-8. The second half we kept the score fairly close, but still lost 11-13. We hadn't really expected to win the game, but really, if one or two key drops in the endzone hadn't been dropped, the game could have easily gone the other way. I threw a couple scores, one of which several Mischief folk saw and totally cheered me on. It felt so good to know they still have my back!
Our second game was against That's What She Said, another perennial suck team that rarely makes it beyond Sectionals. The extent of my awareness of this team is a vague recollection of their winning Spring Fling 3 or 4 years ago against one of the two split Mischief rosters full of tryouts, then using that result 5+ months later to argue their way to a higher seeding at Sectionals that year, only to be beat down by the teams that rightly deserved the higher seedings. I can't honestly say my opinion of the team as a whole has changed, but, hoo-boy, has my position on the team ladder changed.
We lost that game 15-8. We lost the first half 2-8, but kept the second half reasonable, losing 6-7, matching point for point and losing only on the end of the game, not the strength of our fight. Funny how when you give up a 6 point lead at the beginning of the game how much harder it is to overcome.
Happily, not all was doom and gloom with the game. I played strong defense, laying out for a defensive bid on an overthrown disc. I came down hard on my right arm, not realizing the injury I incurred there until the end of the day when I noticed my wrist was incredibly sore. In a defensive zone point when we were on office, Jason Gische threw a no-look throw, breaking the cup, to me. I hadn't anticipated the throw, also having been thrown off by the no-look, and laid out to catch it THUNK in my left hand as I slid in what felt like good form. Hey! I caught it! was my happy thought! Even the other team was giving me high-fives when I commented it's one of the few layouts I've ever had, and one of the first I've caught.
In another point in the game, Kris received a throw out to a swing to the open side. I knew where he was going, and cut to the giant open side, where he put the disc to space. I was cutting hard, and caught the claw catch to the sound of my defender grunting. "I was so close!" I heard her cry on the sideline after the point was over, to which both Kris and I rolled our eyes at. Not only was she boxed out by my body placement, and Kris' fabulous disc placement, the only way she could have gotten the disc was to grow 2' and run through me. Riiiiiiiiiight. So "close."
Our third game was against the Cal Berkeley team, which I think might have been the B team, not sure. We played okay against them, figuring how to arrange our zone to allow a weaker player receive the disc so that we could aggressively mark against her (and it was always a "her"). The score was something like 15-8.
I was expecting to play three games today, so when someone mentioned there was a crossover, I internally groaned a bit. My feet hurt. I was tired. I was sleepy. I was sore (already). I was cold. I didn't really want to play another game. I did, however, want to win the next game.
We started the game down the first point, as we pretty much had the whole day (the first point of the second game to a Callahan, no less), then went on a scoring streak. I was able to name who scored the goals in the downwind endzone, and so tallied the score at 6-1, but someone on the opposing team insisted it was 4-1, and we relented. We shouldn't have, though, as we let our guard down around 11-5, and they started scoring like mad. At 11-9 the cap went on, with the final score close to 13-11.
I wanted to stay after our last game to see how Mischief was doing, but the fog had rolled in the rain was starting. Cold, tired, hungry and THEN wet, and I just wanted to leave.
Okay, so, I handled all day. Only on a handful of points, did I pop, and I was never called deep. A couple of times I was called cutter in the flemish offense, which I thought was entertaining, as I had neither played the offense before, nor heard of it. The mismatches with Linda and I against our opponents were too big to ignore, so we were iso with a big amount of space to cut into. Fortunately for my clueless self, strings that set up the offense worked well enough that I didn't need to worry too much about my flemish cutting.
Or pretty much anything during the day. During the day, I threw away two discs and missed receiving one, managing a couple blocks. Nothing too spectacular, except that I WAS HANDLING. More surprisingly, someone commented that I was good at it. I couldn't help but laugh hysterically inside, because I feel such the opposite. I don't know where to cut in the handler position. I don't know where to clear effectively from the handler positions. I don't always continue the disc effectively, stalling it. I don't always throw upfield, even on throws that I could make, but hestitate to try.
I had some beautiful throws, like a bending forehand to Holly that curved away from her defender as she cut upline for me, and right into her hands. Or another up the line throw to Alex who hucked to Chookie for a score. Or the score I threw with my Mischief cheering squad watching. But I also had a turf when the wind dropped a longer forehand than I should have thrown. And I was handblocked in the last game. Shudder.
I played well, but don't know if it was the release of internal pressure on myself that allowed me to play well, or if it was the lack of pressure from my teammates to be perfect. With Mischief, there are so few drops that every one STANDS OUT. On the Cows, hell, there are so many, how do you remember them all? Not that turnovers are acceptable, they're just not mentally punishing as they are on a higher level team.
I mentioned this to Kris on the drive home, about how excited I was that the pressure was gone. The expectations of a perfect game were gone. The team had hopes, and those hopes translated into my playing better, I wanted to be better for these people.
I didn't care that we "should" beat this team, or that we "should" play better. Playing was no longer about shoulds, or even the score. Instead, it was about how well I was playing at THAT EXACT MOMENT in this point. Could I run harder? Could I be in a better place? Could I throw a better throw? Was I playing as well as I could RIGHT NOW? If the answer was "yes," I was happy. If the answer was "no," I changed what I was doing so that the answer was yes.
So, for the first time, I think ever, I was happy with the record of 2-2.
It's all about hopes and expectations and not letting either overwhelm you.