When I wake up, it’s to the gentle sounds of my phone’s impression of wildlife. From the point I lift my hand up to switch it off, my body is screaming in pain.
My fingers are swollen, my wrists won’t bend, my elbows feel like they’ve been shattered and my shoulders aren’t even pretending to be functional.
My neck is strained, by back aches, and my spine is a’screaming.
My legs are pretty alright, though.
So it’s in this state that I wake up the rest of those staying in the room: Kyle by shaking his shoulder, Horse by Kyle’s exclamations, and Yeager’s already up just by virtue of the noise everyone else makes. Then it’s a round robin of people trying to stretch and realizing their bodies aren’t quite into it, and then staring blankly at the wall or phones or anything and wondering if maybe not playing for 2 months makes the first tourney a bit hard to get through.
The answer, dear reader, is yes.
But we trudge to breakfast where I begin to gather the extent of the uselessness of my hands. I can’t quite manipulate the fork or knife, and sitting up straight is difficult. Still, I eat the mysterious yellow sponges and meat circles and head back upstairs to dress for the day.
The 1 minute bike ride from the back of the hotel to my car hurts in ways that I will never be able to express.
The second day is a bench tourney, wherein about 9 players are joined by a captain who chose them. While I had my doubts as to how Alexis perceived my performance the day before, it seems I did well enough to get picked up into his team.
“I think you and I have a good feel for each other now,” he says to me, “so we’ll have a little advantage in there.”
I think about telling him my ailments, but Ben Z. is within earshot and I don’t want him to give me his judgement face.
Our team is made up of some amazing players: Nate Mumford, Patty Youn, John Hayes, Meesh from down south, Another John (Sanchez) I’d never met but who proves to be a fairly outstanding reader of plays, Matt Jacobs (who plays in Philly but I never met in person), Clark who is another lefty, Robocop (half man, half machine, all power) and Alexis as captain.
Again, I find myself nervous. Looking over the rosters for the day, I feel as though I’m a pretty weak link in the whole show. My team doesn’t play for a full 40 minutes so I help Alias out with getting people on the courts and getting folks to time the matches, which is readily done. I spend this time worrying about whether I’ll be any use at all to my team, which is a horrible way to spend any time at all.
When our match comes up, I’m all nerves. Alexis stands on the bench and says how he’s going to run the games:
“I’m going to stand on this bench and not smile, and anytime we score I’m going to look away and put my hands behind my back, maybe do a lap looking at the ground.”
And then, to get our attention, he shouts:
And I know it’s going to be an alright day.”Listen here, Maggots! I don’t like you and you don’t like me, so let’s just get this all over with!”
This was the first Bench tourney I’ve been to (out of all 2) where I was rotated in at a constant clip. Alexis made it a point to keep rotating people, seemingly regardless of where we stood in points. He did figure out lines to a point, but he also made sure that nobody sat for too long and also took people’s thought into account. I not only felt like he was cognizant of what worked best for the team, but also what worked best for each player.
That being said, I was a pretty weak link in the chain. I’d spent all my energy the day
before and my heart was doing better but was still not running at full steam. I found by the middle of the day I was fairly worn down (again) and I was beginning to suck more and more air in my few minute stints on the court.
That’s not to say I didn’t do my part. The courts are huge, and any kind of disruption to the play is a great benefit to the team. I managed to hold my own in the defensive zone though I scored perhaps one goal the whole day.
Late in the day, we faced down Javier’s team (I think…) which had Nick Vaughn as a team-mate. It was remarkably painful to experience. I had played alongside Nick once in my life, and it’s not stretch to say that he is leagues above most players.
Add to this an entire team of strong, heavy-hitting players and you’ve got one hell of a situation to deal with.
My team approached it much as we had every other match: a mix of tenacity and humor. Nate Mumford was key in this, as he was one of our strongest players but also one of our most entertaining, and he helped set the tone for enjoying ourselves. Vaughn scored on me three (THREE FREAKING) times, and it hurt so much to watch them happen to me. Nate explained that it’s like he has some kind of voodoo around him, and I proclaimed him most likely a witch.
Even so, my team performed admirably. Meech (Michelle Willcox, for those who don’t know), who I had watched play a year or so ago but never again since, proved to be a very savvy player who knew how to turn around a bad situation into a scoring opportunity. Patty, who I had only heard of but never met, was one of our top players as well. It was remarkable, really, how strong our team was for a bunch of people who weren’t necessarily familiar with each other. I was more proud than anything.
But, alas, we lost that match, with Horse scoring the overtime goal, and moved to the loser’s bracket in an attempt to fight back into the winner’s bracket. We played against Rob Biddle’s team which just happened to have Horse and Kyle in it, and to cut to the chase, we lost that match, too, gaining us a third place finish.
And while that might seem like a loss, dear reader, it was the highest I’d ever finished in a tournament, and all the while it didn’t escape me that I had so much fun getting to that point, the final game we lost, that is. I felt very connected to my bench team at that point, and even the new recruit (Ben Z) felt like he’d been there the whole time (we lost a few folks along the way due to travel needs and rides leaving). I shared some of a beer with Patty and hell, it could have been the horn of triumph for all I care.
Anyway, we finished 3rd, the light disappearing and the crowd growing silent with the tired determinism that comes on the last day of a tourney. Javier’s team won (Which happened to have Yeager on it, which happens to mean that Yeager won both the 1st day tourney and the 2nd day tourney), with Biddle’s team coming in second. The celebrations were remarkably short-lived as everyone immediately set to either leaving or helping clean up, in most cases both.
Horse, Yeager, Kyle and I went to Taco Bell, as we hadn’t eaten since lunch and it was somewhere close to 10:30. After getting our much of carbohydrates and grade C meat, Alias came in to get whatever it is that vegans can get from Taco Bell (I assume nothing there is actually animal based, so it could be anything).
That’s when he told me that he’d be donating half of the profits from the tournament to my fundraiser to get to Worlds this year.
But let’s just face facts here, okay? I cry at commercials.
So when he told me what he planned to do, I may or may not have hugged him for a touch too long, and maybe a few times.
From there, it was a short two hour car ride home, where I tried to think of ways to get out of work the next day (none came to me) and tried to reconcile the fact that I now had a podium finish under my belt.