"Man's got to know his limitations." - 'Dirty' Harry Callahan
I have a weird relationship with competition. When I do things against other people I'm always trying to win, but I rarely get upset with the process if I lose. No matter what, it's only a game. However, if I lose because of a failing of my own I tend to get annoyed and irked with myself, which starts the self-flagellation and blows to my self-esteem. I am indeed my own worst critic and I'm damn hard on myself, even when I shouldn't be. Take hockey as an example. I've been playing for around 4 months. In that time I've attended 7 1 hour clinic classes, had one half-assed practice, and played in 10 games. That's a total of 17 hours of ice time. Yet I'm furious with myself for my play in the third period of our game last night, even though most of my failings came at the hands (or skates) of people who have been playing for years - no, decades - at a game in which the only way to get better is to play. And yet, here I am. forgetting the good things and focusing on the negative ones. It's an illness, I tell ya.
The day started with the perhaps foolhardy decision to attend a clinic Sunday morning at 8am. I wouldn't go so far as to call it grueling, but it was a good workout and focused on the things I need to become a better player - I was going to list a few things here but shit, I need to get better at everything. By the time 7pm rolled around I still felt okay and was anxious to play. The team we were playing was the Mutiny, the one I was supposed to sign on with when my friend Dave clued me in to the whole hockey thing. I'd passed because they couldn't absorb Sheq and Jeff as well, but I was (and am) appreciative to Dave for getting me involved. I was looking forward to playing him (and his teammate Berk, who I played rugby with for years. Small world and all that shit) but not in a 'gotta beat him' sense. It just sounded like fun to go against an opponent who wasn't faceless. And as a team, we seemed psyched after a three week layoff. Good Goalie Alex (just Alex from now on) was back with a serviceable knee, and we charged into the game with the energy of a team hungry for a win.
2:40 in, we were down 3-0.
Okay, it's not cool to point fingers at anyone but Old Goalie Bob (henceforth known as OGB) took about 3 shots before the game and declared his warm-ups complete. When play started the first shot he let in was questionable; the second was alarming; and the third, which I was out there for, was the softest of the b unch. A unscreened, floating wrister from the top of the circles. That's gotta be stopped. A three-zip hole was not the way we needed to start. And to our credit, we buckled down. OGB didn't give up anything else for the rest of the period and we started to shake off the rust. In the second period we gave up only one goal (an absolutely beautiful 2 on 1 that Alex didn't have a chance on) and played better, although we were aided by at least two that they rang off the posts. My game was up and down. The Mutiny like to flood the crease, so I was kept busy pushing people back out whenever I could. That led to an unfortunate bit with poor Dave - he had backed into the crease and so I headed over to push him away, but at the wrong time I stumbled as he moved back a little more, so instead of a push I ended up sending him sprawling with a healthy shove. I play physically with an edge but I'm not trying to be dirty, so I felt bad about it. Of course he got revenge when he potted a nice pass in the third for his first goal, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I continued to have my usual problems getting the puck out of the defensive zone - it always seemed like I'd get control and be looking at a wall of gray sweaters. I've been reading up on our clearing problems and learned that we should have the wingers breaking out as soon as we gain control, which would make the defensemen for the other team have to go with them and thus not be there to block clearing attempts up the boards. Not ALL of my clearing attempts got picked off - some were okay, and once I even skated up before passing and hit one of our wingers at the opposite blue line - but enough so that I was annoyed. I keep forgetting to elevate the puck. Frustrating.
The horror show started in the third. I had a inkling of what might be in store when #19 (I think) undressed me with a move in the 2nd period but Alex stopped him. In the 3rd he got the puck with a full head of steam at the red line. I was just inside my own blue line and I knew, without a doubt, that I was dead. Forwards or backwards, I wasn't going to be able to keep up with him, and the only option I had of checking him into the boards would have gotten me a penalty. Not that that would have stopped me, but he was by me too quickly for me to even try. That was after I failed to clear a puck and they knocked it around for a while before scoring, so that was a lovely -2 on that shift for me. Awesome. Also something let go in the back of my leg - not completely, but enough of a hello to make me nervous. That had nothing to do with me getting torched. That was just not being good enough.
After the game Alex and I were the only two left in the locker room and I was trying to draw out his thoughts on what he'd seen. The dude played Division 1 in college and he sees a lot, but he's reluctant to speak out for fear of ruffling feathers. He confirmed what I had been thinking about the forwards, saying I had no passing lanes the way things were. We also agreed that for some strange reason, our defensive partners don't pass cross ice to one another enough, Or at all, really. Shifts are still too long, of course, although the forwards seemed a little better. Defense have been pretty good about getting off when we should, although one guy lingers. I want to say he's getting better about it. perhaps he is.
I understand that I'm learning a difficult position by fire and should not beat myself up quite so much, but it's more of the same - I know where to be but can't get it done. Jeff echoed the same sentiment but that doesn't make it any less like talking the gorgeous blond into coming home with you and then having a personal power failure. Meanwhile I try to keep things in perspective. My mind may be grumbling, but my body, after a double session of hockey, is, uhm, well, that's grumbling as well. Still a little tug on the bottom of the back of my right quad. I'm sure I'll be better by next week and the next opportunity to not suck. Or so I hope.