Thursday, April 20, 2006

At That Point

The club season has always been slightly lagged in the spring. The college kids are all gung ho and excited. The younger club players are raring to get started by having some fun before the seriousness commences. The older, creaky club veterans are wondering if they have it in them to get it going yet again.

In 1990, The Boot sent a mixed team to Davis for the mid-March Davis Ultimate Invitational (DUI). (Mixed as in, a variety of new and returning players, there really was no “mixed” division back then.) We had some of the core of the team and a few new tryouts. We lost in ... I think ... the semifinals. To East Bay - the team that had ended our season in 1989. We seemed to be finding our level, and it was, frustratingly, just below the top teams.

April Fools West. Instead of joining a “Theme” team or a reunion team, I played with another conglomeration of core Boot players and some new faces. Local wannabes and college kids trying to get their first foot-hold in the competitive club scene. We were their best option because we weren’t so good that our roster was set, but we had shown that we could compete with the big boys - almost.

The tournament was held at Stanford’s Intramural fields. By this time, I had been appointed “captain” by Barney. His reasoning was probably something like this. Billy doesn’t mind doing the grunt work like phone lists, practice announcements, and sending in tournament entry fees. Also, while many of the opposing team captains had too much history and a little bad blood with him, they didn’t know me other than “that pesky little guy that runs around a lot.” Therefore, they tended not to argue with me when I brought something up at a captain’s meeting. Finally, I was inexperienced and malleable so he knew I would listen to his advice about “our” opinion regarding seedings, fields, and byes. He still had the authority. I was just a handy puppet.

Before our first game on Saturday of Fools, I went down the roster and the invite list. There were a few people missing. Teammates announced one’s last-minute work duties. A late Santa Cruz car accounted for a couple more. No one seemed to know where the new tryout, John, was. He was not really a big loss. Not exactly destined to set the ultimate world on fire, he had simply been to enough practices that he had deserved a look in a tournament environment. Even I knew that he was a long shot to make the team.

We played well enough to come in second in our pool. We would have another difficult quarterfinal the next day - as usual.

That Saturday night, Worm and I headed to the party. We may have definitely been the “Two Most Desperate Guys in the Western Region”, but it wasn’t strictly for a lack of trying. We crowded around the keg in the middle of the Stanford eucalyptus grove. We mingled with our teammates. We cracked jokes and teased our rivals. Somehow, this line of action didn’t seem to attract the babes. Yet again.

Either way, it got late and we decided that I needed to figure out how to get us to a place to sleep. Dan Harrington had earlier offered to let us sleep at his place in Palo Alto. It was a great opportunity - proximity to the fields and a bed or couch to crash on. Unfortunately, there were a couple things working against us at 1:00 in the morning. One, Dan had left the party hours ago. Two, I had very, very little idea of where he lived. I knew that it was somewhere just south and west of the Palo Alto town center. I knew it was on the north side of the street ... whatever the street name was. I knew it was a light colored house near a corner. Basically, the sum total of my knowledge of where Dan lived was encompassed by dropping him off after a practice one time maybe a year and a half ago.

And we were drunk.

Not exactly favorable conditions for a restful night.

We quickly made the calculation that neither of us was fit to drive back up to the City with the idea of sleeping in our own beds. Therefore, somehow, we decided that it would be best to drive around Palo Alto at one in the morning on the off chance that I might recognize Dan’s house and on the assumption that he might have left the door open for us.

Not exactly rational thinking.

Here was the result. After what seemed an eternity, and was most probably almost an hour, I found a very likely candidate for what might possibly be Dan’s apartment. We were so tired, we grabbed our sleeping bags and walked up the set of indoor-outdoor stairs. I tried the door to the unit that might have been his. Locked. Damn.

We may have been exhausted, hungry, drunk, dirty, and sweaty, but we did not have it in us to simply start knocking on random doors until, by process of elimination, we determined which apartment (if any) Dan lived in.

We both sighed, looked around the concrete walkway, bright security light overhead, noticed the multitude of moths flocking to their phantom paramour, and unrolled our bags.

We slept, fitfully in the middle of the stairwell landing.

In the morning, we were greeted by Dan’s smiling, bemused expression as he said, “Hey, did you guys sleep out here all night? You could have just rung the bell and we would have let you have the bed and couch.”

We groaned. He chuckled.

“We’re going for a nice leisurely breakfast. Wanna come?”

Dan and his girlfriend stepped over us on their way into town. We rolled over and tried to slip back into our sleep-misery. Two hours before we had to be at the fields.

Here seems a reasonable time to recount an event that occurred towards the end of the 1989 season. Or was it the end of the 1988 season? Either way, it was odd and slightly funny.

Dan Harrington approaches me at the beginning of one of the tournaments and says, “Billy, I want you to meet my girlfriend. I think you already know her.” At this point in my life on the west coast, I am just about 100 percent sure that I do not know Dan’s girlfriend, whomever she may be.

As he motions for her to come over he says, “She says she thinks she knew you in junior high school. In Marin.” He turns to her as she is approaching through a crowd, “Andrea! We’re over here.”

My mind is racing. Way back to Marin County days. My family had moved to Connecticut just after I had turned 13. Andrea? Andrea? The name is racing through my head. Just as I come to a realization who it is ... I see her walking towards me, big smile on her face. She is walking through twenty feet of space and twelve years of history. Here is Andrea Kelly. The beautiful blonde that I had a killer crush on in middle school. One of those girls that was so cute that you could barely look at her, let alone be any where near her.

A year or two later, when I was back home for the holidays, I pulled out a tattered and dusty middle school year book. Sure enough, Andrea Kelly. There she was. Cute as any girl in the school. And, as a bonus, she had even signed her picture with that ubiquitous curvy script that all girls had back then. It made me giddy to look at it.

“It is you!” She says shaking my hand. I am dumbstruck. We have all known the cute, button nosed high school honey that, ten years later, is auditioning for “before” pictures in weight loss advertisements. And, we have known those rare, few high school wall flowers that developed years later and came back to a reunion with a vengeance, mostly with the motive of showing every guy “what they could have had.”

Andrea was neither of these. She was the shy cutie, that blossomed into a beautiful, intelligent, and fun woman. She also happened to be a hell of an ultimate player. At least I can say I had good taste when I was 13 years old.

She was a mainstay on the Santa Barbara Lady Condors for years and ended up participating in some of our silly after-tournament games. She broke a thousand hearts along the way. But always smiling and laughing.

Back to 1990 Fools.

Sunday morning, Worm and I drag our aching, dirty, sleep-deprived, slightly hung-over, dehydrated and malnourished bodies to the fields. This was not exactly unfamiliar territory back then. Along with the rest of the team, we assemble on the fields and start seriously warming up for our quarterfinal. In between drills, already sweating and a little tired, I am talking to Worm and Barney about possible strategies. Glancing over Barney’s shoulder, I recognized John Smallberries strolling in from the parking lot. Smile on his face, bounce in his step, cleats in hand. No apparent care that he has missed the first day of his tryout tournament.

Now, Barney is already in a bitchy mood because, by all rights, we should have won our pool the day before and guaranteed ourselves an easier path. A few stupid mistakes and missed assignments at crucial moments will make a veteran captain quite frustrated. Especially when we are trying to impress possible recruits as much as our tryouts should be trying to impress us.

John walks into the spinning buzz saw - The Irritated Barney.

“Hey guys! Great day to play, huh?”

“Where the hell were you yesterday?!” Barney is practically spitting.

“Hey now,” he is holding up his hands and starting the backpedal step. “I couldn’t make it over the hill [from Santa Cruz]. My car broke down and I couldn’t get a ride.”

Barney’s not buying it, “Oh yeah? That's funny, I asked all the UC kids. They said they called your house but you didn’t answer. In fact, they were late because they drove by your place looking for you.” Barney is slowly advancing on him.

“Yeah, well ... actually... I wasn’t at home when my car broke down.” If this guy was back pedaling any faster, they’d have to test his blood for performance enhancers.

“Where exactly were you?”

John is getting a little red in the face now. The whole team has stopped warming up to watch the mid-field interrogation. “I was ... I was ... at my girlfriend’s place.”

Pressing relentlessly, Barney is now actually prodding John’s chest with his index finger, “And where is that?”

“Uh, actually, um ... Palo Alto.” He spills the ugly truth.

“Palo Alto! Jesus Christ! Where in Palo Alto?” Not happy.

John mumbles something half intelligble.

“What?!”

“College Avenue. All right! College Avenue! Satisfied?!” His admission lies there like vomit, stinking and slightly disgusting.

“Holy Shit!” Barney is in complete disbelief, “You mean you were here, yesterday morning, within 4 blocks of the fields, and you couldn’t manage to get your lazy ass to the fields for your only chance to make the team!?!”

The rest of us are slightly amused, slightly sickened by his apathy and weak attempt at concealment.

Then he drops a line that Worm and I have repeated, without exaggeration, at least 100 times since that day.

“Listen,” John decides to try to go on the offensive, “I feel like, at this point in my career, I’ve earned the right to take some time off if I feel like it.”

This coming from a third or fourth year player that has had a couple of undistinguished college seasons and a couple more scrubbing around with the local pick-up team.

“At That Point” in his CAREER. Did even the greatest of us, let alone this loser, really have a career in ultimate? Was he fucking joking? No. And that is why it was, and still is, so damn funny to me. Worm and I have used that line, or more simply the initials, A.T.P., for any manner of ridiculous excuses or outrageous claims for more than 15 years:

“Dude, how come you didn’t stretch with the rest of the team?”
“Hey, I’m ATP You know?”

or:

“What the? How come your cleats are off and you’re sitting down, we’ve got another 3 points in this meaningless pool play slaughter.”
Sliding Ray Bans on face, “Yo! ATP.”

It still brings a chuckle and a smile. You could still probably spring it on most any of those old Boot players and they would laugh at the reference.

As you might suspect, The Boot lost in the quarterfinals (again) and John Smallberries somehow did not make the final cut.

5 Comments:

At April 23, 2006 1:06 PM, Anonymous andrea said...

I think it was actually February 1991 when we met again! Not that I remember it well or anything....

 
At April 28, 2006 10:13 AM, Blogger Billy said...

Andrea,

My God, if I had known that you were reading this silly thing, I might not have confessed my undying love for you quite so blatantly. Not that I ever managed to hide it very well anyway.

So, was it really that late that we met again? After all those car bombs that you and Trish made Worm and me drink over the years, there has apparently been some brain impairment on my part.

When are we getting the Heat Bags and Baggettes together?

 
At April 28, 2006 4:55 PM, Anonymous trish said...

ah the good ol' days of heatbags and baguettes! what a time, huh? i think we must have met you before 91, but you don't argue with A!

keep up the memories billy, say hi to worm for me!

T

 
At May 02, 2006 8:45 PM, Anonymous andrea said...

what's your e-mail address?

 
At May 04, 2006 6:20 PM, Blogger Billy said...

A-
You asking me??

b l a y d e n 1 at earthlink dot net

 

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