Monday, April 26, 2010

Catching Up: November, Part I

I often think back to a conversation I had in Monte Hermoso during our celebratory asado with Josh and Nick. Josh, you see, had always been a die-hard basketball junkie. He couldn't get enough. By all accounts, (well, by his accounts anyway), he was a damn good player. I had been the same, though probably not as strong a hoopster as he was, but basketball was the only sport I wanted to play. Times change. I got sick of people hacking drives to the hoop and calling bullshit fouls. So maybe I was looking for something else. When my friend Joe forcibly turned me on to Ultimate, it was a coercion for which I have found myself forever grateful.
That's a fine-lookin' league!

Ultimate was still relatively new to Josh, and though he was clearly enjoying it, he had yet to be totally convinced of its supremacy. Nick and I concluded our diatribe by repeating simply but assuredly, "It's the best sport." In that moment, we were perhaps a bit absolute in this conclusion, fueled by excessive amounts of beef and wine. Josh seemed to accept that we meant it and took it to heart. A year later, Josh would later claim, on videotape, that Ultimate is "his vida" here in Argentina. Maybe that was an overstatement and maybe not, but regardless there's something about this game. When you're playing well, it's like flying. You see the plays develop the moment they begin. You send the disc to the open space, on its way to connect with a teammate like they were born to be together. When you're the one chasing it down, you're a shark intercepting its prey. And on days when you're off your game, the frustration of horrible round of golf seems soothing by comparison.

November unveiled itself to be the most Ultimate-laden month of my life, and I owe it all to the amazing community that has sprung up around the sport in Buenos Aires. You may recall the last time I brought up the sport in this space, detailing Big Red's triumphant fall campaign. From that point onward, the team continued its success. We tore through the spring season, winning every game. Even though we were practicing twice a week and had really gelled, the games kept getting closer. An intense one against Discosur ended with a one-point victory. And in the last game of the season, Aqua gave us all we could handle before we finally pulled away in the second half.
Martin shows that all those throwing practices have paid dividends

It is amazing how much improvement each of the four Buenos Aires teams have seen. Strong leadership and dedication from all the league's participants are having an impact. When we arrived to Parque Sarmiento for the season-ending tournament, we were probably overconfident. Facing Cadillacs in our first game, they came out playing a zone that gave us fits. We retaliated the only way we could at first - with solid defense. Seriously, it was like the Pistons and Pacers in 2004 out there. The first half ended with Cadillacs up 5-3, and every single Big Red jugador nervous if not downright scared. I was in the scared category. To go undefeated for nearly two full seasons and lose in the semis is not what we were after, but we didn't seem to have any answers for what they were throwing at us.
Big Red = Buena onda

The half-time talk was almost as duro as the Cadillac defense. People were vocal but positive, and we came out for the second half charged up. Thanks to some more aggressive passes (one could say risky, but they worked), we found the weaknesses in the defense and bounced down the field to some beautiful scores. At the same time, we turned up our defense and managed to pull away in the second half. We'd regained our swagger, but deep down I think a lot of us were tired after a match that was more intense than we had expected.
I am pretty sure I caught this disc - I just can't remember if it was with my hand or my mouth.

That set us up for a showdown versus Discosur. The first half could not have been more even. I'm pretty sure the maximum consecutive points by either team was two. Come halftime, we had no reason to hang our heads. Both teams brought their A game, and all of us were totally exhausted. At the same time, we had proven to ourselves that we were a second-half team, and knew that there was nothing left but to keep playing hard. Somehow we discovered another gear on defense and rolled to a 15-8 victory.
The team can smell the win after Randall notches a crucial point

Whereas the fall season ended with a romp and pure elation on the field, the emotions this time around were relief and satisfaction overlaid with a healthy dose of pure exhaustion. Winning this tournament was hard. It's obvious that the Buenos Aires league has really stepped up the quality, and coming out on top felt like a huge accomplishment. A week later, we celebrated at Mike and Kyla's with a Colombian feast prepared by Roxy and Carlos. We'll end today's post at this point, but Part II is coming up, and it features more Ultimate and Colombian feasting. So get ready, you.
The sweet taste of victory

Other writing from November:
Top 50 Albums #43 - Ladyhawk - Ladyhawk
Top 50 Albums #42 - Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
Top 50 Albums #41 - Gogol Bordello - Gypsy Punks
A to B Back and Forth Review: Inglorious Basterds
Top 50 Albums #40 - Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy
Down in a Hole - More frustrations for Michigan


Joe said...

Was I that forceful? I'm glad it worked out, and you're right, it is the greatest game.

Go Big Red!

Reed said...

Nah, you weren't forceful. I oversold it a bit here. But I remain eternally grateful to you for introducing me to the best sport!

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