So go on, then, choose a cliché. They all work.
Backs against the wall?
Theres no tomorrow?
Win or go home?
Right as rain.
Every one of those is the handle this goes by now, this being the Turner Conference finals. They come back to Fort Wayne tonight for Game 6, and the home teams in a bind. The Komets trail Missouri three games to two in the best-of-seven, and so its either go time or go away time.
Heres the upside to that: If this is the Alamo, its not like these guys dont know their way around the place.
Out there on the ice Monday, for instance, the tensions so unthick you could slice it with al dente spaghetti. Guys are hanging out, sprawled on the ice in small clumps. Theyre cranking off shots that slap the back of the net or boom hollowly against the boards. One of them just mock-mugged goalie Nick Boucher, strapping a bear hug on him and lifting him off the ice.
Here comes Brett Smith now, clomping toward the locker room.
I love adversity, he says.
Then he adds, look, this is nothing new, this tightrope walk over seasons end. A year ago at this time, when he was with Bossier-Shreveport, the Mudbugs found themselves down 2-1 in the best-of-five Berry Conference semis against Tulsa. And midway through Game 4, at Tulsa, the Mudbugs trailed 1-0.
Well, you know what happened next. The Mudbugs rallied to win 3-2 in overtime. Then they won Game 5. Then they went on to win the Presidents Cup.
Its exciting, Smith says now. Probably when I was a rookie, Id be freaking out right now. But eight years later, Ive been through these experiences, and I realize, its just another game.
And maybe he can see it that way because of Game 4 in Tulsa last year, or maybe he can see it that way because of whats in that locker room just down the way from where hes standing. Jamie Milams in there, and Milam was there for Game 4 in Tulsa last year, too. Boucher and Colin Chaulk are in there, too, and they were here when the Komets trailed Port Huron 3-1 in the best-of-seven Turner Cup finals in 2008 and 3-1 in the semis in 2010, and rallied to win both times.
So theyve got that going for them, heading for Game 6. And theyve got their coach, Al Sims, who was around for both Port Huron comebacks, too, and knows how to handle these deals.
Were approaching it the same way we prepare for every game, he said Monday. The more you mention elimination or were going home to play golf if we lose tomorrow, the more pressure it puts on your players and your team. If youve got confidence, youre not going to mention those things.
So theres your secret, and its really no secret at all. You turn the clichés back on themselves, thats all. If theres a wall at your back, you greet it like an old friend. If theres no tomorrow, well, that just means your focus is right where it should be, on today. And if its win or go home, that same focus edits it to down to just win.
Games like this, your nerves can be your friend or your enemy, so being a veteran guy doesnt necessarily help you, Milam said Monday. Experience comes with being comfortable and confident, so you just kind of take it in that regard.
Its just waking up every morning and knowing what youve got to do. Just like any job.
Any job. Any game.