Monthly Archives: September 2013

Midwest Championship in Rockford 2013

One of our favorite tournaments to play is also one of the furthest from us – theĀ Swedish Historical Society tournament in Downtown Rockford, Illinois. Our first shot at the Rockford Tournament was in 2011, and it was a successful trip for us. We won, and it was even more surprising to us that we won that Tournament than the US National Tournament in 2010. Why? We thought the 2010 win could have been a fluke, a happenstance chance of luck. Winning in Rockford made us think maybe we were actually good at something. (This might also be called getting a big head or cockiness.)

We went back to Rockford in 2012 and had a blast again. We slowly fought our way to the semifinals and lost in a tough match with Head Slap from Des Moines. Rockford was starting to feel a little bit like home.

Mike in good condition, playing on the painted sets! Shannon ready to tumble some blocks!

Mike in good condition, playing on the painted sets! Shannon ready to tumble some blocks!

This year we knew we wanted to head down again, but there were some potential issues. One was the mystery of Dave’s cancer. Would he be well enough to play? And the other was the general chaos of life for me – not everything revolves around kubb and things always come up that can get in the way of a good tournament. So it was with great pleasure that we opened up the Ringers roster and invited our friends Mike and Shannon to join us.

I had other motives, too. Like many athletes, I’m always looking for ways to improve my game and keep the sport interesting. Last fall, I “changed my 8 meter throw.” Cliche, but true. And I was seriously working on it. So hard, in fact, that I basically gave up inkasting. After watching Mike toss Kubbs at Kubbfest in town last fall, I knew he had something special in that department – a unique throw and very consistent. And knowing his wife was also pretty good, and that they traveled well as a team, we got them both. Further, with four players on the roster, if one of us had to bail, we were still populated enough to make the trip (Rockford required 3 players per team this year). And so it began, our run for Rockford 2013.

We didn’t get many opportunities to practice as a team. I know Mike and Shannon were both nervous and excited. Parents themselves, I saw the sacrifice they had to make in just logistically getting to the tourney sans kids. It may have in fact been the first “vacation” they had ever taken without their kids. And so the pressure came right back to us! We all felt pressure, nerves and excitement for different reasons. Once in Rockford, it all came together for us.

Dave and I were familiar with the dynamics of a four player team (We played as a four player in the 2012 Nationals and made it to Sunday) – using the morning round robins to get familiar with ourselves as a unit. Reliably switching off each turn throwing one, then two batons, no matter how we were performing. Mike locked in the inkast and played consistently, and very well. Shannon used her nervous energy to our advantage and pulled out clutch shot after clutch shot.

Top Four!

Top Four Teams

As the day wore on, and the matches increased in quality and pressure, we once again used the 4 person team to our best advantage. Communication, four different perspectives, and four different strengths were on our side. We leaned on each other, making our way through some solid teams right up into the semifinals where we lost to fellow Berserkers. We won the next game putting us at Third for the day, but that was secondary to enjoying a fantastic day with friends.

(First 3 photos by Chris from King Kung, not sure about that last one!)

the Gift

In Mid-February the Ringers were hit with some surprising news.
Our senior member was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.
We promptly scheduled a healing trip to Zihuatanejo, you know, the Mexican beach idealized in the movie Shawshank Redemption. The kubb set was already packed.

Everything is gonna be all right

Everything is gonna be all right

To my knowledge, no overt decision was made to keep the situation under wraps. I, however, kept it mostly to myself. And here’s why. When you tell someone the you or someone close to you has cancer, people almost always go to a place of fear. And it doesn’t help. My attitude was, and remains, that this was a temporary blip in the flow of life. A phase. An opportunity for healing and education. Of course, it wasn’t me going through the treatment procedures, either. But I wanted to provide an unwavering baseline of positive support to my dad, to my best friend, to my kubb partner.

This guy watched us for two days before we were finally able to convince him to play with us. We gave him the set before we left. Look at him: he's happy. We all were.

This guy watched us for two days before we were finally able to convince him to play with us. We gave him the set before we left. Look at him: he’s happy. We all were.

And so it became to be known, that as we slugged it out with the Knockerheads in the finals at the Loppet just a few weeks earlier, cancer was raging through Dave’s body. Back in Dallas, with Sweden’s Amateur Ringers, his body coursing. Back in Des Moines, the meat grinder, Dave rose to the top with his partner and took it all. Arguably the toughest tournament in North America was taken by a man raging with Cancer.
Suddenly there we were, on the beaches of Zihuatanejo. Our daily ritual of packing the kubb set along with the towels, shovels, buckets and sunscreen. Not acting like nothing was wrong, but behaving as though everything was going to be all right. Relaxing. Playing kubb. Teaching folks, sharing the game. Focusing on what was important. And discovering, once again, that kubb IS important. Not just for us, but for the earth as a whole. We gave it our all, and in the end, we even gave our set to an enthusiatic learner, a native Mexican we met on the beach.
These kids were wandering the beach and watched us for a minute. We pulled them in right away, each took a few on our side and had an amazing few rounds. Gave us beer, too.

These kids were wandering the beach and watched us for a minute. We pulled them in right away, each took a few on our side and had an amazing few rounds. Gave us beer, too.

Kubb is a game. It’s also a gift. And every game is a gift. Whenever I win a game, I say “thanks” to the other team. Not because I’m a jerk (I might be) but because I really mean it. Every game the Ringers have ever won has been a gift from our opponents. They could have beaten us, but they didn’t. Thanks.

When we won the US Championship back in 2010 it was an incredible gift. You don’t need to know my life story, but let’s just say I was at a point in my life that I thought was rock bottom. That night, after the tourney, I drove across Wisconsin to meet my family, tears in my eyes and a medal on my chest. I stopped at the Horicon Marsh, parked my car and stared into the night sky. Surrounded by the wild calls of nature, I said thanks. And I made a commitment to myself – to give the gift again, to pass it on. My plan? Play as much kubb as possible. Play my best. And give as many people as possible the opportunity to “beat the champs.”
The next day, I gave the first gift. In a friendly game I missed a king shot and my opponent came back to beat me. I felt the smile on his face as we shook. I said “Thanks!” And later, I heard him say “I just beat the National Champ!”
The Master Blaster in Dallas
Eric and Dave in Des Moines