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Bro Flight Finale & Riding the Roller-Coaster

Recaps, Tournaments

Takabisha_roller_coaster

Continuing the Monkey’s whirlwind tour of the Midwest, Furious spent the last weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, playing in the Bro Flight Finale.

After the Select Flight Invite, we left behind half a dozen under-employed bros (who, it turns out, make up most of our handlers) to while away the time and to wind their way to Wisconsin, camping as they went.  According to reports, they played 27-36 holes of disc golf each day with ritualistic bro-zeal , eventually meeting up with Madison Radical /Madison Club veteran  (and former Monkey) Andrew Brown.  The latter somehow accommodated them all in his bro-manse, and lazy summer days were had by all.  It all reads vaguely like the makings of a whimsical Jack Kerouac novella, with an equal disregard for punctuation, or —  for that matter — conventionally-defined lingo.

Like the weekend before, storms tore across the U.S., tangling up flights through Dallas, and turning Wisconsin itself into another capricious rain-cauldron. The team arose Saturday morning a little jet-lagged, a little sleep-deprived, and a little unprepared for driving rains and hot interludes. But frankly, that was the kind of weather we needed blown in our faces. The mental objective for the weekend was to learn to play through such (in the grander scheme) minor adversities. Furious, at present, is a somewhat emotional team: a roller-coaster.

In our defense, emotional teams are by no means necessarily weak teams; I’ve certainly played with and against enough high-flying roller-coasters over the years to know. When luck sides with them and they’re feeling the fire, some teams burn down mountains.* The trouble with emotional teams, though, is that they never really control the game (or themselves); on the contrary, the game controls them.  Mercurial by nature, such heart-sleeved teams play according to their mood and circumstance, influenced by a shift of weather, a spate of turnovers, a run of good luck, and the state of the scoreboard or clock. They exhibit a kind of hysteresis, whereby the outcomes of the last few points affect (and in somewhat irrational fashion) their choices in the present. A lot of athletes vigorously deny this behaviour, but it is instructive to see how many of them still speak of the momentum of the game as if it was physical or mathematical property, revealing a kind of widely accepted superstition that the past genuinely matters.

The exact effect of so-called momentum varies from person to person. Some are emboldened by bad times, and some by good. Some work even harder while some conserve for the long haul. Some try to step up, and others tread softer.  Ultimately, it’s the shifting characters of the emotional team, dictated by stochastic variables, that give them their loose-cannon reputations, swinging wildly and unpredictably from one state to another. Ironically, no matter how they affect you, the more attention you pay to the hills and valleys, the steeper they tend to become. And that is where Furious has been struggling to find our equilibrium: playing a consistent, insensitive middle ground somewhere between fear and fearlessness, between ebullient and disheartened.

It’s not trivial. It’s a very challenging mindset to train.  After all, in almost the same breath, we tell players to be perceptive, to be mindful of conditions, responsive to shifting probabilities and paths of least resistance. Sometimes, you should stop trying to do something very difficult; at others, you should keep trying no matter how difficult it is. In subtle avoidance of contradiction, we tell them to adjust, but without being affected. We tell them to think, but not to feel.  But especially for those who follow their hearts into battle, it’s not always so easy to tell the difference between the two.  Getting these chances to play in inclement conditions is valuable to us not just because they allow us to train throwing skills, but because they help us learn the tricks our hearts play on our minds.

Our first game against Freaks, from Huntsville, was actually quite promising in this respect.  The first half was quite close, with very few turnovers, all things considered, and they had one handler in particular (Waldron) whose wind-piercing hucks and hammers repeatedly caught us off guard.. We adapted, though, by adjusting our defense to leverage the field conditions.  Our marking strategy switched from forehand to backhand, forcing throwers to pivot more in the mud, and by taking away the cutters’ first moves, requiring them to try to change directions on a slippery pitch. That combination of strategies started producing turnovers, and although we didn’t always immediately, convert, we played the way the weather required, and we found confidence in our successes. Ultimately, we won the battle of averages and won the game handily in the second half.  We adjusted, and we weathered the storm unaffected.

Our next three games did not repeat that success story, though.  Our games against Madison Club and H.I.P were games of small runs. Madison played masterfully well in the weather, playing small-ball when we made them, but never clogging or collapsing. They played the long game when necessary, and were unfazed if it did not work.  Although we did not play badly on the whole, we looked genuinely dismayed when we made mistakes, and it often seemed to take a few points to recover from an error. Aggravating that outcome, H.I.P proved to be a frustrating opponent because — frankly — they are so unabashedly unorthodox. It was a combination of Bennett’s cavalier scoober-hucks and a host of circus-worthy catches by the receivers that ultimately cemented their two-break lead into the hard cap. And as for our last game against DIG, presentes with an opportunity to end the day on a high note of effort, there’s not much to say except that we were not mentally present.

Sunday was better, gifting us a winning 2-1 record.  Although we somewhat caved against the wind-tempered Oakland Guerrila, we did persevere against Sprawl and against GSU, coming back from an initial deficit both times.  The fact that we slipped early in the first halves in both those games is important for their instructive worth.  It may sound insane, but right now, I think it is very healthy for Furious for teams to notch an early lead against us.  It is mentally easier — particularly for heart-sleeved teams like ours — to sustain a happy lead than it is to recover from a mistake. This year’s Furious needs practice recovering from mistakes, so coming back from a deficit is an important lesson for us in the insignificance of the scoreboard. Maybe, the more we recover from mistakes, the less we will see in them. Maybe, after these past two weeks, we are learning to leave the peaks and valleys behind.

 

Next up: Sectionals!

 

 

*Figuratively speaking.

 

 

Alex Davis

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