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Reflections – U.S. Open

Recaps, Tournaments

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If you were born in the eighties, then you probably know something about hard video games. I speak, of course, of the notorious classics – Contra, Megaman, Battletoads —  ­­ that pitch you into the fray at maximum difficulty without warning or reprieve. Our parents probably didn’t appreciate that we were doggedly building character against 8-­bit adversity, but we were. We learned to deal with frustrations, to set goals, to maintain focus, the necessity of doing things right, and on happy occasion, to enjoy a seat-of-your-pants wild success.

And in reflecting on the U.S. Open, we revisited that experience. Welcome to the next level, ladies and gentlemen.

In many tournaments, you can expect at least a couple of easier games. Depending on your seed, you can probably even hope for the more forgiving match­-ups up front to ease you into the rhythm. But that’s not what happens at tournaments like these. There really are no “bad” teams at the U.S. Open; there are only teams that show up readier than others. You’re either prepared for maximum difficulty, to deliver on your fundamentals, to sustain the focus from the first pull, or you’re not. And many teams — good or great — this early in the season, are not. That’s how multiple ties happen, as they did in our round robin: the tournament turns into something like a weighted random number generator.

People ask, “how did team A lose so badly to team B, and then suddenly win so well against team C?” It doesn’t seem to fit the acceptable model of how these tournaments should go, and it was somewhat amusing to hear the public narrative try to keep up with the results. Early on Friday, Germany’s Rakete was a juggernaut, earning wins against Bravo and PoNY.  By the end of the day, they were at the bottom of a four-way tie, and playing for eleventh, and their earlier victories were downplayed as oddities. But if they were oddities, how did so many of them happen so commonly? How did Furious beat Truck? How did Pride beat Ring? If you try to attach a fairy tale to these things, on the assumption that all teams can be assigned a simple letter grade, then you will fail quite sadly, because small-sample statistics don’t really care about your opinions.   Here is the only story that can be told about the U.S. Open: there was no shallow end to the pool, and various teams were on the field trying to find their tempo, with rosters numbering between 15 and 25. Some teams improve over the course of a few games; others begin to tire, or run out of luck. Maybe this is not how it should be, but it is how it is. What was the difference between the top of our pool and the bottom? Someone showed up with a somewhat cleaner system, a wider margin of error, and enough consistency and focus to see it through.

That wasn’t us this time, but it will be.

Regarding Furious, we quickly learned that we had to set ourselves some reachable goals.  We needed to demonstrate that we could deliver a simple, intense desire to win, by contesting catches and forcing plays.  We needed to earn turnovers, but also demonstrate that we could score on defense.  We needed to clean up our spacing, and demonstrate discipline in our cutting formations, and the throws they called for. We wanted to show that we could earn a lead, and keep it to the end of a game. The happy news is that we accomplished most of these goals.

Our first two games on Thursday, against Ring and Bravo, were healthy tune­-ups for us. Our offense improved steadily, but our D­-line struggled to score. That, naturally, is a complaint for many D-­lines – there’s something about the combination of fatigue and adrenaline that plunges D-line offense into an altered state of mind, even if the same players are playing on both lines.

It wasn’t until our fourth game, against Truck Stop, that we finally began scoring those essential breaks, and doing so consistently, and we were able to pull out a win by leading in both halves. We brought the same trend to Inside Rakete, maintaining control of our game and we finished Friday with two wins and a loss. On the other hand, injuries had by this time reduced our roster to just 14.  As many captains know, short rosters can be a mixed blessing: your players get repetitions, and cease to worry about playing time or earning their keep, but they also start to tire out.

Our last game matched us up against Temper, an athletic, impulsive team from Pittsburgh that lives and dies by the huck. We drew three breaks out of them, but gave up a late­-game string of points. Truth be told, we lost our focus. As I said earlier, the difficulty level requires consistency, and whether from short-handed fatigue or an underlying over­eagerness, we did not keep up the fight.

But the funny thing about this is the notion of mental self­-control. Furious can be a very hard­-working team, but not always a smart­-working one. And crowding, when it happens, comes from over­eagerness. The chomping-­at­-the­-bit desire to get the disc is what clumps people together, or causes them to jump the gun, or to risk the direct­-to­-the­-jugular inside break. And when we try to temper that enthusiasm, we sometimes overcompensate with sudden episodes of stagnation. Wanting to win is not that difficult; controlling yourself to win is.  That will be the next step in our growth.

 

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Alex Davis

One Response to “Reflections – U.S. Open”

  1. The Spectator: Triple Crown Tour Takes Off | Up Call Says:

    […] Open is bringing in top international talent, it’s good for the teams. As discussed in the Furious George reflection post by Alex Davis, the U.S. Open was a difficult tournament because each game was winnable. Davis writes that it […]