Déjà vu, big time. Memorial stadium on an electric Friday night, big empty turf underneath the Space Needle and a swelling crowd while the All-Stars put the finishing touches on the field and then start to warm up. It’s exciting; new jerseys, new banners, new squad. Untested. The All-Stars are trying out their jerseys in blue, Riot is in their traditional white.
But I’m on the other side. I’m seeing Shof and Wah and other former teammates after a long time apart, and we’ll be reunited on the field, but in a different way. So much is the same, but for me, everything’s different.
The feeling of nostalgia grew throughout the game. This was the beginning of their journey; this was my only chance to be a part of the 2016 All-Star Tour. My first game, and my last. Bittersweet.
Playing on the other side, now playing the part of the club teams we challenged all of last season, the lens of retrospection allowed me to appreciate even clearer something I could only partially grasp while on the tour.
If Riot loses this game, there’s the feeling that it’s a game we should’ve won; we’ve been practicing together for months and some people for years, we have world champions at the highest level in spades on the team, compared to the All-Stars who met each other this weekend. Last year, I remember so vividly how everything we did on the field was practically a miracle. I was in awe of my teammates; we were in awe of what we could accomplish. Every success was elating; failures were just learning opportunities. We rode that feeling, and the trust and giddiness that came with it. We had nothing, absolutely nothing, to lose. Being in white instead of blue, I felt a pressure that was completely absent last year.
No fear takes swagger.
Part of the magic of the tour is that the challengers are so much younger than the club teams they face. A little bit of confidence goes a long way when you’re matching up on players who’ve been playing in national title games since before you picked up a disc. To see Lisa P play, or Shof, or Wah, or JWei, they can line up against anyone and cut with the confidence, grind out defense with the same intensity, hit the same throws. It’s about knowing that honors and accolades don’t matter when the pull goes up; any upset is just waiting for a team that knows they can take it.
This attitude, this no fear, play confident, attitude, is something that I find particularly inspiring in female athletes because it’s not how society tells women to be. To succeed as a woman in sports, there’s a certain amount of ignoring the haters.
Helping the All-Stars pack up the gear after the game, and watching them load the vans, what I missed most of all I think was life on the road.
Appreciating every moment.
The tour is such an adventure. Some of my favorite moments are the weirdest. Buying a strange and lovable blue stuffed animal at an Idaho gas station. Driving the trailer through New York at 1am. The last points of the Brute Squad game. There’s no goal except loving every minute of the thing. Learning about your teammates, and being surprised and amazed every step of the way. On the field and off the field, the only way to fail was to fear failure. To not leave your heart on the line or in the back of a sweaty van. What a powerful way to play, and live.
“Nostalgic” seems not quite strong enough to cover it.