Monday, August 17, 2009

The End Is the Beginning

Credit: The majority of the photos here were taken by Karen and posted to Facebook. She did a fantastic job with them.

I've written here many times about Ultimate here in Argentina, though it's been a little while since I've given you an update. But there was recently big, big news. The Fall League was the most organized and competitive the country of Argentina has seen. There were early stumbles with the securing of fields and occasionally ironing things out between teams. But with a lot of heartfelt effort by the leaders of this organization, things eventually progressed. We had regular league parings every Sunday, and nearly all of them came off without too much trouble. This is assuming that spirited disagreements with the local futbolistas doesn't constitute much trouble.
Just like me, the league is looking for space to land

Big Red dropped the last game of the previous season to Discosur and then a hardfought season opener to Cadillacs. But since then, we had been on a real tear, winning the rest of our games, most of them by a healthy margin. But the team really earned those victories. We began practicing once a week on Wednesday nights, rain or stars. We added Saturdays as well, working on the Ho Stack, zone D, conditioning and a litany of other in-game pointers. As always, Mike shared his knowledge with a positive attitude. By the end of the season, we were a well-oiled machine. We were confident, but in the playoffs anything could happen.

Partly because of the Swine Flu and vacations for some of their key members, The semi-finals were set for Saturday against Cadillacs. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up on the timing and the two teams did not arrive at the same time. We technically could have asked them to forfeit, but a near unanimous vote meant the game was on and the winner would go to the finals. We came out on fire, being sufficiently warmed up, and cruised to a 15-3 win. Cadillacs were short on ladies, but did their best to keep playing hard through the last point.

Waiting for us in the finals was Aqua, the newest team in Argentina. Led by a Colombian nicknamed Chapi, they had also been practicing and shown a lot of improvement. Chapi wasn't there the first time we played them, and was battling injuries in the second go-round, so this was an entirely new game. What transpired was the most intense game I've played in any sport since I was in high school. That's a good thing. Normally when people stroll by the park and see these crazy young people runing around throwing frisbees, they think we're crazy. With the intensity ratched up, lots of fans in attendance, and everybody screaming the whole time, we seemed all the more certifiable.
Dani outstretches Chapi for the disc

Big Red went up early (5-1), but Aqua fought back the whole game, cutting the score to 8-7 right after halftime. The key plays all blur together. Carlos making an incredible D in the endzone. Checho coming out of nowhere to sky behind me and my faulty knee for a huge point. Martin playing like an unleashed animal, continuing his fine performance from the semis. Dani faking a throw, knowing Chapi had no choice but to make a play for the block, then calmly throwing for the score. Fer getting open in the corner of the endzone for a key point... and many more plays I can't remember. Every single player made a huge contribution.
Checho wins the battle

As the game drew to a close, we capitalized on Aqua's few mistakes, and tightened our game. Up 13-10, Chapi poached off of me, and I darted to the endzone. I nearly dropped the disc, but managed to haul in Point #14, just barely over his outstretched arm. Soon after, a wide open Emi was sprinting to the other endzone's front corner where he caught the game-winner, putting the fall season into the books.
Point 14

After a pretty wild celebration in the endzone, we did the spirited thing and congratulated Aqua on a great game. Both of these teams had improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the season, and deserved to feel proud.
Todos con buen espiritu

But now that the most official season in Argentine history was completed, how to go forward? This is a difficult question. Clearly, the season was a great success, but the league is in many ways still like a toddler in the great scheme of things. I suggested some ideas and was subsequently invited to a planning meeting disguised as an asado. That's my favorite kind of meeting! Maxi had 11 of us over to his house, made some excellent meat, and cooked it all in the rain. In sum, we had six Argentines and six extranjeros, three players from each team. We still have a ways to go when it comes to planning together, but everyone clearly cares a ton.
Maxi, el asador - undeterred by the rain

Now there's a foundation. We still have a lot of growing to do, but there are a lot of people contributing. The first step was an excellent hat tournament held this weekend. Unfortunately, mal clima (bad weather) and Pepe Nielsen conspired to keep me from participating the second day. But with six teams of at least 10 people each, it's clear that the momentum is continuing. Spring league, a possible trip to Medellin, and a likely return to Monte Hermoso are all indicators that there's a future for the sport here, and I'm really happy to be a part of it. We celebrate because we won the title. But we haven't stopped practicing.
Ladies and gentlemen, your fall league champions. Vamos BIG RED!


Lahill said...

Que buena fortuna!!!
Y con una pierna lesionada!!
Felicitaciones de su patria. El Presidente Obama debe les invitar a la Casa Blanca dentro de poco.
El Viejo

Kozy said...

Congrats on being the champs! Very awesome.

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