Photo by Sean Carpenter – UltiPhotos.com
“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” -Robert Green Ingersoll
When Robert Green Ingersoll said these famous words, he probably wasn’t referring to a four-game losing streak in Major League Ultimate.
Still, though, his words ring true. There is no greater test of courage in an athlete than continuing to work hard while bearing defeat; to remain full of heart and desire in a time when achieving goals you set out for is an unrealistic or impossible task.
I’ve been asked a few questions from reporters and writers for the MLU since our loss to the Spinners last week: How does your attitude change? What’s the mood like in the locker room? Where do you go from here?
They’re tough questions to answer, because the responses usually differ on an individual basis. For me, the attitude doesn’t change much: we want to finish the season by winning out. We owe D.C. and there would be nothing better than ending the year with a home win against Boston and – potentially – playing spoiler to their playoff plans. But Coach Nuñez said it best: we just have to win the moment.
To my surprise, delight, and sometimes frustration, our locker room has remained overwhelmingly positive. After four years of success at Pitt, I got really bad at losing. I become negative and spiteful and usually lay around in a bad mood for 24 hours before overworking myself or – worst case scenario – wallowing in the mistakes I made days before. If one great thing has come out of this losing streak for me personally, it’s that I’ve re-learned how to lose with a group of high character guys that lead by example: work hard, talk less, pick up your teammates.
For anyone expecting this team to roll over the next two weeks, I’d suggest you re-think your understanding of the attitudes we have on the New York Rumble. Blowout losses to D.C. and Boston, heartbreaking 1-point defeats to the Spinners – they don’t change the players we can put on the field. I look at our roster and this is what I see:
Chris Mazur, reigning MVP and one of the deadliest throwers I’ve ever played with. Joe “Smash” Anderson, one of if not the best handler covers in the entire league. Ben Faust, as high an IQ big man as there is in the MLU. Robbie Gillies and his giant frame, Matt Wilson’s unbeatable heart, Markian Kuzmowycz’s insane speed, Marques Brownlee’s through the roof athleticism, Dave Vuckovich’s unstoppable cutting, Ignacio Yz’s shoulder high bids, the Hennessy brothers and their surgical approach to the game, the list goes on and on and on…from top to bottom, we’re a roster full of guys that have special skills or characteristics rare and precious in the ultimate world.
So what do you do when you’re out of the playoffs, you have two games to go and a sideline of injured, defeated teammates? You do whatever you can to not lose heart. You fight, you get on the road and go to D.C. and prove the blowouts you endured were a fluke, a product of absences or injuries or once-in-a-lifetime loss of focus. You lean on the things you’re good at and you hope your teammates play within themselves. Whatever you do, you keep your knees high and your pride intact. The rest will take care of itself.
Some quick hits from the Spinners game:
– It was super fun to play against the Pitt guys. It was even more fun to see them botch so many deep hucks. They made themselves really susceptible to sideline heckles about not being used to the MLU disc.
– Speaking of talking smack, I had a lot of fun matching up with Trent Dillon. He came down and immediately told me he didn’t know why they’d waste him on me. Then he kept calling out the moment before I’d make my move for the disc by yelling, “Cut! Cut! Cut!” It didn’t work well, since I got the disc and broke him for a deep backhand huck. But he redeemed himself by embarrassing me in the end zone a couple possessions later. We continued to chirp.
– Speaking of that grab, the band that Patrick Earles got for taunting me made me think of something: the league should institute some kind of “integrity rule” for unsportsmanlike conduct. For instance, I wish I could have told the ref not to give Earles the band. Our exchange was definitely inappropriate, but only when taken out of the context of our close friendship. If there were a way for me to tell the ref not to penalize him, I would have done it. In our first game against D.C., Brent Bellinger (Pitt alum) had the disc in his hands at the end of a quarter and when we were walking back to our sideline I playfully smacked it to the ground. The ref gave me a stern warning but, again, the context of our relationship was entirely lost. That playful gamesmanship with opponents you know is entirely absent with referees unfamiliar with who you are.
– Speaking of the refs, I think we got jobbed. I mean, no excuses: we lost this game and we had a chance to send it to overtime on the last possession. But the foul call on Matt Esser and the strip call against me were really horrendously bad calls. Bad enough that they’re the first two calls I’ve written about in one of these player blogs. And they were huge plays – plays that, had they gone the proper way, could have resulted in a four-point swing.
– Day games are fun, but night games are better. Nothing is sweeter than playing under the lights, although I was really stoked to see the great fan turnout on a beautifully hot Sunday afternoon.
– Pro tip: You can play with stitches. Ben Faust told me he played college nationals with 25 stitches in his forehead, which basically was my inspiration to play with 10 stitches on my nose. That, and this quote: “Pain heals, chicks dig scars and glory lasts forever.”
– Marcus Ranii-Dropcho is the biggest addition to any team in the East this season. I’ve seen him play a ton, and the game he had on Sunday was pretty average for him. He didn’t play great, he didn’t play bad. And he still finished with six goals. When that kid turns it on and finds his groove with the new disc, he is going to be absolutely deadly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Philly make a run for the playoffs, and I hope we can help them out by beating Boston in our last game of the year.