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Furious George 2011 Canadian Champs

Recaps
by Davis

Even at the score of 13-11 (in GOAT’s favour), in a game capped at 14, I still thought Furious would come through for the win. One had to admit, though, that it was looking like a tall order.

The 25th Canadian Ultimate Championships fittingly took place in Ottawa, August 11-14. With WUGC2012 in the offing, the right to represent the country was up for grabs. Strictly and technically speaking, this tournament gives the winning clubs the right to name the selection committees for the national teams. What I love about these rules is that they lend a suitably complicated dramatic flair to the occasion. Of course, in tradition and practice, the championship thus decides the captains of Team Canada, and the champions form its kernel. For Furious George, this championship also doubled as a personal fight for survival; a struggle to entice key veterans away from retirement, and to keep up recruitment despite possible competition from Mixed and Master’s national teams in Vancouver.

 

Canada does not boast very many competitive teams. In fact, those in attendance at nationals comprise the overwhelming majority of practicing clubs. So every four years, when WUGC is on the horizon, a reshuffling of rosters occurs among and across all divisions. Between two and four all-star teams assemble in each division and prepare for showdowns. In Open, it was widely expected that Furious George and GOAT would meet in the Sunday final, and that is precisely how it turned out.

First, I would not call that a good game for either team. The offense on both sides was punctuated with errors: errant throws and misreads plagued both lines. I wonder whether the transition from grass in the warm-up to hot synthetic turf affected the flight of the disc. On Furious’ side, playmakers who had been playing well for us all weekend were not dominating as we were accustomed to seeing. That was very problematic. It is common knowledge that you cannot expect to win a championship by going outside your game or pushing the envelope; you want to work within your comfort zone – within your system. But every team has its stars, and the stars are part of the routine and the system. So when their stats fall outside the realm of expectation, it costs your team quite a few unexpected turnovers. It was just one of those games for us and — I suspect — for GOAT as well.

On the other hand, the overall defensive game was quite good on both sides. Both teams opted for a hard-fought man-to-man defense, with Furious forcing predominantly backhand (to reduce the threat of right-handed overhead throws). At the Colorado Cup, Furious had learned to predict GOAT’s in-cut initiation style, and the defenders challenged it relentlessly, keeping the disc among the handlers. Morgan Hibbert was determined to deny John Hassell the unders, at times daring him flat-out to strike instead. Similarly, for GOAT, Andrew Carroll was on Oscar Pottinger’s heels like a terrier. Nothing was gained easily.

With so much on the line, with aggressive defense and at least one turnover every point, the play became quite chippy. At times, it seemed as if the disc couldn’t move thirty yards without a call. Observers had their hands full, and the meticulous sorting of infraction calls reduced the final to a lugubrious pace. I have nothing but sympathy for the audience who had to sit and wait while Toronto and Vancouver worked through their consistent differences of opinion on just about everything.

After a marathon point, GOAT finally skidded ahead with a couple of much-needed breaks, bringing the tally to 13-11. Furious scored back on offense, but needed two breaks in a row to win the game. Ordinarily, that might have seemed insurmountable, but this was a game averaging around two turnovers to every point, and everyone knew that germane little fact. At the time, I was thinking mostly of our warm-up some three hours earlier. It was probably the most focused, concentrated warm-up I have ever led. The word for it, I’ve told people, was “ghostly.” Nobody spoke a word, except to repeat calls or to shout “George!” on command like a small, possessed army of frisbee-throwing automata. Everyone wore a disciplined, angry, thousand-yard stare on their faces – eyes on the prize, is what I thought, and I chose to do nothing to distract from it. People later asked if I was afraid of losing — well, of course I was afraid of losing; I generally hate losing. I just didn’t think we were going to lose right then, because I could still see that deadpan, muted anger on all the monkeys’ faces.

One break followed another, with Doyle intercepting a long throw intended for Lindquist. In classic Furious fashion, the winning throw was a terrible, slanting OI, followed by an equally rushed chorus of misreads, with Aaron “Prez” Liu skittering into the endzone to collect the lonely disc in uncontested fashion. Of course. Because we can’t contrive to do anything the easy way.

I think we will see a lot of Toronto on Team Canada next year.

Alex Davis

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