Monday, January 23, 2006

True story. My first five years of life I was a sickly little kid, in and out of the hospital from malnutrition and dehydration or churning myself into panic attacks when I read the news. Far from naturally athletic, I was five feet four inches and 120 pounds as a high school freshman. Writing my name almost required more coordination than I could muster.

I was as intimidating as Kate Moss, with a leper’s charisma. Hence, my biggest and perhaps only assets when I started playing Ultimate were my burning passion for the game and a desire to improve as much as I could. So I got to college, naturally got schooled during the fall season, and when the Midwest set its winter blanket over us, resolved to transform myself into Scrappy Doo. This was the only way I was going to earn playing time without any throws or field sense, and I knew that. What follows is not an outline for those of you on the world’s team, or those juniors players getting hyped, or the college players with acolytes all over their region. This is for those afraid to carry milk money, the short ones, skinny ones, weak ones and slow ones. The tired, huddled masses yearning to be a clip of the day on Ultivillage’s web site, the meek wishing to be an impact player on an elite team.

As Scrappy Doo, you’ll need to do some research first. Go watch the Scooby cartoons with him in them. This will put you in the right mindset to do what must be done. As you watch, you will pick up a few things about Scrappy. He’s fearless, or excellent at pretending he is. He is gung-ho about any plan that involves confronting the problem head-on. He is willing to sacrifice himself and risk injury without thinking twice. And he relishes his role, he’s not trying to be any of the other Mystery Machine dodes, he’s perfectly happy being Scrappy Doo.

After your research, you will be ready to start implementing them in your game immediately. Play defense, because that is all you’ll be able to do with some success. Play defense like the lives of your loved ones depend on your man not touching the disc. Play like this all the time, because your only weapon is intensity. When the disc goes up to your man, lay out. Whether you are close enough to know what he ate for breakfast or whether you’re at a different field site from him, bid for the disc. You have to prove to your teammates, to him, and most importantly to yourself that being a better player is more important than your well-being. Never feel like you’ve improved enough, that’s Sweet Guy territory and to be avoided at all costs. And be happy in your role. Every point you get, be it 4 points per game or 8 points per tournament, take a moment as you step onto the line to think back on how shitty you were a year ago, a tournament ago, a few games ago, and how fucking awesome it is to feel yourself getting better at something you care deeply about.

I’m a little taller and heavier now than I was as a freshman in high school. Also a little faster and a little more athletic. But the player I became exists because the player I was when I didn’t know a force from a foul was named Scrappy Doo.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I had a dream I won the lottery. The following afternoon I went to my corner gas station and bought a ticket. I didn't win.

It's a shame, because I had already spent the $50 million I was set to win a few times over, and holding the losing ticket, was instead forced to think of all the could-have-beens. But it led me down a interesting train of thought. How would the Ultimate community have responded to my grandiose plans for the sport with the money I almost won?

Would we welcome them with open arms and be grateful for the fact they're pumping money in the sport, however they chose? Or would we, as I suspect, demand not only accountability but also an active hand in the cookie jar they'd provide for us?

It seems that while the phrase "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" survives the times people are always ready with a hand out for a helping when it's time to split the prize. How many would be angry if the only beneficiaries of the person's generosity would be the participants of the club championships, say, all-expenses paid trip to the tourney? How many would judge them critically if they offered cash prizes to the winners of the open division only?

I did not win the lottery - this time. But I'm close. As I type this I am using a complex algorithm taking into account all past numbers drawn and the positioning of the stars to put out next week's winning numbers. I think when I do win, to appease the masses, along with several of my own more selfish ventures (pampered living for all Hodags and Bravo, among other ideas) I will set aside a trust similar in scope to the current UPA innovation grants, but with a shitload more funding. That way the voice of the people can be heard through the shouting of a vocal few who will probably still be pissed the money is not being spent they way they'd like.

Oh, and also Kyle Weisbrod would have a dozen eunochs to do his bidding so that Juniors ultimate continues and accelerates its explosive growth. Nothing would make me happier for the sport than a future in which I wouldn't be able to contribute at its highest levels.

When you become a millionaire, if you share my passion for this sport, what will you do with the money?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Since there's one thing Ultimate needs, it's definitely one more ranking methodology. With the poorly named NUMP emerging last year in addition to two UPA-driven ranking systems, we figured we throw our hat in as well.

1. Colorado
Losing on double game point and retaining almost everyone, Mamabird is the presumptive favorite to win the national title.

2. Stanford
Though losing Handler and Herbert, this team picked up Neale Mahoney (Brown '05) and retains the rest of the faceless.

3. UBC
They hang on to Hibbert and Pottinger and -- by the way -- their big time players just won Club Nationals? Yeah, they'll do okay. Don't they have their own college nationals?

4. Wisconsin
The Hodags need to shake their habit of losing big games. Enough talent to make it far, but questions remain in the coaching department. This region has one bid and Regionals in Madison should help.

5. Oregon
Finally, the last Wiggins is gone. Hating aside, the Eugene Gentlemen's Organization has been recruiting the last couple years and Oregon state's high school Ultimate scene is among the most potent.

6. Florida
Kirk Gibson and his crew aspire to get to Columbus. When they do, expect noise... and some duct tape over their UFUCT logos.

7. Georgia
Dylan Tunnell remains one of the best athletes in the college game. If his teammates can bring it, too, Jojah will be a threat. In our opinion Tunnell is also among early leaders for the Callahan Award

8. UC San Diego
Sure they lost Kubiak, but this team knows their Nationals bid is locked up. If they peak at the right time again (hint: May 27) we'll see pink bandanas on CSTV again.

9. Michigan State
Though we can't recall the last time a Great Lakes team made quarters at Nationals (hm, no, actually it was 2001) this team will look to improve on their CCC finals appearance.

10. Brown
They lost most/all of their starters, their Callahan- and Gold Medal-winning poster boy, and -- perhaps most significantly -- their Eli of a coach, Nathan Wicks.

Women's Top 10 to follow....

Friday, January 13, 2006

PROLOGUE | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

I have a routine when flying. I’m the last to board, I ignore the flight attendants, I sleep, then wake to eat and write. On the fifth of July I boarded a plane for Denver in the morning and began it. It was as any other flight; predictable, familiar, comforting. I looked out at Mount Rainier and remembered how my biggest problems always become manageable when put into perspective. The fatigue, the emotion, the pain, the drugs, the alcohol, the ultimate. Everything had been so intense and so searing that it cauterized the wound shut even as it cut me.

When I arrived at my house in Boulder, I placed my bags in my room and went directly to the hot tub. The dogs came and licked my face, I had a jug of iced water, and over my backyard fence I looked at the foothills of the Rockies. It was time to think of this place like home, I thought. I had the week off from work, mini-camp that weekend, and an entire Ultimate season to think about. I dunked my head underwater and smiled at all the ass-kicking still left to do on the field. I thought of my friends in Colorado and the teammates that would do anything for me, even pick me up from my own despair if I needed it. Sick. I was home.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

PROLOGUE | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

We arrived at the breakfast place where I shared my night’s tale with several other members of my team, and a few friends and former teammates who were wondering why I looked like I’d been deported. Matt Bruss was especially poignant in some of his remarks, but calmly broke the somber mood with his humor and feigned nescience. I set about looking at the other patrons in the diner, and realized half of the world’s top fifty Ultimate players were eating there at once. Had a terrorist at that moment decided it was a good place to bomb, the new best player in Ultimate would probably have been Adam Tarr, and the new dynasty Jawbone out of Ohio. It made me laugh a little to think of it, and that felt good.

I felt better after eating, human again, and decided to redirect my energy to a positive place, a familiar place, an effective place: the ownership of whomever might guard me in the day’s games...!

Oh yes! Lest we forget, after that night, there was still another day of Ultimate to be played. How I would find the emotional and physical strength to play it was beyond my ken, I only knew it had to be done.

We returned to the fields and the good news that we had a first round bye, and as time passed I became more alert and the events of last night, as best as I could remember them, were sinking in.

Our morning match-up was against CK, Cram, O’Brien, Enessa, et al. I remember playing well. Very well. I threw and scored a lot of points. I also remember tripping up with CK on double game point and not contesting the foul. And I remember his subsequent throw to Enessa for the game winner.

But all this is secondary, because not once during the entire game did I not remember my conversation outside the truck and the way we’d just stared at each other for an eternity before we spoke. Well, maybe once I stopped remembering it. I was about to score a goal at a critical moment on O’Brien. All Sebby needed to do was throw something, anything, into the corner of the endzone from two yards out. He could have tossed it like a shot-put. Anything but the floating, lazy scoober that hung for too long and came up too short so O’Brien ran in front and fell into the block. Then, for one moment, the bewilderment at the choice of throw gave me respite from my other preoccupations.

Our following game was against Hang Time from Texas, and despite the fact that I just love crushing real coed teams at tourneys just like this one, my heart wasn’t into it. In fact, no one’s was. Everyone stumbled from one point to another but no one had any pizzazz or fire. But near half, down a few, they started shitting on their own women, making tacky calls, and taking the game too seriously, and we called a time-out to remind ourselves that if we can extract no joy from beating down practicing coed teams, the terrorists have already won. We dropped some shock and awe on them in the second half and after shotgunning two red bulls I was ready to take names again. I lent myself entirely to the Dark Side and let my passions and emotions dictate my movement on the field and we ended up storming back and beating them by several points.

That sudden ejaculation of emotion exhausted, we slumped on the sidelines as a team and decided we’d had enough disc and elected to not play our next game, taking some sadistic pleasure from telling our opponents they could move on in our stead. I joined my Boulder brethren, smoked a load, and felt relaxed and unencumbered for the first time in days. We laughed, shared stoned stories from the weekend, then grabbed some snacks and moved to watch the semifinals games where the Vagabonds were owning Team USA.

The crowd began thirsting for the upset and soon every sick play by Aaron Richards, Leslie Calder, Keith Monahan, and Brian Snyder was rewarded with lusty cheers. Team USA, the soi-disant best team in the country, fell to a ringer team of Northwest players. Their disappointment was matched only by the Vagabonds’ exuberance. And the crowd’s guilty satisfaction. I had little interest in watching the finals because I was up to my crow in disc, so I made my way back to the tent to prepare my things and be ready for when my girlfriend would arrive and we would have an uncomfortable ride back to her Seattle apartment.

Gone were the goals and plans of a bittersweet but enjoyable week with her before our end. It was replaced, I could see in both our minds we were walking through scenarios in which we’d be out of each other’s hair as quickly as possible. However, my flight wasn’t for another 6 days, and although neither of us had any desire to spend it together, I had no desire to pay for the transfer fee to change my flight. I knew my patience outweighed her discomfort, however, so I merely waited until she offered to pay for the ticket’s fee, which she did. Considering the weekend’s events, I considered it a fair solatium. The drive home was full of quotable gems I’ll decline to share, but her piebald arguments seemed directed at being hurtful and irrelevant so as to make the separation that much more justified. I burked my comments, and let her try to shrive away her guilt as best she could. At some point I just stopped listening and started trying to take in everything that had happened.

The One They Call Wade offered his services and house as a place to crash for the night or week, and as touched as I was by the generosity, I just wanted to get home to Boulder, to lay down roots for the first time, to reach tabula rasa and look forward with promise. We arrived at her apartment and Moises Rifkin picked me up and took me to his new, empty apartment, where he provided me with a sleeping bag, pillow, thermarest, and a few kind words. He left, and I laid in the bag. It was the fourth of July, the fireworks overlooking the water began to explode, and I heard their thunder and muffled partying all around. I slowly dozed off, hoping to find in a dream the clarion answers that had eluded me all weekend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

PROLOGUE | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

The only good thing about the prior night was that since we’d gone to bed so late we didn’t have to share the tent’s awkwardness for too long. In the morning I tried to engage her in small talk but she was treating me as if I were public enemy number one. She seemed to find fault in my every action, my previously endearing mannerisms now her pet peeves, my words just wrong. Now, there are many things I suck at but predicting behavior based on inferences and context clues is not one of them. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you attention to detail and comprehension are to me as natural as eating Mexican food and throwing lefty. In short, I knew where this was going, and knew to expect more of this before we got there.
We left the tent without exchanging pleasantries and I joined my team.

Disappointingly, our team was to continue playing cupcakes until our last round, when we’d get to play a bunch of duders whose manhoods were clearly defined within the biking shorts they wore. This whole thing with my girlfriend was really starting to get to me, but a cruel glimmer of hope sparkled its chatoyant light in my eyes when she and some of her teammates came to watch the better portion of our last game. Perhaps I became distracted at this thought of harmonious resolution, because despite playing pretty fucking well all game I spaced at the game’s most crucial moment and we lost in a barnburner.

As soon as the game ended, the talk immediately shifted to the night’s revelry, and the hedonism danced in the pupils of friend and foe alike. I was still bumming about my romantic situation, and this perhaps guided my fate towards its predictable conclusion. I allowed my stress to steer my decision making, so when I was introduced to the game of “punch the bag of Franzia and chug it” it made sense to me. It was a release I could comprehend, and I played it with √©lan. I must have gone twelve rounds with that bag, and the night would show it won in a no-brainer judge’s decision. I for one drank somewhere between two and three liters of wine worth about four dollars in fifty minutes.

I staggered to the showcase field for the day’s final game, but was intercepted by two damned harbingers of malaise. The first was my friend Don Steg with a Tupperware of pot brownies, and being famished, I ate four. The second was my friend on Sockeye, one of a few, who at this moment was in full Wade mode. His smile revealed his shiny teeth, and I made the error of focusing on their ethereal glow rather than the words he was saying. I drifted back into the conversation in time to hear “shrooms at the party for you,” and before I knew it, he was walking in the opposite direction and I was still nodding my head affirmatively.

I watched Team USA and Canada play in a close but boring game of Ultimate. Like hornets and their stingers, neither team was fully willing to invest itself knowing a rematch the following day was likely. After the game, my girlfriend disappeared like the vapors and I found myself in the pleasant company of Bill Denver and other world’s team members as we headed to the showers in preparation for the party. In case your acumen is not as honed as mine, let me say that at this moment I was fucked up. I was a stone’s throw away from TAFS, “take a fucking seat”. In fact, as I showered amongst the cocks of some of the best players in the game, I thought the pressure of the showerhead itself might knock me over. These next few paragraphs are pieced together from witnesses to my actions and caustic moments of blurred memory. More or less I blacked out, but remember some of the important scraps.

The plan: Head to the party with Bill Denver, my teammates, and there dance, eat salmon, find my girlfriend, and share a few moments where alcohol might ease our tension. The reality: I arrived with my team, but within five minutes of entering the building, Wade found me. Then I remember him holding me by my long hair and pumping mushrooms into my mouth like a goose being prepped for fois gras. There is a moment where I found Ben Wiggins and remembered searching my pockets for the whittled toothbrush handle I’d prepared for just this meeting. Not finding it, we engaged in what I’m sure was an intelligible discussion on the finer points of Minimalism and its impact on architectural design, but the next thing I knew my roommate and friend Parker Krug was pulling me away because it seems the conversation was going to end with Ben, myself, or the both of us dead by our own hands. Then the shrooms really kicked in, and I started arguing with Idaho about who the fuck knows, maybe who’s more Mexican or who’s shanked more people or some shit. The next flash imagery is of me in line to get salmon, and someone scooping some onto my plate.

Now, despite the fact I was on enough controlled substances to subdue Hunter Thompson, you must remember this about me: I am a thinker. And the thing that was owning my brain was how much the current situation with my girlfriend fucking sucked, and how it was going to continue getting worse as the tournament progressed.

Some time later, it could have been the following instant or an hour afterwards, I remember someone tugging at my leg. I couldn’t make sense of it, but slowly came to and realized I was in an ivy bush face-down in my salmon dinner crying my eyes out at the beauty and ugliness of life and my friend Michael Bryce Whitaker was trying to talk to me, console me, and pull me out of the shrubbery. I love this man as a brother and say without hesitation that had he not pulled me out my chance of surviving the night was a coin toss. I truly believe this. Knowing the kind of man Whit is, I am sure there are others out there who have been in similar peril and been rescued by Stanford’s own Jiminy Cricket. I owe him my life. I rose to my feet still weeping like a Sicilian widow and in that state proceeded to be led to the buses that were shipping people back to the fields. That was not a world I was ready to enter, a metal drunk tank on wheels and me with snot dripping out my nose and ranting about everything going on with my girlfriend at the top of my lungs.

Thankfully, miraculously, as we approached the line waiting for the bus my guardian angel sent Will Henry by driving his car back to the fields, and instantly recognizing I was in need of assistance, offered to drive us back. Bless his heart and a million apologies because at this point the shrooms were peaking and I was spilling a diarrheic soliloquy about my love life that he didn’t need to be burdened with. Nonstop. Without exaggeration I talked for the next two hours without pause. We arrived at the fields, and this is a moment I won’t forget, because it is when you are at your highest despair that your true friends reveal themselves. My Colorado roommates, a girl I’d wronged, people I’d ditched to play on my Potlatch team, they came to me and welcomed me and looked after me by their tent until I started coming down. I’d not seen my girlfriend since the end of the day’s games and the only thing I wanted to do was lie in the privacy of our tent and sober up, and maybe even steal a nap if the demon dreams of hallucination would allow it.

I unzipped the flap, entered the tent, and collapsed in a heap on the sleeping bags. How long I laid there I don’t know, but I remember slowly coming to and all of Team USA and others were shot gunning beers right outside. Amongst cheers and jeers and crushed cans I thought I made out the voice of my girlfriend, and decided I would compose myself and try to socialize a bit. I snapped to, opened the tent flap, and stepped outside deliberately and coherently. She saw me emerge and shot me a look of horror, disgust?

In night’s uncertain shadows it was hard to read. She was talking to a former teammate of mine and a fellow Wisconsin alum and seemed insulted I would interrupt the conversation with my emergence.

“Hey, what’s up? What’s everyone doing?” I mustered, and she replied coolly and accusingly, “What are you doing?”
“Just coming out to rally and hang out,” I replied, but I’d not finished the sentence before she and my former teammate turned their backs to me and began walking in the opposite direction. I may have said something to the effect of wanting to talk with her and she may have said something to the effect of saying I was fucked up, I don’t remember if that part happened or not. What did happen is she continued walking without hesitation or a glance back, and I sat with Tully and others and contemplated the scene.

I retreated back into the tent defeated and looking to sleep. Again I laid there for some time and when I emerged from the tent once more my girlfriend was nearby still continuing the conversation from before. I know she saw me, and I know she wanted no part of me because they again walked away, this time to the red truck and sped off. To where, I didn’t know. I was exhausted and my mind was working with the clarity that always comes at a shrooming trip’s end. I was alert and everything around me was in a focus sharp enough to cut me.

I’m not sure how long I sat by the tent. I had no idea what time it was. It was that time of the day when the shadows worm out of the ground against the morning’s sunrise. Light and dark were in limbo as were the thoughts of frustration and compassion that flickered in my head. I decided to lap around the fields to get blood flowing and some fresh air, but when I reached the opposite end of the field, by the far parking lot, a most peculiar thing happened. I thought I was hallucinating again because there, parked one hundred yards away, I swore was the red truck. The red truck I had come to the fields in, the same one that had sped away as I emerged from the tent moments before. I approached cautiously, hesitantly.

Have you ever had a moment when you’ve come down from your trip, and you see something you know is real, but inside you hope against rational thought that you might still be tripping, that it might be something your mind is painting in your vision but is not really there?

When I was no more than forty yards away I saw her, I saw them. They were in the truck and she sat up quickly and made eye contact with me. Her face was anguish, alarm, shock, anger, all within ten seconds, a grotesque Marcel Marceau act. We just stared at each other as I continued to walk towards the truck, and he feigned fatigue and looked around the inside of the truck for something he could stare at. Slowly, she adjusted herself and stepped out of the truck. I was ten yards away. We faced each other like Western duelers and it was some time before either of us spoke.

“What do you want me to say?” she asked.
“I don’t know. What can be said?” It was obvious to both of us what was happening but we would waltz around the situation.
“I don’t think we should be together.” It was an observation that didn’t need vocalizing, but she found it a better alternative than anything else.
“That’s obvious. What should we do right now?”
“I don’t know.”
“Come back to the tent with me, please.” I was pleading. This all felt so terribly awkward, so childish.
“No.”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t want to.” At the time this comment seemed terribly juvenile, but months later as I think about it I realize it was the perfect riposte for the conversation we were having.
At this point we both just wanted to be away from each other, and he was looking in the truck’s dash for some ejector seat button that would jettison him away from all this ugliness. I took my leave without saying another word and walked back to the tent. She opened the door and returned to the safety of the truck.

As I approached my tent, Kyle Weisbrod intercepted me and I broke down the hour’s news. I told him I just wanted to lie down, but he convinced me to drive with him and his peerless fianc√© Sarah Gravelin to breakfast, where I could eat some food, rehydrate, get ready to play another day of ultimate, and contemplate the emotional sinkhole I’d walked into these last 40 hours. We got in the car and drove away, the first break from the fields I’d had since arriving. My eyes squinted from the morning’s effulgence.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

PROLOGUE | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

Saturday morning greeted us with what should have been a foreshadowing chill, but the mood was cheery as we drove to meet the rest of the team and caravan to the fields. I would be playing on an alumni team from arguably the most prestigious ultimate high school, at least the one that’s consistently produced all-star college and club talent, unlike that other prestigious high school where most of their players get to the bigger leagues and fade like newspaper in the sun.

This was also my girlfriend’s high school, although prior commitments had her playing for a different team. Anyways, the field spread its bawdy legs for our arrival, and everyone buzzed from the high you get when snorting elevated expectations. Tents lined the perimeter in what would become, at nightfall, a Bacchanalian Maginot line of fortified debauchery.

My girlfriend had a bye first round and came to play some points with us, so we joined the throng of players sweating anticipation by the headquarters and found our schedule and field site. We were joined at the field by the rest of our teammates and once gathered proceeded to drop on the nation the most phallic tank tops ever. I’d describe them in more detail, but the words Snoopy and sodomy together is an alliteration illegal in most states. Play began as the first of several DJ’s blared crunk jams adjacent our field, and we tore into our first opponents to a hip-hop soundtrack. As the game drew to a close, my girlfriend needed to leave to begin warming up, and she took my white Hodag long sleeve for herself and shared with me a nice, tender kiss. Let me take a moment to remember the moment fondly because it would be the last cordial embrace she’d have with me for the remainder of my trip…….ok.

She left, we prepared for our next opponents with warmed-up scoobers and pot brownies, and proceeded to trounce them soundly. Now, here begins a cosmic mystery, because despite not seeing each other for two rounds, by the next time I saw her she’d had a bouleversement; she was distant, and seemed annoyed to be conversing with me. I’m not sure of its provenience, but before this happened, there was an incident in our third game.

We were playing a team of mostly spirited players dressed in something resembling the UPS uniform. I say mostly spirited because all but two of the players on the team understood this was Potlatch, they were there for the fun more than the competition, and sometimes you get matched up with a team that is just plain better than you. Sometimes a shitload better than you.
Well, as chance had it I was guarding one of the clueless players for a point and called a travel on a throw that would have been a goal. I felt he traveled and stood by my call, and he, despite what at this point was a scoreboard resembling betting odds on a long-shot racing horse, threw a little fit. He started jawing at me and accusing me of making calls to win the game. I told him he traveled, he called me some names, and we tapped the disc in. He turfed it. And then it got interesting. He guarded me the whole point and really began laying into me, telling me the cloth I was cut from, asking me how my mom was, extrapolating about the size of certain parts of my anatomy, and overall being a real fucking asshole. Several passes later, I tired of him and as my teammate and friend Kyle Weisbrod caught a pass with power position, I streaked to the endzone with this vitriolic dode trailing. Kyle, who could throw perfect backhands into the endzone for his job, inexplicably threw this one high and floaty, and that was bad news for this dude, because I was coming off a great 12 week plyo program and reading the disc better than I ever had in my career.

I had to come back to get the disc, and ended up embarrassing this fool in front of friends and loved ones for the goal. I then wiped my ass with the disc and spiked it on the ground, and walked away towards my sideline. Three seconds later the disc slams into my back because as I walked away this dude had picked it up and decided he wanted to really escalate things. I picked it up, replayed my spike and reminded him of his place in the world. There was a moment when this guy toyed with his health, but cooler heads prevailed and I marched to the sideline and his teammates dragged him off the field and asked we keep the game spirited. The game ended with little other incident and after it was over it was quickly forgotten.

My team and my girlfriend’s each had one more game, and when we met before that round she was cool and distant, and instantly reproachful when I detailed the game’s incident. She left annoyed, and I felt put off as I joined my team for our final game, which we won handedly. We’d gone undefeated against weak competition and hoped our point differential would place us in more competitive games come Sunday’s play. After the game, we smoked a bit and drank some beers and although I was really enjoying my team, I was getting antsy to hang out with my girlfriend. She was nowhere to be found, however, and as the gloaming and alcohol took hold of the fields, I decided I’d kick it with my team for a while before going to look for her. I joined with the incomparable Bill Denver and for some reason threw Kirsten Unfried onto my back, then lapped the fields drinking and occasionally stopping to share stories and jokes with the dregs of our community. Gabe Saunkeah, Josh Greenough, Idaho, et al. Now, these fields are big, and the walk is long, and my ability to drink became more and more fluid as my ability to walk became less and less so.

As I approached the dance party, rumors of my girlfriend’s whereabouts became more frequent, and at some point in this twisted game of “Where in the World Is…?” I decided the most effective strategy given the fog and darkness would be to yell her name repeatedly as loud as I could and hope she’d hear me and follow my voice. Well, I think I was half right. I’m fairly sure she heard me but at this point my every move was poison to her, she was “encabronada”, and I think yelling her name only made it easier for her to avoid me. Late in the night with my voice and liver exhausted, I retreated to our tent and chilled until she arrived. She came in but had nothing to say to me, we slept facing away from each other without a word exchanged and a feeling taking seed in my mind that this trip would not go as planned.

Fuck. Sometimes, when you’re right, you’re fucking right.

Monday, January 09, 2006

PROLOGUE | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5

This is the retelling of my weekend in Potlatch. As 2005 draws to a close, my cleansing days in Mexico compel me to visit the good, bad, and unfortunately unforgettable moments of the year. This unabashed introspection allows me to clear the table and prepare for the New Year. So, with uncensored permission from the other major player in this story, I present my 4th of July weekend ab ovo “not as it happened, but as I remember it.” The embellishments will come not of the facts but of the adjectives I use in describing the events as they came to pass, and the way I responded to them. Disclaimer closed, I begin the story on a Friday, the first of July, as I rushed out of work early.

I had purchased a ticket to Seattle for what would be my first Potlatch, and taken the entire following week off from work to spend some time with my girlfriend. The long distance and its initial burst of intensity had taxed the relationship, and as I drove to DIA thoughts arrived and departed my head, trafficked like the airport’s runways. I had some things in mind. First, barring divine intervention, my girlfriend and I would be breaking up at the end of my ten day stay. Second, I was excited to watch her play and also be a part of a team of characters I’d never met before. Third, I wanted us both to enjoy the tournament, spend a bittersweet week together, and part ways amicably but respectfully at its end. These were the goals I set out as I checked my baggage and casually fumbled through songs on my mp3 player coasting through the terminal’s walkways.

I have a routine when flying. I board the plane as late as possible, because I’d rather break a glass catheter in my urethra than stand and wait in the jetway leading into the airplane. I rarely travel with much carry-on luggage so I don’t need to rush onto the plane and find some room in the overhead compartments. I also never listen to the safety demonstration. I’m the guy doing anything else but listening: reading, beginning to fall asleep, making faces at the attendants. I’ve flown long enough to know the drill. More importantly, I’ve read the news enough to know the only thing to do in case of a water landing is hope the impact kills you before the sharks do. As soon as we begin to taxi the runway, I close my eyes and visualize flight. I love flying. We take off, I wait a minute, then recline my seat and sleep until they bring me my 4 oz. cup of soda and bag of bat guano flavored snack crackers. Then I crank out my laptop and write.

This is my routine.

But this wasn’t an ordinary flight, and there was nothing routine about it. I stayed awake the whole time visualizing the praxis of my aforementioned goals, and constantly replaying conversations in my head so that I would be prepared when they came. By the time the plane touched down I felt at ease, and when my girlfriend’s smile shone from the curb like a safety cone, I relaxed, smiled, and got in the bright red truck. We were happy to see each other and that night went great. Hearing her sleep, one of the last thoughts I had was that – for all the hype I’d given it – this was going to be a good week.

Wrong. Wrong.

This is ultimate we’re talking about. The fucking sport is wrought with drama.

Set to drop this week: an 11 chapter, 5500 word rehash of Potlatch in five pieces. You get one piece each day for the length of the work week.

For you college kids, a homework assignment:
You are about to start the spring semester. The responsibilities and duties of your position on your Ultimate team will be too great to ever spend any time with people other than your real friends, your teammates. The ones who understand you.
Your homework due between now and the beginning of your semester is to call your fake friends, the ones that don't play Ultimate, and spend an evening together with them before you part ways and they never see you until after the season is over. They don't understand what the fuck it is you do or why you're never available to hang out so getting in some face time now while it's still an option might be a wise idea. Just a thought. Class dismissed.

Friday, January 06, 2006


You know that crystal-ball thing Sauron has in the LOTR, where if you touch it He instantly travels into your consciousness and begins picking at it like a loose scab? I made a bunch of those this year in miniature, and carefully and clandestinely distributed them around the ultimate playing community. As I waved my arms around the One True Crystal-Ball Thing this January 1st, they called to me. And they told me the New Year’s resolutions of those that possessed them. I give them to you unedited.

I, Australian National Team, resolve to…
get more tall people playing Ultimate. Actually, get more people capable of guarding short speedy guys, like bloody Will Deaver and Zip. Yeah, mate. More short fast guys.

I, Chase, resolve to…
never play for Rhino, no matter how much they bug me, not even if they practice in a park across the street from where I live and offer to pay for my season.

I, Mamabird Ultimate, resolve to…
put last season behind us, and wake the fuck up. It seems that merely nudging Beau towards the endzone and expecting my black jerseys and reputation to do the rest is not enough. Pretty fucking close, but not enough. I resolve to actually put in the hours that everyone else thinks I put in, the ones I put in when I up and won the whole thing.

I, Frank Huguenard, resolve to…
show these fuckers who I really am. I am going to destroy Ultimate. But not by bashing it! By showing them a higher form of disc, a game so elevated in grace and concept only I could have conceived it! I will give them Dischoops!

I, Shannon O’Malley, resolve to…
forget that all that foul, explicitly sexual, and wholly inappropriate language is coming from my teammates’ and idols’ mouths.

I, Metro East Ultimate, resolve to…
really do it this year. I’m looking good, I’ve got a lot of great freshmen from the area that just rocked as high schoolers, and my leadership has been maturing the last few years. Some even played on mid-tier club teams to improve their game and bring it back to me. I am really going to do it. I am going to win a non-regional match-up in an elimination game at nationals.

I, the UPA, resolve to…
remove the Metro East from the bottom of the college pecking order by removing them from existence all together.

I, Jam, resolve to…
not take Idris back…not ask him to come back, not at all. Not beg him to return, that’s for sure…wait for him to call me. Not call him, not tonight. Definitely not ton-- <#8..#3..#1…>

I, Carleton College, resolve to...
not forget to stock up on lube next time I'm at the supermarket.

I, Sandie Hammerly, resolve to…
finally build up the nerve to ask Chase out on a date. After winning the eBay bid for his haircut – that’s when I should have done it, that was the perfect time. I could have said something cute, some coy remark about his ponytail and how I just loved it, but I blew it. Two hundred dollars and I blew it. Damn. This year. 2006. Yes. I’m going to do it.

I, Sockeye, resolve to…
surgically remove that pesky floating rib that’s kept me from physically sucking my own dick this whole time. Come to Papa, Space Needle.

I, the NUA, resolve to…
put together the biggest fucking tournament the sport has ever seen, televised prime-time pre-empting MNF, with a $50,000 purse, full refs, and the best players in the game. Even if I have to get them there by knifepoint.

I, Furious George, resolve to…
try not to laugh out loud when all these Americans refer to the UPA Club Championships as “nationals” or “natties,” like we don’t exist or own the thing. We will work hard, and leave the delusional grandeur for our unfortunate southern neighbors.

I, Richmond SpiderMonkeys, resolve to…
stomach another tough season of beatdowns at the hands of better opponents, then come back in force with a flurry of autumn hype that is bound to win us games in ’07.

I, Mixed Ultimate, resolve to...
loosen up a bit. I have an inferiority complex, I've come to terms with this. But there are many reasons why I play. Maybe I hate my local elite club team. Maybe I don't want that commitment. Maybe I can't hack it any more at that level or don't care to. Maybe I got cut because I'm not that good. I still love the game and play it with passion and enjoy the season, so why do I always get bent out of shape when some Open or Women's player tells me I suck? Could it be because they always win? Why do they always win?

I, Johnny Bravo, resolve to…
Make it past quarters this year. Really. No, really. Like, this year, the shit’s fo’ real. Like, to those who would try to beat me I say, “bring it on.”

Thursday, January 05, 2006


My brother is still in Mexico until the end of the week, but the rest of his housemates proved competent in themselves this afternoon.
Three members of the Wisconsin Hodags, Ted Tripoli, Brandon "Muffin" Malicek, and Nate Hurst, rushed into a burning house this afternoon after they noticed it was being engulfed in flames while practicing their nationals-winning throws in the park by their home. They pulled from the house two fine duders completely unaware of the inferno, let alone the fact their lives were being saved by members of an team trained to kill with speed and i/o precision.
Read the story or watch the hilarious footage of Muffin's interview with the news crew.
As the anchorman talks, pay close attention to the time the event took place...Muffin, what were you doing right before you went out to throw?

Sunday, January 01, 2006



Our insular community rings in the new year. Michael Jackson and Robert Blake escaped conviction, but not judgment from the public. And those prominent players, the ones whose noses constantly itch from the swirling news and rumors the rest of the ultimate players pass on, will find themselves likewise judged.
It’s really irrelevant to define a player or team as a winner or loser when the rest of the world seems to be going to shit, but these small breaks from that oppressive truth allow us to continue waking up in the morning without pulling out our hair. So instead of lurking around dailykos or cnn getting depressed about the world – HERE! Look! Something shiny!

Winner: Mike Gerics
He’s been the bogey man for years. The guy you can look at and say “That’s the bad guy.” And people loved to get in line to bash him or revile him when the bandwagon would take off. But his computer melts down for several months, no one hears from him, and everyone starts sniveling and begging for his return. It couldn’t have worked out more perfect if he’d done this on purpose. You all love him. RSD needs him.

Loser: RSD
No Gerics. The ones who contributed the real meat of the posts went and got their own blogs, like ditching you at the mall in junior high. What was left? Banal chatter, Toad Leber, co-ed, and the Metro East. Not even a Luke Smith thread review would have made it worthwhile.

Winner: Furious George
They got shat on at Labor Day. They were handled at ECC. Everyone counted them out. People bemoaned their descent, saying Grant fell off. But as they lost early on all their younger studs collected valuable playing time and experience, and their workhorses remained fresh and healthy. Their season for me crystallized in finals when a high floating huck was perfectly read from two different directions by Chase and Grant, and Grant fucking owned him. Chase called an injury, several women on the sideline wept, and I knew then Furious would win it.

Loser: Ring of Fire
Hinkle, you’re doing a heckuva job. To be fair it wasn’t his fault as six or more key players were too injured to contribute for them on Thursday of the Club Championships. A surprise jump by Potomac, BAT followed suit, and their season ended – poof – just like that. Maybe it gave them some comfort to know that they weren’t alone because…

Loser: Condors
Gentlemen, when we came together at the beginning of this season to finalize the roster for this 2005 Condors team, who then dreamt that our hard work would take us all the way to a victory in the ninals?

Winner: Idris
He gave us UltimateTalk, establishing himself as the Rupert Murdoch of ultimate news. But his true genius was in leaving Jam for the season, thereby absolving himself from any blame when they lost in semis. Or…could we somehow still blame it on him?

Loser: Cram
He either cheated, or he didn’t know the rules. “Fool me once, shame on you…fool me tw—you’re not gonna fool me again.”

Winner: Riot
Do I need to put a reason why here? They go undefeated the entire season, making them winners and by association…

Loser: Sockeye
White smoke poured out of the chimney in the Space Needle. A new leader had been chosen! He would guide his sheep and show him the true ways of disc! But for all the pomp and fanfare, finals was ugly, and they were left to play second fiddle to their female counterparts.

Winner: Ultivillage
Iconic status has been inferred. Rob has placed himself in such a position of influence that people now actually believe he owes them something. His business to profit from, your U.S. dollar to spend. So if the cash flow’s not there, he’s not making it. So…

Losers: Haters
The fury was hot enough to fry motherboards. People want women’s footage! Right fucking now, Rob! Now! But for all the complaining, what they really meant was “We want free women’s footage!” Because when it comes time, not enough people want to pony up. Seems what our dollars are saying is that Open is, with some notable exceptions, more entertaining on the TV.

Winner: Hh
Extended the Colorado tourney record to 10-0. Switched teams for Lungbuster and caught the tourney-winning Callahan. Got ample playing time on several fields. Finally able to throw a flick twenty yards consistently. Was not stripped naked and forced into a lycra leopard outfit the Saturday of nationals. Ordered drinks on Dan Hodges’ tab at Labor Day party.

Loser: Hh
Pulled a hamstring at practice, aggravated it playing coed. No longer has his fire. Made a fool of himself in front of several hundred fellow players. Did not kill Wiggins as proposed in 2005 resolutions. Started a blog.