Thursday, April 07, 2005

Champions of the TDI Washington, DC Darts League

My life in many ways revolves around sports. I started playing T-ball at a very young age and continued playing baseball until I was 18 years old, which has now turned into a few softball leagues here in Washington, D.C. Along the journey of life I became a pretty good basketball and football player - loving every minute of the each individual game, the competition, the camaraderie with teammates and coaches and the sure joy of success.

The best coach I ever had in any sport and in life is my Dad. He's taught me a lot about sports and has offered some one-liners that have been instrumental in my daily life. The night after I took an 0-4 and looked horrible at the plate he'd say, "Don't worry about it. Trust me, the sun will come up tomorrow." And he was right. Or when I hit 6 three-pointers in one game and led my team to the championship game he said to me as I was figuring out what I wanted to tell Mike Krzyzweski and Duke University, "Good game tonight, remember you've got another game on Tuesday night." But the one thing he instilled in me that I'll never forget is something I'm going to try to explain to the 13-15-year-old boys from the Washington, D.C., Boys & Girls Club baseball team that I'll be coaching this summer - "You win as a team and you lose as a team."

Last night, the darts team I play on won 'as a team' in the B Division Championship match. Not only did we win - we won in a spectacular, come-back fashion. It was a true example of how seven guys on one team can pull together, even on the brink of defeat, and bring it home. It was also the natural progression of what we had started a year ago when we won the C Division Championship.

Let's just say our season, which ended a perfect 10-0, has been an interesting one. We've had teammates' wives have first-born babies (Coby); as a result of that, we've had first-time uncles (Garth); we've got the best 301 average shooter in the B Division who wasn't awarded the crown for some crazy reason (Raj); we had an old teammate who finished law school and came back to become one of the top shooters in the league (Ben); we've got our captain who fights like heck to make sure we don't constantly get screwed by the league (Eli); we've got a player who's one of the hottest players in the league coming down the final weeks of the season and the playoffs (Jesse); and we have me - a guy who loves winning, loves being a good teammate and loves hanging with the boys.

But even with all of that, we still got screwed. We finished the regular season off by beating the Toss Offs 7-4 (every match has 11 total points). Each team plays the other teams in their division twice during the season and this was the second time we'd beaten the Toss Offs 7-4. However, we finished 1 game out of first place. The Toss Offs were 64-24 and we were 63-25. The other three teams in the B Division had losing records and we were clearly the best two teams.

Because of a forfeit to the worst team we were handed an 8-3 win to a team that we have destroyed for the last three years. How? I still would love to know the justice behind it - but I haven't gotten anywhere with my complaining. We beat this said team 10-1 in our other match (and they had a good night) and last season we beat them 31-2 in two regular season and one playoff match. So those 3 losses in that supposed forfeit killed us and we finished one game out of first place. When it all comes down to it, we knew we would have to face the Toss Offs in the championship - but I love shooting at our home bar. Oh well. After we beat the #3 seeded Save The Darts team and the Toss Offs beat up on the #5 seed, we set our sights on each other. One last match for all the darts ... err, marbles.

I rode to the match with the Dolan brothers, Coby and Garth. We shot around for about 45 minutes before the match would start. Jesse got there early, too. Four of our players were there before the other team even began to trickle in.

The first six games are 301 - and our team, RAM, does very well in 301. Of the 100+ players in the entire league, we have six guys in the top 31. Raj, our best shooter, had the best scoring average for the B Division for the second time in three seasons and was ranked 5th overall. Ben was ranked 14th and was also once a shooter of the season with the best scoring average in our division. Ranked 22nd was Garth and I followed ranked 25th. Coby and Jesse ranked 30th & 31st and our captain Eli ranked a solid 44th. We were as solid as they come. Jesse won his 301. But RAM put there backs against the wall with three straight losses from Coby, Raj and myself. We needed Garth and Ben and they both performed like they had ice water running through their veins. We were tied 3-3 going into the three two-on-two cricket games. Our combinations have been one thing we've tried not to fiddle with this season and Eli stuck to what has worked, unfortunately last night it didn't turn out the way we expected. Coby & Garth play great together - one of the best cricket combos in the entire league. They've been playing with each other since they were both in diapers and playing darts together their whole lives. Separated by a measly two years, you'd think they were twins the way they can read each other. They played a great game last night but barely lost. Eli & I have had some memorable games playing together. We are the two guys that have knocked off some of the best cricket teams in the league the last several years. After beating one of the better teams in the semis we fully expected we would have a strong game last night. Nope. I honestly can admit I was very erratic. At one point hitting four marks and then the next not hitting anything. It was uncharacteristic; I felt like I was putting pressure on Eli. Both legs of the best of three were close but we lost them both. I told Eli after we lost that I had blown it and he said, "You'll shoot lights out in 501."

501 is the 'team game' in which you take all of your players and split them onto two teams versus your opponents. Unfortunately after Eli & I lost we had to rely on Jesse & Raj to win or the championship would be over. They had us on the ropes and we started to wobble when Jesse & Raj lost the first leg. One more and they would have us. I just stood there almost dazed. How was this happening? I wasn't in my daze very long when a funny thing happened. Jesse & Raj caught fire. The two guys that they played were probably the other team's weakest cricket combo, but they were still a formidable duo. Jesse & Raj blew their doors off in leg two and three and took the game.

I said to Jesse, "That was huge - now we must win."

Eli set the 501 team lineups: Ben, Coby and Garth on one team and Jesse, Eli, Raj and I. Two separate games and winner wins, but we needed to win both of them.

I honestly can say that I wasn't paying any attention to the other game while we were playing. We were behind from the start and needed to get into it and shoot well. Down by more then a hundred I did my best and dropped an 85 to cut their lead. The next time around Jesse left me with an odd number so I figured why not try to leave Eli then Raj with the double one for the out.

As I stepped up to the line I heard the excitement from Ben and Garth because Coby had just nailed the game winner in their match. It was time to be a champion. I threw my three darts and set us up for the kill. After their shooter didn't hit, Eli stepped up. His first two darts sailed a bit high and his third was low. The Toss Offs had the chance but also couldn't convert. Up to toe the line was Raj. Raj has been one of the top seven or eight players in the entire league since he joined our team over two years ago and he's flat out great. I was standing next to Coby and Ben on the side and leaned over and said, "He's going to hit this."

One dart - one double one out. One team the champions of the B Division. I'll also admit that when he hit it I jumped up and pumped a fist. Jesse and Eli had already grabbed him and Coby, Ben and I rushed in. Garth was having trouble taking the pressure of watching and about five seconds later came running in. The Toss Offs were in utter shock. They needed just one leg of that last cricket game to beat us and then couldn't win either of the team games. Eli, Coby and Garth are all huge Boston Red Sox fans - and last night's come-from-behind win was eerily reminiscent of what Boston did to the N.Y. Yankees in the American League Championship Series last October."

You win as a team, and you lose as a team." Those words ring through my head every time I play a team sport. And last night - the RAM came from behind and won the Championship as one great team.


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