Tag: Sports

Finalists!

(well, I’m a finalist by proxy)

I’m tapping this out on a train because we’re worming back from a dodgeball tournament at Hatfield. And while my men’s team burned out in the quarter-finals, both of the freshers’ teams won games, and our women’s team were beaten finalists. Finalists! And most of the team were freshers!

Obviously I’m mostly happy for my friends and fellow dodgelings, but I’m also glad for myself as I am a narcissist; being in the cauldron of a high-level sporting game, screeching at players and clinging to swiftly-dying hope, is such a buzz. Sure, you can get that at big sporting events, but the prices and cold professionalism of everything make it all a bit sterile, and artificial. But these were my friends succeeding, struggling, and falling just short of dodgeball immortality and it was so cool to be a largely unimportant, endlessly Tweeting part of it.

And for those of you interested, my live-tweeting of the day can be found @UCLUDodgeball

Being punched in the stomach is a good thing

(*coughs in pain*)

I didn’t have a great afternoon; remember that essay I mentioned yesterday? I frakked up, and didn’t get a better mark for the eight times the number of hours I put in. Tonight, however, I went to karate and was put in an infinitely better mood by being punched repeatedly in the stomach by a bloke much stronger than me.

It’s halfway between masochism and therapy, but honestly I don’t want to think about it too much; I felt shit, now feel better, and with things to do this evening and a full day tomorrow, let me be happy, and revel as a babe.

I played in a dodgeball tournament!

(DODGEBALLDODGEBALLDODGEBALL)

As many of you will know, I love the UCL Dodgeball Society; the sport itself is great fun, the vibe both relaxed and gently competitive, and the people (eventually) made me feel socially relevant, being only one of two large groups of friends to really do that last year. But I’d never actually played competitive dodgeball due to a combination of poor organisation on my part, and just being a bit crap at the sport; but today a tournament was held, taking place after all of last year’s first team had graduated but before any athletic freshers could replace them, giving me a rare opportunity to strut my dodgeballing stuff in the pale blue livery of UCL. And I buggered it up for the most part, but had a fantastic day in the process.

The tournament was a single-day affair, a round-robin group stage followed by knockout rounds that we failed to reach because we were drawn in a group of a team a league higher than us, a yea, two leagues higher than us, and a conglomerate of international-standard players who only seem to meet and train in summer, like the dodgeballing equivalent of a musical supergroup that only tour in a three-week span in July for no apparent reason. Our results were better than we hoped – a draw, a whitewash and a gutting defeat that cost us a quarter-final place – but looking back I felt so much regret for what we did, and what we nearly accomplished; pushing our first opponents just a little harder to secure the win, rather than the draw, would have put us in a much stronger position, and actually seems rather plausible considering the relative quality of the two sides we lost to. I also made a single kill, and recorded a single catch that managed to lose us the game; I stepped out of bounds just before I secured the ball, so instead of being the last player heroically bringing a team-mate in to launch a valiant comeback, I was just the last man standing, who happened to walk off the court instead of actually be hit by an opponent.

But it was the vibe of the day that was the most awesome. It’s been years since I played a sport competitively like this, punctuating long periods of sideline speculation and stretching with frenzied moments of ball-tossing, apart from the increasingly toxic world of watching Tottenham play. This was a thing I was involved in, not as a spectator or a critic, but as someone who was making things happen, albeit in a small way.

When the Minotaurs and Eagles came close to fists at a few close line calls, or when my teammates made spectacular catch after spectacular catch to keep our flagging, doomed place in the competition alive for another few throws, there was a rush you simply don’t get from writing eloquent essays or reading even the finest poetry.

I also learned a Hell of a lot about competitive dodgeball – namely that I need to keep my sodding feet inside the lines – and saw high-level dodgeball being played for the first time in my life, which is this insane mixture of machine-like cannon-fire and acrobatic ball-sweeping, layered over a surprisingly sophisticated tactical framework. It was fast, and brutal, but it all made sense and fitted into broader assessments of team styles, or individual talents.

I hope that we’re able to scrape a second team together to play in leagues, or even non-league cups, this year; because I love training sessions, and needlessly-costumed Sports Nights with the team, but this was a qualitatively different experience that I’m not going to let fade into a single memory.

Also, if you want a more minute-by-minute report of the day, head on to @ucludodgeball, where I was Tweeting merrily about the whole thing.

The Legend of the Shark Hat

(*grabs ocarina*)

The stage was set. On the skiddy, tape-marked boards of Somers Town Community Sports centre, two armies slung missiles at one another, no soldier daring to cross the dreaded no-man’s land across the middle of the field. Many had fallen, victims to precise strikes or wildly-flung balls, that had arced over the battlefield and boinged onto people’s heads like springs dropped from eagles overhead. These soft thuds shook the body little, but twisted the mind with the sudden, awful realisation that you are ‘out’.

I was not out, however, having crouched behind larger, stockier comrades in the middle of the field, their eagerness to throw and claim the glory of victory keeping them squarely in front of me. I made no moves, nor did I have need to, for this was no battle for me. The prestige wasn’t to be mine.

The prestige would go to my companion.

It is a trope in weary fantasy novels, that a large, oafish individual protects and is directed by a smaller, nimbler ally, and I played the role of the sluggish oaf in this conflict. My leader decided which balls I ought to venture out of my fortress to catch, and which to leave to roll harmlessly by my side. It was this leader who would win the day, and be sung of in UCL mead-halls over flagons of snakebite long after their passing from this world. My leader was ready.

My leader was also a hat in the shape of a shark, with a big chompy mouth and a hollowed-out middle.

It did not perch upon my head as is its habit, nor was it resting upon my desk observing my moves as it does between battles, but was firmly grasped in my protecting arms. Each of its lips was wrapped around a hand of mine, so as I opened my arms to catch a ball into my chest, it would be my leader whose teeth sunk into the ball, whose body would become filled with its prey, and who would make the vital catch.

And so we waited. Waited for the prime opportunity. Then it came, but the ball was snaffled out of the jaws of victory by a shark-less pleb, one obviously ignorant of the history that would be made, and their impending place in the history books as the theft of glory. But then came another chance.

A floated ball – not too lofted so it was child’s play to catch, but not the kind of bullet that is uncatchable unless one is using an octopus hat – drifted towards our direction. Its yellow panels suddenly bright in the air, reflecting the shafts of light from the ceiling, and creating in interior sun in our hall, to illuminate the impending triumph. I scuttled to one side, staying low, not wanting to expose myself to potential sneak attacks too early; then I pounced, jumping into the air and leading with the Shark Hat, just pushing its jaws ahead of my chest slightly to reach the ball faster, but not far enough that the body of the shark would be too far away from the point of contact.

Then contact was made, and the Shark Hat retreated back into my arms, its prize fixed between its teeth; it was safe. It had made the catch. I lofted the hat, still grasping its prize, over my head, cheering that the hat had made a supercatch, to the adoration – imagined or otherwise – of the collected soldiers and on-lookers. The hat had made history, recording more supercatches in one session than its lethargic handler had in twelve months.

Bless you, Shark Hat.

ANYONE FOR KARATE

(it’s pronounced ‘kara-tay’)

Today I spent five hours stood outside the karate stall at the UCL Freshers’ Fair attempting to sell a centuries-old martial lifestyle to people completely disinterested in the practice, using nothing but a rapidly-dwindling supply of fliers and making jokes about people’s t-shirts (seriously, girl with the Bowling For Soup shirt, tell Jared I said ‘hi’).

Overall, I think the day was a success; there were plenty of people who came to the stall because they actually wanted to join the club, a few who signed up to the mailing list on a whim but seem up for a new thing, and loads of people with a tentative interest in martial arts, who came to life when I told them that the first few sessions would focus on self-defence, and would cater to participants of all abilities and experiences. Sure, I wasted a few fliers, literally throwing them at people in the hope that they would take them home and follow us on Twitter (@uclukarate for those interested), and my knees and voice are shot from peddling crap to people, and I never did pop over to American Football to help out there, but none of these things were the main part of my day; we set out to shout about fliers to people, and for the post part, we did it.

Obviously, it won’t count for much if we don’t get a strong group of new members for the coming year – not least because a society with fewer than 30 paying members has its union affiliation revoked and kinda stops existing – so in many ways the work starts here. Freshers’ Fair is important, but people who want to learn karate will come, regardless of how well or poorly you sell it to them, and a combination of peer pressure, how one feels on the day, and the existence of freebies all have big impacts on who joins what, all of which are beyond the control of most stall-holding footsoldiers. We need to engage with these new members, making them feel welcome in our club as friends and martial artists, and we’ll get awesome people, and well-qualified fighters, out of it at the end of the year.

Stage one of karate committeeing is complete, now just a million more to go.

Get off the Hype Train

(knowing me I’ll immediately bail into the Hype Canoe or something)

I’m very excited for Bloodbowl II. Like, far too excited; more excited than a person should be, and more excited than I ever get. I’ve even pre-ordered the bloody game. Part of me is excited for the potential writing opportunities to arise from this game (hints at perpetually-delayed, still-unannounced project) but a lot of me just wants to play a game I’ve know about for a while, and haven’t had the opportunity yet to do so.

But I’m afraid of hyping the game up too much in my estimation, not just in case it turns out to be crap, but because of the cost of time and money (if it’s anything like the sports management-strategy game it looks like I’ll soon be waving goodbye to a good hundred hours or so) I don’t want to give up tangible things for something that’s not worth it. Yet I’m still getting excited, and feeling apprehensive at this excitement, with each passing day until it arrives in a week. And I don’t know what to do.

I guess I’ll translate Old English, play Mario Kart and add to my black t-shirt collection as normal, but now with slightly more fearful anticipation.