Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We are the New England Patriots of kickball

A 6-1 victory over the Valley Girls in the Studio Division championship game last night gives us three Division titles in four seasons (with an appearance in the title game in the fourth season). Three titles in four seasons officially makes you a dynasty. One more title and we're the Steelers in the 1970s or the 49ers of the 1980s.

More details to come from the game, but I'll just say that it was quite possibly the best game we've ever played as a team. Sofa King Good is lucky they forfeited, because I'm very, very confident that with the way we were playing, they would have had no chance against us last night.

Ironically, this was far and away our most difficult and tumultuous season, yet it was the easiest championship game victory out of our three so far.

Again, more details later, and I'm sure teammates will chime in to fill in some details. But, as I said to the team last night after the game, I don't know if this was the best Ninjas team we've had, but I know for a fact that no other team has ever shown as much heart and resilience as this team has. Once again, I'm proud to be a Ninja.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Championship Game" Tonight

Win, and we are the champions of the Studio Division for the third time in four seasons. Lose, and we're Redrum - out in the semifinals. This is what happens when one of the two finalists decides to take their ball and go home. I know the situation wasn't made ideal, but at some point you need to make a decision, and I think it's pretty much a no-brainer to play for a championship rather than in a regular-season game, even if it is against a team that broke off from yours. Especially when you have a history in other Divisions of kicking ass in the regular season and choking in the playoffs.

Until proven otherwise, I'm going to assume that Sofa King Good were going to chomp the bit tonight anyway, so whether or not they showed up to play is irrelevant.

As for the game tonight: The Valley Girls are very good. They are extremely fast, kick well, and field their positions. We know their strengths and weaknesses at this point, but it will take a total team effort to get the victory.

In other words: we are the underdogs again, which puts me in a very good frame of mind going into tonight.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Remember how I JUST posted about how we are playing the Valley Girls in the Semi-Finals and THEN the winner was goign to play in the Championship against Sofa King Good?

Yeah, well Sofa King Good has forfeited the game, so they can play their opening Hollywood game against a splinter team.

More to come as the story develops...

Coming Up: Semi-Final vs.Valley Girls & Studio Division vs. Sofa King Good

Next Monday is going to be a doozy.

First we play the Valley Girls. A team that used to be bitter rivals (and they are of sorts) but over the last few seasons I've become pretty good friends with a lot of them. It has become a friendly rivalry. The Awesome Helicopter Ninjas at one point wanted to try a t-shirt swap with their team for the last game of the season, but it never came to be.

That doesn't mean I don't want to kick their ass.

Their team is good. Athletic, passionate. High spirited. They finished first in their conference, and with good reason. They kick and field really well. When I was making the schedule for the season, I had them pegged at #1 across the board. I scheduled their cross conference game with Sofa King Good because I knew that would be a great game. We haven't played them since the beginning of Fall '06. I am frigg'n jazzed out of my mind to play them.

But there is something bigger going on.

And as much as I want to beat the asses of the Valley Girls. I want the Studio Division as a whole to beat the asses of Sofa King Good. The winner of our game against the VG's plays SKG.

There is a buzzing around the division. A unified buzzing that wants either of our teams to really take it to them. Sofa King Good is a team that has played in the Hollywood Division and came over to play in Studio while Hollywood was in an off season. Well, they went 8-0 in the regular season and are fierce. But they have made some enemies along the way. They have an aggressive play style and have a pre-disposition for arguing calls.

Like last Monday night when they played Redrum in the Semi-Final. The game I saw them play. I saw them argue judgment calls at first base and there was the April's Mom incident where their team captain, Max Lucas, was rounding 2nd base and ran over April's Mom. He argued that she was in the base path and had a fit of sorts that he wasn't awarded 3rd base for interference. I'm staying out of the debate. But lets just say that is cemented their status as a-holes of the division.

Like I said. Doozy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Quarter Final Game: vs. Smurfageddon

This is long (that'swhatshesaid)

Weird. Fucking. Night.

I don't know how else to describe it. The mood of the game was off from the get go. It was windy and warm and twilightly and muggy and just...off. Its the kind of air that looms over you on nights where big things happen. Like presidential elections. You're there and you can't do anything about it, but you know something big is going on. I don't know how to properly describe it.

Going into the game I was nervous. Kelly can attest to this. We got to the field early and I just couldn't settle. We went out and bought some Crayolla sidewalk chalk paint so I could write nasty stuff about the Smurfs on the pavement, but I just wasn't in the mood.


- The wind was blowing from home plate to the outfield, causing every kick to carry and hang in the air. Adam J. was walking by home plate in his flip-flops (thongs) and kicked a random ball and it went over into left field, with no effort.

- The sun was setting and was shining into the eyes of the outfielders.

- Mandy bought a GORGEOUS sign for us. A HUGE banner that was just beautiful.

- Everyone bought water or Gatorade and stayed hydrated. The other team was lacking.

The game got off to a really rocky start, in spite of Scott's best efforts to slow down the game. Oh, before I get into THAT, we had a big issue with umping in the division that night. (note: I just deleted a major rant that I'll save for another time). Anyway, things got off to a late start. By the time the game started, it was close to 7:30ish.

In the first inning a few insane things happened. Well, Smurfageddon did what we all knew they were going to do, which was bunt, bunt, bunt kick. Unfortunately, it was the kick part that killed us. For whatever reason, in the first inning Scott was off his game. Its a rare thing to see Scott miss play a ball. Sure, he's dropped really tough catches. But he always has the sense to know the field and know where to get the ball to next. But the Smurfs sent two balls his way. The first got caught by the wind and carried a few feet above his head. By the time he brought the ball in, they had scored three runs. A few minutes later, it happened again. This time the ball dropped just short of his play, and somehow got past him. Another two scored. They finished up with some more bunting and small plays in the infield, and we were down by five going into the bottom of the first.

Morale was low. But we began to threaten in the bottom of the first, though we didn't score. Adam J and Jack both got out. Julie kicked a little grounder that was played poorly by the Smurfs, and as the ball sailed into foul territory along the fence, she RAN to 2nd then to 3rd. She pulled a triple out of her ass and it was all due to hustle and listening to her teammates. It was awesome. Unfortunately, she was stranded at third. Or was she? I remember she ran home, against my base coaching, but I don't know if the score counted.

Top of 2, we held them to no runs.

Bottom 2, everything broke loose. We loaded up the bases and Gari got up to kick. He kicked a huge fly ball to right center, and it was not only went over the head of the girl, but was misplayed by the outfielder. He cleared the bases and got a grand slam home run! This brought us within one, and everything changed from that point.

We started playing better on the field. Offense heated up a bit. In the bottom of the third, Scott got on board with two outs on a double. I dinked in a shot down the third base line and got on board. Then Richard came up to kick. He booted a line drive beauty between me running to 2nd and into right field. As it whizzed past me I shouted "Whoopsie Daisy" as I headed to third. Scott rounded third and slid into home, and though his hand hit the plate a beat before he was tagged with the ball, he was called out. Slight disappointment on his side, to say the least. I gotta say though, some of the outfielders on the Smurfs have guns. Their throws from the outfield in, were dead on, and fast.

Both the Smurfs and Ninjas brought in a run each going into the bottom of the fifth, with the score at 6 to 5. We were down, but we were up to kick. Somehow, we loaded the bases again, with no outs. With being down by two, all Sam (who was kicking) had to do was boot the ball to the outfield, anywhere, and we would have picked up at least one. Then we could have gotten another one.

This however, is what happened:

Sam was kicking, and kicked a foul ball here and there, took a couple of strikes. He was really feeling out the pitcher, waiting for the perfect pitch. He then kicked really poorly, a rolling ball through foul territory. BUT it rolled through the ambiguous gray zone (long story) into fair territory. Before he or the Smurfs realized what was happening, Sam was running to first and our players were running to the plate. A throw was made, for some reason, AT Sam and to first base. But the ball went wide and the Smurfs instead of playing the ball, stopped. They stopped (including Orion) to come argue the call. Two of our players made it across the plate. The game was over. Just like that.

Appropriate ending for a weird night.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ninjas Injury Report, 5/1/07

Cameron Davis - Severe buttocks injury (recurring injury aggravated while attempting to make a diving catch.

Richard Manfredi - Cut middle finger on right hand (sliced by Tyler Foster's talon-like nails in pregame warm-ups)

Angela Debibi - Cut to hand (sustained in the field)

Scott Jones - Bruised groin (injured while "teabagging" Joe McClendon

Scott Putman - Injured right foot (kicked ball so hard during game that it exploded - pieces of the ball embedded in his big toe)

Michael Winfield - Had a scratch in his throat (stayed out in the cold too long)

Next week

Both the quarterfinals and semifinals are next week. The remaining eight teams play the early (7:15 p.m.) game and the winners advance to the semifinals right after. Two games of kickball for the fans for one low price - free!

Our quarterfinal game is a rematch of our regular season ending game against Smurfageddon. As you'll recall, we lost 6-5 on a force out at second with the bases loaded on a sharply kicked ball to the outfield by yours truly. Needless to say, I really, really want to win this game, and not just for the revenge factor. Smurfageddon are like the Young Life or Glee Club of the league - way too much enthusiasm wrapped up in a wholy dorky package.

They have "Smurf names" on the back of their shirts ("Clumsy", "Handy", "Smurfette", etc.). They go on the message boards and talk about "Smurfing" their opponents. They sing the Smurf theme ("Tra la, la la la la, la la la, la la!") at the bar AT FULL VOLUME after every game when doing a victory toast. They happy, grinning, and thoroughly nice people - generally the poster children for the "social activity" that WAKA is always preaching.

And for all of these reasons, I want to crush them. Badly. I'm talking 15 to 20 runs badly. We could lose to Redrum for 10 games in a row, and that would be the trade-off for winning this game next week.

Assuming we win, we'll take on the winner of the Valley Girls/Uno Mas tilt in the semifinals immediately following. Either opponent is tough, but beatable.

And fans should expect some pre-game excitement before the opening game - Scott J. has some big, explosive things in store. If you've never been to a Ninjas game before, or haven't been in a while, this would be the perfect game to make (HINT MOTHERHUMPING HINT).

Opening Round playoff results

It takes different teams a different length of time to “click" and finally start playing up to their level of potential. Some teams hit thal level from the opening gates, while other teams need to ramp up to their peak level. And some teams never do reach that point, for any number of reasons.

Last night was the Opening Round of the playoffs, and going into the game, I was pretty convinced that we were going to be in the “never reached our potential” camp. It’s not that our record was that bad in the regular season – we were 5-3, and the No. 6 seed out of 16 teams, and two of our losses were by one run – but it’s just that the majority of our wins were a lot harder than they needed to be, where we let inferior opponents hang around because we were unfocused and making a lot of dumb plays. Eventually, that’s what doomed us against Smurfageddon last week – we put ourselves in such a big hole, that even a huge last-inning rally wasn’t enough, when in truth we shouldn’t have needed to rally at all if we just played like we’re capable of playing.

I’m generally very, very skeptical that a team can just “flip the switch” come playoff time – I tend to believe that you learn habits (good and bad) during the season, and that at some point you can’t get away from those habits; in short, you are who you are buy the time the playoffs come.

I don’t want to use last night as an indication, because it was just one game, but…maybe I’m wrong, about my theory and about our team. Because I’ll be damned if we didn’t go out against a pretty good team (Mean Girls and Boys Next Door) and lay the hammer to them from the opening pitch on. The final score was 12-4, and it really could have been even more lopsided.

Without question, it was our best overall game of the season. Everyone, and I mean everyone, contributed. I believe we either scored in four of the five innings or in all five (Scott?) which means that the entire line-up was doing good things. And not just big kicks, but kicks that got people on base and moved runners over. All the little things that championship teams do but we had forgotten for most of the season.

I have to give a personal shout out to Julie P., who had to be arm-twisted by her brother Scott P. and her good friend Michael into playing this season. She’s been playing catch-up in adjusting to playing with a bunch of veterans since Day One, but no one has wanted to improve more than her. And guess what happened last night? She went 2-for-2 and kicked in a pair of runs. Afterwards, she came up to Scott J. and I at the bar and let us know how much fun she had last night.

And she’s right – last night was the most fun I had all season. And as much as I’d like to say that it had nothing to do with winning or losing, I know that’s a lie. Yes, I’ve had a lot of fun in games I’ve lost; and yes, I’ve won games and not had a lot of fun. But, as Chuck Klosterman said, if you are going to play a sport, winning is the logical thing to try and do. More importantly, I think we’ve finally “clicked” – there might be a few minor things to improve upon, but I think we’re right where we want to be.

It only took us eight games to get there.

(Side Note: Scott J. pointed this out to us last night - we are on the fifth season of kickball in the Studio Division, and there has only been one round of kickball play (regular season week or tournament round like Quarterfinals, Semifinals or Finals) that we haven't been involved in - the Championship Game of the first season. Since then, if there's a round of games being played, we've been involved (except for Wild Card round playoff games, since we've avoided those). We need two more wins to keep that alive this season.