Two dozen or so men stand on the sidelines, they are divided evenly between white and red. They are a frenzy of action, pacing up and down, yelling, cheering, encouraging. That is the last role left for them. The field stands quiet in contrast. Just 7 men to a side, calmly discussing their last-minute strategy, carrying the last hopes of their respective teams. A vast green space separates them, just waiting to be filled. One player does a few jumps and tries to shake out the jitters, get the nervous energy under control.
Then a hand is raised on each side and the disc goes up. The fight is on, a clash of skill and determination, talent and dedication. Each person is focused on the task at hand, the man in front of them. The sideline is no more intelligible than the birds crying overhead. Despite that, every throw is accompanied by huge screams, every time that white gets close to touching the disc the sideline reacts. Red is patient in the face of smothering coverage; they look off riskier plays, take what they are given. Yard after yard, they march downfield. The quality of the sideline changes, too slowly for them to be aware. The men in red are like springs, and every step closer to the goal line winds them tighter. The men in white get louder and louder, more and more frantic as they see their window shrink. Red is on the goal line, and the thrower can feel it. He sees a chance to end it, finally. The defender in white is close though, he has no time to think, only act. He leaves his feet, flying nearly horizontally to make the play. There’s a minor collision, but nobody is hurt. As he gets up, disc in hand, a teammate is streaking downfield. The disc soars high through the air in a graceful arc. White catches it, but he’s short. No matter. Two short passes and the game is over. White rushes the field; they are jumping and screaming. The 7 that were on the field are crushed amidst the crowd.
The red sideline enters the field more slowly. Of the 7 that were just playing, 3 of them are sitting, or 1 is lying in the grass and 1 is crying. He won’t be playing next year; this was his last chance to advance. And he was so close. The team slowly comes together; they hug and support each other. There are no accusations, no blame thrown or accepted, they simply share their sadness, and their pain.
There’s one last thing for them to do. The teams line up and shake hands, and while looking their opponent in the eye, they say “Good game.” There’s no gloating here, and no celebrations allowed. If someone looks over now, they might not know who won and who lost. Unless they were looking very closely, so that they could see that one set of smiles was a little more genuine than the other.
There’s little time for either team to reflect. They each have one last game to play. And neither one wants to end the tournament on a loss.