Recap by Stephanie Hicks of Underdog, with another history lesson:
A patina of fatigue coats everyone’s red faces. Navy Blue jerseys cling with sweat, bodies sticky from the humid air. Bright lights beat down as Merlin passes the stuffed Underdog into the hands of an exhausted player. In a sight that Underdog has yet to see — a large grin paints the face of the young MVP. A cheer goes up.
July 12th, 2018
The normally impacted parking lot at the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex holds a smattering of empty spots. Probably given the early hour of our arrival. Andy assured me his house was five minutes from the complex which I assumed meant fifteen in LA-speak, so I left plenty of time to pick up our newly arrived jerseys. But he did not lie. Google maps confirmed that in fact he was only four minutes from the RCSC. As a result, it’s earlier than I’ve ever arrived, the bright light of the sun has yet to dip below the buildings, and the light dances off the triangular windows of the white building to the right as we pull into the parking lot. Toph, my carpool buddy, asks the question running through my mind. “Is that a pool?”
The Rancho Cienega Sports Complex was built in 1938 as part of the many public works projects to spur on economic growth in the Great Depression as part of FDR’s New Deal. The complex stretches across thirty acres and was financed in part by a donation of land from Mrs. Anita M. Badwin, the Works Progress Administration and the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. The facilities include much of what we enjoy playing on today — and some other things that have sadly vanished over the years: croquet courts, horseshoe courts, comfort stations or parking accommodation for 400 cars. I have no idea what a comfort station is. (I’ll leave this Easter Egg for Andy to chase), and I don’t know where they’re hiding the 400 parking spots, but as we circle looking for one I note the name on the side of the white building with the gleaming windows: Celes King III Aquatic Center. “Yep, that’s definitely a pool. And I’ve never noticed it before.”
Maybe the pool’s obscurity is due to the fact that it was not part of the original construction, but an addition in 1957 after voters approved a $39.5 million bond to expand the parks in Los Angeles — the largest bond in the country. A portion was dedicated to installing fifteen new pools over ten years across Los Angeles County. Today the city of Los Angeles is accepting bids to demolish the pool and install a park and playground. Maybe in hopes of returning to the spirit of the original name, which was Rancho Cienega Playground.
Tonight the “playground” hosts the matchup between Underdog and Princess Unikitty. Two teams with winning records. Underdog has only one loss. Princess Unikitty, two. Underdog Captain Chris and I spent the draft drinking beer at the same table as Princess Unikitty’s Captains Jeff, Lu and roommate Don. We came after Unikitty in the draft order, but because of the wrap-around, sometimes we chose before them. Jeff reminds me that we snatched up Armand, who they wanted. I remind him that they lied to us about Toph, a ploy we thankfully didn’t fall for. I’m excited to play them.
There’s a sideways breeze giving slight relief to the sticky night as moms Andrea DuBois and Leah Thompson bring out the newborns for us to coo over. Now we’ve been visited by all three Underdog babies and I’m completely distracted as Chris tries to go over our zone. No one pays attention except UniKitty, whose huddle’s gazes are trained on Chris’s coaching as we run through it slowly. It’s messy. We cheer Underpups. We throw our zone and force a deep huck that sails out of bounds. Perfect. But we can can’t capitalize and Unikitty scores the first point of the game. On offense we get a quick score, then throw our zone again and break them. Princess Unikitty only scores once more before Underdog takes half. We huddle up and now the team is engaged and now bombards Chris with questions about the zone we’re throwing. The distracting babies have gone home for the night, but we decide that we will no longer throw the zone after half given the point differential.
Unfortunately the flow never got going for Princess Unikitty despite being a talented team. The humidity casts a lazy pallor over everyone’s movements. Legs don’t quite work as fast as they should. Hucks sail low. Their Captain Lu Wang is MIA as well as some key players. Jeff and Dylan played awesome and they have baller women, led by Papa. They’re fast and young and but it was a night of drops and turnovers that Underdog capitalized on, not without sloppy drops and turnovers of their own. Miraculously, Steve Loh comes down with a zinger from Toph through triple coverage. Cortez is wide open and we miss her all night, until Merlin, after getting a sick D in the endzone, lays out for a huge grab midfield, then lines up a deep shot which flies about five feet off the ground the whole time but manages to sail past the defense and into Cortez’ hands for a score. Less miraculously, we have a triumph of communication when Matt hucks it deep to where speed demons Sam and Kellie are both streaking. They talk. Sam backs off and Kellie comes down with it on the endzone line and then throws a chill flick to Sam for a score. They hug. It’s adorable. Especially since Sam’s last name is Kelley.
Side Note: They’re both gone for the tournament. As are Cortez and Janet, who just showed up for her first game and rocks as the awesome handler that we’ve been needing and then tells us that she’s never coming back again. I hate them. Because I love them so much and they’re abandoning me. Ladies of LA, please sign up to sub at the tournament. Especially handlers. Ok, side note done.
Sometime after half Princess Unikitty goes on a three-point run to bring their score to five. But Underdog is too far ahead and quickly wins 15-5. We play a few points of pick-up but Jeff’s buying shots at the bar, so his team is eager to go. And the un-sung hero of the night, Mikey Theologidy, a 17-year-old uber-serious work-horse, is gifted the Underdog by Merlin. Mikey’s young, fast and smart, so he’s always in the cup, always guarding the fast guy, taking coaching from older brother Matt, and week by week getting better and better. Tonight he was unstoppable. After getting a huge D in Unikitty’s endzone, we were attempting to work it down on offense, but Papa and the Unikitties were completely shutting down our female cutters, so literally every down-field throw was to Mikey, who also got open and scored it. A cheer goes up from the team as Underdog lands in the hands of his new owner. And Mikey grins for the first time. Sadly he is but a pup, and too young to join us at the bar, where Unikitty slayed us in both numbers and longevity.
Is it not true underage players can hang out in the patio area at Joxer’s? I feel like I’ve been led to believe that.
Haha. Before I even read the sentence where she said she’ll let me chase the Easter Egg of what a “comfort station” is, I had already looked it up. It’s basically a public restroom. OR…. it’s a brothel, but that’s only a phrase used in Japanese-occupied China around the time of World War II, in what is now Korea, and was used by American G.I.’s during the Korean War. Comfort women were essentially military sex slaves, and there were hundreds of thousands of them, and I advise you not to read about it, cause it’ll just make you sick.
Underdog is now 5-1 and sits in 2nd place behind Scooby Doo. Those teams do not play each other, but John Worden of SD was asking me about Underdog at pick-up yesterday. He asked me, “are we going to get beat by Underdog?” That’s an odd question to ask when they’re not on your schedule. The only thing I can conclude is he was asking me about finals. Like he’s already anticipating meeting Underdog in finals after week 6. That’s ballsy, my friend.
But if they do face each other in finals, there’d be a lot of great story lines to follow.
Seth and AJ of Scooby Doo are currently the only captains to win back-to-back Co-ed titles. They won in 2008 and 2009 with Coppertone Tan and Bad Bad Leroy Brown. Steph would be attempting to be the only other captain to accomplish that feat. Although, it should also be noted Matt Findley won back-to-back as a captain of Men’s League in 2008-2009. And Jason “Popeye” Schissel won in 2003 and 2005, and he did not captain in 2004, so you determine if that counts or not. I say no. Maybe.
Scooby Doo is trying for the immaculate season of winning every regular season game and the tournament, so there’s that on the line.
The record for most tournaments won by a captain is 2. So Steph would be looking to tie that record.
I can’t verify this at all, but it’s possible Matt and Michael Theologidy could become the first brothers to win the tournament. I know the Johns brothers have not. And Chris and Kevin Thomas have not.
There would also be the interesting note of brothers playing the father / son combo on Scooby Doo of John and Matthew Worden.
Steph winning this year would be a nice way to silence the critics who complained about her pink team winning last year.