Friday, August 01, 2008

Off to Worlds tomorrow

I have to admit, this whole thing has kinda snuck up on me this year. We haven't been practicing nonstop, throwing in track workouts and agilities and a gazillion other training methods, we haven't been doing a lot of tournaments or trips, and I haven't been waking up at night sweating.

But then again, I am excited. There have been a few inspirational emails from old DoGs who can't go and from new guys. We are being outfitted free of charge by Five Ultimate, and we got Team USA discs from Discraft. We are DoG, and we are Team USA, and many people who have heard of us somewhere, sometime, will be seeing us for the first time and making impressions that they will take back home with them (as well as a few signed copies of the book, hopefully!).

Worlds is a tournament like no other. Club Worlds is special, too, but with the strong American presence at those, it feels a lot like other elite tournaments, with the non-UPA teams adding color but not a lot else (at least historically). But Worlds (WUGC, real Worlds, whatever you want to call it) has a more patriotic and international feel to it. Even if you're DoG, you ARE the US team, this year more than ever.

1996: Jonkoping, Sweden. (I'm surprised to find that I haven't blogged about these before). NY had a late comeback against Sweden in the 1994 Worlds, but otherwise, there had not been a challenge to US supremacy. The women had won 1994 Worlds by a large margin (might have been 17-1 in the finals) and also expected to cruise. Our jerseys were striped like referees, and we carried red and yellow cards in our pocket, as a symbol or something of the player's responsibility. We lost a one-pointed to Sweden in pool play, had to sweat out the possibility of a silly three-way tiebreaker (power pools went directly to the finals, no semis), and got our rematch against Sweden. One of my favorite memories is a morning throwaround on the day of the finals, with the Clash's "Death or Glory" blaring out repeatedly on a boom box brought specifically for that purpose. We won going away. The dorms were a short walk from the fields, meals in the dorms, pretty nice.

1998: Blaine, Minnesota. Being on US soil actually took away some of the lustre. Maybe it was just being in the middle of America. The turf was great but slow. We had a big team of 25, featuring many of the young guys who would not join us for real until after we had won Club Worlds in St. Andrews the following summer. My car (we were staying pretty far from the event) had Lenny in it, and he was already injured by Day 2. It took us an extra 20 minutes one morning just to get him packed up and to the fields, and as a result we showed up 28 minutes prior to gametime, but Mooney had decreed that anyone not there by 30 minutes before the game against Canada wouldn't play the first half. We went down several early, he relented and our car got to play, and we more or less traded out to a 3 or 4 point loss. This was our first real exposure to Furious, although apparently we played against several of their key players (while researching the other day, I saw Cruickshank's and Lugsdin's names in a writeup) in 1996. We beat the other teams and Sweden beat Canada in pool play. The tiebreaker gave 1st place to Sweden (who then got taken out in the semis by Japan) while we had to battle Canada again. Again we went down by a bunch, but this time I felt certain that we were going to win, all the way up to the final goal in a 20-15 defeat. We did fight back and take the bronze over Sweden, though. That fall, we lost two more games to Furious at Tuneup, but took it to them 17-9 at Nationals. Again, stayed at the dorms with other teams, and it was fun to hang around and see other countries' teams.
2000: Heilbronn, Germany. This time we booked late and got stuck about 20 minutes away at the end of the bus line. The fields, too, were spread out at the site, with no more than two adjacent. The Sweden fields were pretty tightly packed, and Blaine were pretty close but somewhat inconvenient because of these drainage ditches. Club Worlds in Hawaii were tight. Toronto 1991, Madison 1993, Street 1995, they were pretty close. St. Andrews, they were spread out a bit, though not as much as Germany. It's a real bonus to have all the fields close to each other, especially with only two games a day. At Nationals in Sarasota, the lack of byes removes some of the benefit of having all the fields next to each other. ANyway, back to Heilbronn. They had a beer garden next to the stadium fields, which was a nice treat. I don't remember beer gardens at other WFDF tournaments. We lost to Japan in pool play, once again with a poor performance after a long bye. They were all fast and jumped well, so I guess this was the first inkling that they had caught up. Won our other games, cruised over host Germany in the semis. Struggled at first in the finals against Sweden, switched to the side stack and ran off 13 straight without a turnover, but once again struggled at the end of the game. We finally prevailed 19-18, but there was a close call at double game point, and their captain (who had played with us a couple years earlier) played to the crowd, which is already predisposed to boo any close call for some reason, and really sucked the wind out of the victory.

And that's it.

2008, Vancouver, BC: Who knows. There are only 10 teams in our division, and they are Masters teams. I don't recognize many names from other teams (the rosters are online: ours is here; you can also see our results there). We expect Japan and Australia to be real threats, as well as Canada. UK and Germany are also potentially tough. More importantly, we are potentially bad, as witnessed by occasional lackluster performances this year. We are bolstered by having added three of our old nemeses from the Condors (Steve Dugan, Greg Husak, and Mike Namkung) for the tournament. Maybe that will catch some opponents by surprise. We just need to treat every game like an elimination game as far as preparation goes, and figure out how to keep 29 players involved.


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