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Northwest Regionals

Recaps, Tournaments

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On Sunday, Furious secured the second bid out of the Northwest region by defeating Rhino in the backdoor final, returning us to the Championship after last year’s absence.

Because my sports background lies heavily in endurance events, most of my metaphors inevitably tend to trickle back to what I know about endurance. Through that formative lens, I learned to focus on the present, myself, and the details.

When the distances are long, no instant gratification comes; nobody wins by simply hurrying to the finish line.* Rather, a race is the culmination of making every movement as good as the last one, the best you can, even as the discomforts mount. Each repetition and every execution is a pearl, to be respected, valued, individually polished, and added to its predecessors. Thus terms like “personal best” arise so prevalently in stamina sports — not as some kind of feel-good fall-back or tonic for the unmedalled soul, but because it is the essential mindset underpinning success in those pursuits. In the end, medals and accolades will fall where they may; you have no control over your opponents or the inequities of chance. Success, therefore, is an unwavering dedication to personal perfection, every step of the way.

Not coincidentally, my best performances came on semi-delirious occasions when I couldn’t even perceive the world beyond the agony and my next stride or stroke.  Your mind is on the big picture, but your focus must stay on the details; anything in between is a blur.

The mission for Furious George for the last two seasons has been to treat our game like endurance pursuit, and it remains that way, even now.

When you look at our regular season results in 2016, they appear lacklustre. But they were very good learning experiences for us.  We faced tough conditions, and worthy opponents, and were not emotionally controlled. We struggled to maintain our game plan when things went wrong, and even when things went right. But one does not learn self-control overnight, and certainly not from taking an easy road. We kept rolling our lines, we used our whole roster, repeated our plans, and kept our hand in the metaphorical fire because we needed to accept that the pain wouldn’t just stop. There is no escape from mistakes or discomforts, and there is no substitute for doing the right things. You just keep trying, one play at a time, each point after another.

That suffering honestly seemed to pay off at Regionals, because, outside of a weak start against Sockeye on Saturday morning, we finally began to demonstrate an insensitivity to the circumstances and the score. Actually, ever since our Sectionals final against Voodoo, we’ve shown a willingness to be unrelenting.  We’ve begun crushing opponents, and by equal or larger margins than Rhino and Sockeye. In our two key victories against Rhino, we recovered from early breaks. And we enjoyed the confidence that we could field anybody on our roster, knowing they would try just as hard to stay the course as anyone else.

To be honest with ourselves, we also enjoyed a streak of good luck in this tournament for which we should be wary of taking excessive credit. Our offense, although generally more resilient, more patient, more willing to work through its stutters, still sometimes relapsed into episodes of freneticism. We sometimes threw our way into the endzone and made spectacular catches instead of making open spaces, and that won’t work in the face of another strong wind. Our mainstay defenses were okay in flow, but they did not adequately disable most of our opponents’ pull plays. Our most successful pull-play-stopper was a defense that is no longer even in our official playbook, which a handful of our oldest veterans just happen to remember, and which for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, our team executed instinctively and reasonably well.  In fact, I hesitate to even talk about it now in practice, lest any attempt to refine it might upset whatever tenuous balance it has somehow accidentally achieved.

All this is to say that there is plenty of work to do.  The weekend rewarded our efforts with a welcome vindication, but we must be cautious not to mistake it for “success.”  Success isn’t conferred by any single game, and it isn’t to be found in Illinois, no matter what the future brings.  In the end, our success will be our state of mind, and our willingness to respect everything we do together, each moment on the field adding to a string of unbroken pearls.

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*They call that “sprinting.”

Alex Davis

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