Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Tournament


Our team is called VUDOO North. VUDOO stands for: Vietnam Ultimate Defense Offense Organization. Like much of recent Vietnamese history, VUDOO is divided into North and South.

That said, our team was hardly a true North Vietnamese team. Originally we had about fifteen people going from the capital but during the month leading up to the tournament, player after player kept dropping out. David Jensen (back row in the picture, third from the left) from HCMC became our honorary captain and put together a rag-tag crew to represent the north of 'Nam.

It should be noted that David Jensen is an ultimate frisbee legend. Before I met David I had heard a lot about him. Out of all the quotes my favorite one was, "He's ranked as one of the top ultimate players in Southeast Asia." Upon hearing this I just remember thinking, "Really? There's a ranking system?" And then my egotistical self thought, "Do they know I live in Southeast Asia? I was the co-senior athlete at LHS in '97 so I've got to be at least in the top 100, right?" Anyway, after seeing David play it was pretty obvious that even if there isn't a ranking, he's definitely one of the best players in Asia. The guy is sick.

Besides being great at frisbee, David is also a great team manager. Within a week of our team falling apart David put together a solid crew of freelance ultimate players. Our team ending up having a core from Hanoi but also four players from Japan and four from Singapore. Oh, and our free-agents happen to be awesome...even the two high school girls we recruited from Singapore (Let me make the joke for you: Ben, I knew you moved to Asia to hang out with high school girls).

On the first day we played one of the better teams from Singapore. Yes, one of the better teams. Maybe you're asking yourself how many teams are there in Singapore. I'm not exactly sure but there are at least 8...oh, and it's a STATE SPONSORED SPORT. These teams get money from the government to recruit players. They also practice three days a week.

Now our team, well, we practiced once -- the day before the tournament...and about five of our players weren't there...and we didn't know each other's names...and I was probably in the fourth best shape of anyone....and I hadn't run a mile in six months. So what I'm trying to say is, if I was a betting man, I would have bet on Singapore. That said, we beat them by three. It helps having one of the best players from SE Asia on your team.

Our next game was against a team from Bangkok. We kicked their ass too. I think the score was 13-4.

Next up was a team from Australia. They took an early 2-0 lead on us. David -- have I mentioned he's pretty freaking good at ultimate frisbee -- put his game face on and quickly got our team on the board...a few times. In the end we kicked Australia's ass also. Vudoo was 3-0.

In our final game of the day, in basically a monsoon, we played Vudoo South. It was a classic case of civil war. Well, almost classic. After being told by David we needed to have a large goal differential in order to get a good seeding the following day, we annihilated the southerners 13-1. History repeated itself. The north won again.

At the end of the first day we were 4-0. We were all on cloud 9 and told that the following day we'd be playing one of the best teams from the pool above us. This is where I should mention there were two pools: A & B. We were in the B pool. AKA: the weaker pool.

The next morning we played the second best team from Singapore...and they whooped us. I think the end score was 13-5. After that we played perhaps the third best team from Singapore...and they barely beat us 12-10. In the end, out of 24 teams from about fifteen countries I believe we were ranked around 14th -- not too shabby for a bunch of strangers competing against teams who live and breath frisbee.

At the end of the day I watched the championship game and realized just how far I/we had to go to get to to the top of the Southeast Asian frisbee world. The championship game was between the Philippines (who I was told took 2nd at the World Beach Ultimate Frisbee Championships) and a team called Pyro who happened to be all American dudes with a few American girls and some Chinese/Japanese girls too. I was told that Pyro had been playing together since high school and that their high school was, "famous for ultimate frisbee." Well I believe it.

Both teams were SICK. I mean they were AMAZING. Every single player was basically on the level of David Jensen. They could throw the frisbee a half dozen different ways with ease, having it land forty yards away on a dime. They could all sprint for an hour and not look tired. and jump a solid foot or two in the air like young Jordans... Simply put, these guys and girls were athletes. I thought to myself, "I thought frisbee was for hippies." In the end Pyro won 15-14 in sudden death overtime. It was thrilling...and almost inspired me to get back into shape.

(PICTURE: After our second loss on Sunday. The field was a tad bit muddy. I blame it for our loss.)