Thursday, July 17, 2008

In which I play sports after work, and something interesting happens

The omens were mixed. On the one hand, I'd forgotten my shorts, so I had to play in jeans. On the other, I discovered during warmups that I had suddenly learned how to throw forehand. My game literally got 50% more versatile!

Not to mention, I'm kind of in shape for the first time in about a decade (if not more), and I was wearing contacts for the first time during a game (previously, I'd take my glasses off, and play half-blind. This was not a competitive advantage.)

The game started off well - I didn't make any mistakes on defense, was in decent position and caught a few key throws. I was feeling pretty good about this whole ultimate frisbee thing...and these after-work games are usually really competitive, since most of the Googlers that care enough about frisbee to play right after work are really pretty good, and have been playing for a while. So they know all the lingo, strategies and techniques, are in good shape, etc. Intimidating if most of your frisbee experience has been on a cement playground with like three other people in high school.

And then...disaster! Playing deep, a throw got dropped in the end zone, and as by far the nearest player to the disc, I had to throw it out. Into the wind. With someone totally guarding my backhand. I was forced forehand, my teammates (who up till then probably thought I was an ok player) assumed I had a forehand and didn't give me any choice. I knew it was going to be bad the instant before it left my hand, but by then it was too late.

The most humiliating forehand I've ever thrown flopped around in the wind helplessly before falling, limply, to the ground about a foot out of our own end zone. Everyone groaned and ran back to score/defend the unbelievably short distance.

In the event, I managed to knock down the throw (decisively; I slapped it down with the full force of my humiliation) and save the point, so I felt a little better. But not much, and my confidence was pretty shaken.

Plus, I was getting pretty winded. My stomach was kinda starting to hurt. And I've had this bruise on my shin that aches when I run on it - not much, just enough to make me think twice about putting my foot down from time to time.

So I sat out for a little bit, and debated whether or not to rejoin the game. Eventually, I decided, probably not. Didn't want to get sick or anything.

"Hey, guys," said a nasal voice from behind me. It took about a half second to comprehend, after turning around, that it was Sergey (who, hilariously and I suppose unsurprisingly, outranks Sergey Prokofiev on a Google search of his first name.) "Anybody wanna throw?"

I sure didn't, but I decided instantly that I wasn't going to leave until I'd played at least one point while he was in the game. I shouldn't need to explain why I felt that way.

At that point, for some I'm sure unrelated reason, it got a lot harder to join the game. (A brief digression: we were playing 6 on 6, lights vs darks, and since we had well over 12 players, after every point, the first 6 people who arrive in one of the two end zones play that point.) So it took me a while to get in a game with our billionaire founder.

But then, success. We stood next to each other in the end zone, waiting for the disc. When it arrived, we all trotted out, Sergey and I not really paying much attention, not expecting the throw to come to us. We turned to look at the thrower, who lofted a short slow one right in between both of us.

It hung in the air, slowly moving toward us but not picking him or I, until it was almost on the ground. Neither of us called it, or pointed at the other one, we just kind of watched it. Finally I dove, snagged it just before it sliced the tips off the blades of freshly-cut grass, and rolled in my jeans, clinging desperately to the frisbee that had just guaranteed I'd be writing this post.

"Thanks," he muttered, or something like that. I couldn't really tell. But he definitely said it TO ME! Squeal.

From that point on, we actually exchanged several passes (thrilling!) We kept occupying pretty similar parts of the field, usually we were the only two people open, and at one point he hustled back to give me an option that I gratefully forehanded directly to him.

This is so nerdy. Whatever. Anyway.

From that point on, I actually had a really solid game. Even if the net worth of all the players hadn't been about 2-3 orders of magnitude higher than any other game I've ever played, I had one of the better games of my life (especially considering how good everyone else was.) I had two sweet defensive plays, one coming about because I hustled and caught the other team being lazy (and I would've gotten a point with my resulting throw if the wind hadn't taken the disc, which wasn't really my fault but I guess kinda was). And I got one awesome point, running flat out into the back of the end zone (I mighta been out, but they gave it to me anyway)

So, bottom line, maybe this whole exercise and contacts thing is kinda working. I mean, I didn't really feel much different from how I normally do, but I definitely played a way better game than usual.

Also, Sergey's really good. He loves to throw it long, and has a pretty sweet throw with a cool spin. He runs hard, though he's not super-fast. And he's pretty modest and quiet, which is neat.

Finally, this video is hilarious. Watch it.