Photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com
Losing sucks. Getting blown out by a bunch of guys you know is even worse.
On the surface, that’s about all I can say in regards to our game against the D.C. Current last week. Very early on, things seemed just fine. The first point on offense we got the disc moving, I had a nice up-line move on Brent Bellinger and then pushed a forehand out the back of the end zone. That turnover translated into some poor defense and the first break of the game, whose importance can’t be understated in a matchup like this.
Typically, in games like this one, it’s easy to say “The score didn’t reflect the game,” or “It wasn’t as bad as it looked.” In this case, they’d both be lies. The Current jumped on us early and when we rolled over late they kept their foot on the gas and ran up the score. We came out soft against a talented and motivated team and we paid dearly. That kind of pressure and leveled intensity is a sign of a great team, but it was nobody’s fault except our own that the game got away from us.
This was my first experience playing in D.C., and I was pleasantly surprised to see the nice fan turnout at the game despite the questionable weather. In case you somehow missed it, the D.C. fans are also hooked up with mini cowbells and an announcer who loves yelling, “THAT’S A D.C. D!” These variables make it a pretty annoying and effective home crowd, especially when you’re trying to play from behind.
While the game didn’t go as planned, the D.C. trip was still one of my most enjoyable experiences with the MLU yet. There have been a lot of debates about how the MLU compares to the AUDL, USAU and the like. I have tried not to dip into them here, but here’s what I can say about this trip: It proved to me that this is a player-first league.
Our team bus came off I-95 and picked me, Matt Wilson and Quinn Hunziker up near our homes in Yardley, Penn. When I was deciding between coming to this game or coaching my high school team at Northeasterns, I received multiple offers from inside the league for help with purchasing a plane or bus ticket in order to do both. Throughout our entire game, D.C. was promoting players like Jeff Wodatch and encouraging fans to enter raffles for signed and game-worn jerseys. Kids from the local leagues went nuts for the best players from their city. It really felt like a professional sporting event.
Even once the game was over, I had the pleasure of spending some time with former teammates Eddie Peters and Rob Dulabon. Both played an integral part in teams I’ve been on and in the Current’s demolition of us, but neither came boasting or filled with arrogance. There were some light barbs, but they were well deserved.
More than anything, though, my time hanging with the D.C. guys reminded me that our mission as Ultimate players was bigger than the game that just occurred. We all shared some thoughts about the very pointed articles coming from Dusty Rhodes, our first impressions at the MLU’s sophomore season, what it meant to us to be a part of this whole experiment and, of course, what we were planning to do for the upcoming club season. I even got to meet Connor Maloney, a dude who shares my number and passion for the game. He mentioned seeing my Huffington Post article on Ultimate and assured me that the community was happy to see another person getting the sport out to the mainstream. It was a small but important bright spot in an otherwise dark and frustrating couple of hours in D.C.
One great thing about taking bad losses is that it usually gets rid of fear and intimidation. Peyton Manning says that his favorite part of the game is taking that first big hit, because he knows when he gets up he won’t be scared again. Even after so many years in the league, he still fears that first hit. I relate to that idea with blowing big games like this one. I didn’t check my stats but I’m certain that I accounted for six or seven turnovers, and probably a decent chunk of the team’s total mishandles. After a showing like that, I really can’t fear much. Things couldn’t have gone much worse if I had wanted to blow the game.
Looking ahead, this week’s matchup is going to be a whole different animal. Not only will D.C. be coming to us, but we’ll be missing some of our studs and emotional leaders on the field. Typically, those kinds of absences are worrisome. But in this case, coming off this loss, I don’t have any worries; I’m simply curious to see how the rest of our roster steps up and responds. You never know what will happen in The Nest.