Okay, here's the thing. I do not have a draft or outline or “notes” or any of those things that professional, well-respected people put down before writing something to ensure it’s a coherent thesis instead of certifiable Hanford waste in word form.
You might be surprised to hear that even I always do an outline before writing something. Yeah, that’s right: That dog vomit you usually read with my name as the byline is me doing my best. Even this.
But today we’re not doing an outline, because I don’t even know what I’m going to say. I just know that you can’t leave a game like last night’s hanging and then not record at least some visceral reaction if for nothing other than posterity. Thus I can only assume what you are about to read will be an unintelligible fever dream that will have you yearning for the coherence of such works of literature as the Ikea assembly manual.
Like, there is a 50/50 shot that you finish this with a better appreciation for the continuity in James Joyce’s Ulysses. And for that I apologize.
Ho. Lee. Shit.
I figured we would never see a Michigan-like comeback again ever. I didn’t think we’d ever top it. I mean, granted, I guess, sorta, it’s kinda an apples to oranges situation, really, if you think about it, since that one was all about Gabbie Plain’s 782347824789823 pitches and then the team having her back when she stumbled but these two are gonna be spoken of in the same breath starting yesterday. We had two years or so where the first thing Gabbie’s performance and the team’s 2021 Michigan comeback was always compared to was Danielle Lawrie’s gazillion inning, five billion pitch UMass double-header in 2009, but from now on that doesn’t get brought up without a McNeese mention.
(Actually, for the cardiovascular health of all Washington supporters, I hereby propose we stop playing teams whose names start with “M” in the regionals. I mean good Christ Massachusetts, Michigan, and McNeese have together lowered our collective lifespans by probably thousands of years.)
Okay, so who are the heroes in each of these?
- UMass: Danielle Lawrie, over and over and over (times 15 innings) again, followed by everybody all at once.
- Michigan: Gabbie Plain, followed by very much not Gabbie Plain, followed by Gabbie Plain again, over and over, followed by everybody all at once. And then everybody a little bit more. And then Gabbie Plain.
- McNeese: Nobody. Then... Everybody. All at once.
If there's one things Heather Tarr teams are, it's resilient.
As far as I can tell, it is integrally baked into this program that when things are going garbage-ly, all you have to do is just hold on.
All you have to do is hold. I could probably foist some Lord of the Rings metaphor here too if we’re feelin’ it. Thoughts? All in favor? Two, four, six... too many to count.
“Look to my coming at first light on the 5th day. At dawn, look to the East.”
All you have to do is hold on.
All you have to do, is not run out of time.
Not dead yet, just keep swimming, what do we say to the god of death... Any other movie metaphors I could clunkily shove in here? Nah? Whatever, we get it.
Just. Don’t. Run out of time.
Mike Vorel’s pinned tweet has the quote from Kalen DeBoer’s mentor in Sioux Falls: “You can coach out of fear, but you can coach out of love, too.”
Mental toughness seems to come from conviction bordering on absurdity — certainly bordering on insanity, as anyone else would have told you after the sixth inning yesterday — in your tribe, in yourself... As far as I can tell I don’t think it can be in just one or the other.
Over and over and over again, the teams of the last almost-20 years of this program have been mentally tough bordering on almost-clinical insanity.
So, the question becomes:
Does Coach Tarr recruit believers, or does she turn kids into them?
I mean, logically, it’s probably a lil’ column A lil’ column B. So we'll just go with, in the words of Doctor Krieger: Yes.
On one hand, if you’re a recruit who’s that good, you didn’t get that way by being timid.
On the other hand, other teams don’t do this.
If you have ever played against Washington, you saw that comeback coming from a mile away— Haley Cruse Mitchell (@haley_crusee) May 22, 2023
All of us ex PAC players lol https://t.co/ac0qUxGks4— Alex Morgan (Lavine) (@AlexMorgan_07) May 22, 2023
Last summer I visited my best childhood friend and best college friend in Switzerland, where they now live. (Yes they are married yes I introduced them yes I am an elite wingman and would like credit as such.)
In a small world happening whose improbability rivals Washington’s history of comebacks and hold-ons, one of their friends in Switzerland is a former Pac-12 softball player who happened to be roommates and teammates with someone we grew up with or, in my case, who I grew up getting my ass royally beaten by every time I tried to hit her pitches.
This friend of my friend and I chatted about that since it was too small world not to, and it eventually came back to Washington.
She mentioned her choice as a recruit came down to UW versus the school she eventually went with. I mentioned I had just interviewed Coach a month earlier and was pleasantly surprised that she remembered me, despite the fact we hadn’t seen each other in over a decade. (This was followed by horror at the idea anyone would remember 14 year-old me, which was bad even by 14 year-old standards.)
She responded: Coach Tarr remembers so many people nobody else would. That’s why she’s the best.
I got the sense the vibes had been... less than immaculate at the other school.
People don’t remember on accident. They remember because they give a shit. Like, a lot of shits.
Nobody gives a shit like Coach Tarr. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 10 year-old selling hot dogs at their concession stand or one of the hundreds of people who’ve played for her. She remembers.
People who remember are people who care. People who care show others how to care. And when a whole group of, say, 15-20 people give-or-take (theoretically, of course), cares, and each person knows that each other person cares, well... No one fights like a tribe who has each others’ back.
“If you have ever played against Washington, you saw that coming from a mile away.”
“You can coach out of fear, but you can coach out of love, too. I think that’s a lot of what Kalen has. He coaches because he loves his players.”— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) March 25, 2022
In Sioux Falls, SD, @KalenDeBoer built a dynasty by embracing blizzards and coaching out of love: https://t.co/btaWPJs9hv
Critique what you will about tactical bunting etc., but nobody’s program believes in each other like Coach Tarr’s program. Time and time again. Despite all the momentary-yet-very compelling evidence, with backs against the wall, that would say they have no reason to.
Other programs do not hold on like this one does.
That can’t, truly, come from fear at all. It cannot be sustained by fear. Surely that must come from love.
Preemptive apologies for the horrific double-negative, but sometimes they’re inevitable: No one refuses to run out of time like these Huskies. And no one cares like their coach.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.