Not quite as glorious as Thermopylae, but…

Today was the first round of playoffs for my beer league team, the Stubby Holders. We somehow managed to sneak into the six-team playoff bracket in spite of finishing in seventh place. Turns out the third seed disbanded or was renditioned to Saudi Arabia or some such thing, so fourth through last place each moved up a spot. This put us in a 2:30 quarterfinal match against the team we tied 3-all in the first game of the season.

The good news: our opponents had enough to field a team with subs, but some of their dual-registered players were playing in a different game. The bad news: we were short a player again, and would have to play 6v7. The worse news: our opponents had some really good players who hadn’t shown up the first time we played them. The even worse news: it was hot, there were no clouds, and even if we somehow won we’d have to play again at 5.

They scored twice pretty early in the game, a girl goal and a guy goal, to go up 3-0–just like last time. We started playing better later in the first half, generated some attacks, got the bad guys sniping at each other. I had four shots go wide, one just barely missing each corner of the net. That’s harder to do than it sounds, so you should be impressed. The halftime whistle blew, and between the prayers for rain and death we talked about how, despite playing down a man and losing over and over and over again, we should at least be proud of having kept those games close.

In the second half, we must’ve lulled them to sleep because we scored two girl goals (I had both assists) to go up 4-3. It was strange: we were glad to have stormed back, glad to be winning–especially under these circumstances–and glad to be on the verge of eliminating an arch-rival, but dreading the prospect of playing again at 5.

The bad guys tied it up with a few minutes left, and the game ended tied at 4. This meant overtime: two three-minute halves, then PKs. And since the other games on the other fields had ended, the rest of the bad guys’ players were now available to sub in against us.

Meanwhile, we were still stuck with the same six winded, dead-legged players. We put everybody back and spent the overtime just blasting the ball away from the net and letting the bad guys chase it.

After six scoreless minutes, we were on to penalties. Three shooters each. I volunteered to shoot first. That way, if I screwed up, there’d be plenty of other opportunities for everybody else to screw up even worse and erase the memory of my mistake.

So I screwed up. The goals are tiny, so I just wanted to blast the ball as hard as I could, low and on frame. It was low, but once again it slipped just past the left post. Oops. Happily, our keeper blocked their first shot.

Our next shot went well over the net, and their next shot went well wide. One round left.

Our last shooter shot just right of the keeper, who got a hand on the ball… but it still spun into the net. 1-0, us. Our keeper, who was probably having the game of his life considering all the shots that had come at him, blocked the last one. We won. Despite being short a man with no subs and having fallen behind 3-0, we won.

Of course, we got smoked in the semifinal by at least a bazillion to nothing. Exhaustion will do that to you. Sadly, it was likely the last game the Stubby Holders played together; only four of our players are available next season. Looks like it’s time to find a new squad.

Season-end stats: I scored eight goals and had four assists. Weight 182, down from a high of 220 for the year, meaning I’m 17.3% smarter and sexier on a pound-for-pound basis. No trips to the ER, but I am sore, sunburnt, and exhausted. My left ankle is so black and blue that I’m pretty certain it’s just black because the blue can’t escape the gravitational pull of the swelling.

End-of-season soirée next weekend, and then get ready for next season. I look forward to it.

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