"'If I wasn't done before, I'm done now.' ... I think there's a good chance I've played my last competitive ultimate game, and I can live with that, but I'll be really disappointed if I can't golf or play softball." Me, November 6, 2009.
Ok, I guess that wasn't accurate. Another year, another Nationals.
Physical report: Hard to estimate exactly, but I felt like I was at 80-90%. I haven't yet regained explosiveness on a first step. I didn't feel slow when sprinting but I didn't feel like I was lighting it up, either. In fact, I'm not ever sure I reached "top speed" on the weekend. I felt like there was a chance that any muscle in my legs might seize up at any moment, but never did during the day, only at night (and frequently during the night). At times I felt weak, at other times out of shape, but I made it, playing pretty much all the O points again, though with a less primary role. This was definitely the strongest I've felt all year. My neck muscles are sore now, and though I'm not aware of doing it, I'm told I still look pretty stiff doing certain things out there.
Wife and son stayed home this year. Just me and 1500 of my closest friends.
Tournament was fine. We could have done a little better, could have crumbled and done worse also. Our most important pool play game turned out to be our first one against Real Huck. It was hot, humid, and windless. We got one break early in the first half, had another break called back on something dubious or possibly just unrelated, and that was it. The O held serve the entire first half but got broke coming out of the half, again a little later, and once more at 14-13. This game turned out to be for 2nd place and the much easier crossover in the quarters.
Next up was Boneyard. The D's inadequacies continued, aided by the continuing lack of wind. Boneyard's hucks didn't seem to come on particularly good cuts, but due to good matchups or throws or something, they caught them anyway. O had one bad streak in the middle of the first half but otherwise played well. 15-9. I wasn't all that worried, as though we were 0-2, it was "a good 0-2", as I told others. There was still a lot of familiarization and improvement left to do.
Final game was against Rumble. I can't remember any specifics of the game, just that it was clear before the end that we would win. Some threatened to retire on the spot if we lost or if the D didn't play better. Though it was tempting, it was more important to do well, and we got that first W.
Friday first game was against #1 seed Beyondors, though that seed wasn't justified since they left behind most of the guys who were there last year. This game was tight. We got an upwind break to take half 8-7, were close to about 10-9, then ran off a few to win 15-10 and clinch a realistic chance to win in the quarters, as this guaranteed that we wouldn't match up with Surly.
Second game was uneventful. They were winless, and we were locked into 3rd place. Both of the other games in our pool mattered, with Boneyard taking out Real Huck for 1st, and Beyondors outlasting Rumble to make quarters.
Onto the quarters then. We once again were paired against Glum. Though they had beaten us four in a row dating back to 2009 Regionals, each of those games was winnable, and we hadn't faced them in a game as important as this, so I thought we had a better than might be expected chance. We started off ok, though our second goal was a crazy quadruple helix hammer from Karlinksy to me. The D had several opportunities for a break but couldn't convert, and the O hit a rough streak that proved to be the difference. The game was a little chippy, but already the details escape me. I don't attribute this failing memory to age or having been there a thousand times but instead to it being Masters and me just not caring as much.
The beer tent was already closed by the time we made it over there, so we just headed back to Siesta Key. We wanted to catch the beach, but felt obligated to pull into Mr. Big's. I had made the mistake on Wednesday of stopping there "just to see who was there" on my way back from the captains meeting, and due to a couple carbombs and a couple Guinni, I didn't make it to the grocery store, and as a result, we ate McDonald's every day for breakfast. This night, there was the usual crowd but they were in the parking lot. We said hi, walked in, and kept on walking out the side door and sneaked into the car. They eventually saw us and I almost had to run one of them over to avoid them, and off we went to the beach.
There, tragedy struck once more. While we were swimming, Alex's hat disappeared. I assumed that he had merely left it in the car or back in the room, because that is how he rolls, but he kept insisting that he had had it. Eventually he was proven correct. Thus followed a sleepless night worrying, but we learned that his hat was safe and sound and indeed became so popular that it decided to start a Facebook page. Please friend it.
To add insult to injury, someone pranked our room by getting in and locking the bedroom doors (they were the kind with the push-lock). We couldn't pick the lock, and ended up sleeping on the pullout couch in the living room and on the cushions from the couches. I wouldn't have slept well anyway, as I was waking every half hour or so to cramp.
Consolation games on Saturday. This was the first time since 1991 that my team was eliminated with a full day of games yet to play. (Lost in quarters in Open a couple times but those were first game Saturday; Open semis losses don't count either since there is only one game on Sunday; would have to be pre-quarters loss in Open (or worse) or quarters loss in Masters (or worse).) We played. We tried to get the second game for 7th/8th place played to 11 instead of 15, but our opponents insisted on 15, then started pulling our lame and/or bad travel calls in the second half. It was irritating enough to make me fired up and I got loose finally after previously trying merely hard enough to avoid getting hurt.
On Sunday, I actively watched the Open finals for the first time in years. I'd been "consulting" with Ironside this year, attending about a dozen practices, mostly just offering observations to their coaches and trying to find something worthwhile to say occasionally. It turned out to be a lot harder than I would have thought, to come up with something actionable. If I had been paid, I would have felt like I was ripping them off. But I did feel somewhat invested in the team, and so in the finals, every looked-off open throw or broken-off cut or blown deep coverage really hit hard. Revolver played a great game, Ironside didn't. It will be a good learning experience for the team, remembering what it was like to know that it was theirs but they just didn't take it. Historically, these are the exact circumstances in Boston (A team just misses, B team doesn't make Nationals after maintaining its distance from the A team for a few years) that lead to a major shakeup, but I suspect that this won't be the case this time.
I don't know what's next. I was glad to be able to play again, and occasionally play well. As I said several times, I am 45, and I did just come off major surgery seven months prior. Unlike previous years, I don't have strong feelings either way about whether to keep playing, or to just get the band back together one more time for Grand Masters, or see if there is enough interest in the 2000-2006 DoG to get something going. It's all good. As the great poet Bill Belichick says, "It is what it is."