June 13, 2018
By Louis Zatzman
In a sense, the Toronto Rush were lucky to escape D.C with only one loss on their record. They came on the trip missing one of their best and most important players in Andrew Carroll. Star young’un Ben Oort dislocated his thumb during a savvy, veteran catch in the endzone. An iffy continental breakfast felled star defender Bretton Tan, who could barely stand due to his sickness.
“It's really unfortunate because he's probably one of the best defenders in the world, and we could have used him in a tight game. He's definitely worth a point or two by himself,” said Cam Harris.
For good measure, the team’s locker room was invaded during the game, with headphones, sunglasses, shorts, cash, cleats, and a credit card stolen.
These issues are temporary. Andrew Carroll will return. Oort’s thumb will heal. Tan’s stomach will settle. Headphones do not improve on-field play. Perhaps most disconcerting in the D.C game, however, was the play of Cam Harris himself. By his own admission, he played one of the worst games of his life. (He also ate the continental breakfast that destroyed Tan).
“I've never had a game where my flick is that off,” he explained, emphatically.
Midway through the second quarter, Harris had a point with multiple throwaways. He was frustrated, looking for fouls from the refs. The Breeze called a timeout to allow their offensive players on the field, and the Rush defence correspondingly entered the fray. Rush coach Sachin Raina, however, didn’t say a word to his defence during the timeout. He was too busy talking exclusively with Harris.
“Not a lot was said [during that timeout],” said Harris. “I was obviously frustrated with the way that I was playing… Sachin and I came to a mutual agreement that I would be more effective trying to be on D-Line, where I can at least use my legs, and don't need to throw as much in a game where my throws are off.”
Raina mentioned that his only frustration was not with the turnovers, but instead in how they occurred.
“What I was [saying] was, I wasn't upset about the throwaway, I was upset that the throwaway happened at stall 5 or 6 without him ever having looked at his bail. Sticking to the gameplan there, which was as the stall count rises, you just look for the easy option, and keep the disc moving. Especially when you start struggling, you want to try and simplify your game, and it felt like a scenario where if anything, Cam was maybe making things a little bit harder on himself,” said Raina.
Harris would not play offence for the rest of the game. Isaiah Masek-Kelly was moved to Harris’ position on the offence, and Harris grinded away on the defence.
Both Harris and Raina are fiery competitors. Raina is one of the most intense competitors on the team, as likely to shout at players for mistakes during wins as during losses. Harris is equally verbal and volcanic with his emotions; he holds his heart in his hands every time the disc leaves them. Clashes between the two can become loud.
But they didn’t clash. They understood each other’s frustrations, with no anger directed towards the other in the slightest. Their relationship is likely healthier than the average romantic partnership.
“[Cam’s] exact words were, just so you know, I'm angry, but I'm not angry at you,” recounted Raina.
After switching to the defence, Harris wasn’t even happy with his performance there, getting caught wrong-footed on multiple cuts from Jeff Wodatch and Rowan McDonnell. He recorded some highlight plays, for which Raina was quick to praise him, but Harris was unimpressed with himself.
After the game, Harris apologized to the team, taking personal accountability for the loss. To a man, the team disagreed with him.
“A lot of the veterans on the team individually came up to me and [reminded] me that we win as a team, and we lose as a team,” Harris explained.
“Nobody on the team is ever going to question Cam's accountability, or his desire to win,” said Raina. “Him taking responsibility is just him acknowledging, hey, I didn't have a very good game and him having very high standards for himself. But at the same time, not one guy in the huddle thought the game was his fault… [Cam] can say that all he wants, but we're going to win as a team and lose as a team. At no point have we won a game because of one guy, and we're surely not going to start losing games because of one guy.”
While another star of Harris’ magnitude might question the coach’s decision to move him to the D-Line, Harris described the decision as a mutual uncoupling. He accepted it willingly. Despite his self-admonishments, he did contribute on the D-Line, recording an athlete layout block on an under, and throwing a creative assist over the stack.
The strength of Toronto’s culture means that Harris’ struggles brought the team closer together instead of further apart. These same veterans have played together for 6 years in the AUDL and even longer in the Toronto club and junior scenes. They have a wealth of emotional context upon which they can rely, and they trust and support each other implicitly.
Despite the lost game, the team sported high spirits during the long, 10-hour bus ride back to Toronto. Harris’ favourite movie was the Dark Knight. The Rush lost more than their perfect record in D.C, but nothing was taken that won’t be replaced. Carroll, Oort, and Tan will return for the Rush, but so too will Harris’ gentle-yet-powerful flick hucks. There is no consternation, and an episode that could splinter a lesser team won’t even be on players’ minds the next time the Rush take the field.