Monday, March 27, 2006

Not me, you say, never. You are faithful. But your will, regardless of its strength, bows to cupid’s arrow, just as everyone else’s. One day you may find your heart prone on your Macroeconomics textbook, your Dr. Grip shooting out of your sweat-soaked fingers like a watermelon seed. There- perhaps to your left or maybe in front of you- you’ll see them. The love of your life. The love of your semester, at the very least.

Within their ethereal features you’ll find lust, longing, a reciprocal desire to explore you and your life, and an inner beauty. What you won’t find however, is one shred of a clue as to what the fuck you’re talking about every time your heart races, your voice accelerates, and you breathlessly start to tell them of a great mark, long pulls, and spirit-crushing Callahan scores that lifted you over your sectional rival and into the most competitive regional tournament since the redraw. You will find a vacant look trying to escape detection between polite nods, hmms, and ahas.

But you’re not discouraged! You will persevere! No, no! You accept your loved one’s ignorance as a challenge, an opportunity to create a new convert, and blissfully daydream through your accounting classes of the day they’ll throw their first I/O flick, catch their first layout goal, and embrace you on the field as you celebrate your first coed summer league championship.

Then, the bell rings, you press the blank pages of your notebook together, and head off to practice. Your dinner plans are pushed back, as you work the logistics of your upcoming tournament weekend. And they wait, hungry, rinsing the pasta and refrigerating it until you come home. When you arrive, you’ve brought a couple of teammates eager to carbo-load together, and before your loved one’s pulled the food out of the microwave you and your teammates have begun parsing the pools, analyzing (nearly) every possible bracket match-up, discussing your plans to contain players that are hot and ragging on those that are not. They eat their pasta with a smile adhered to their face, turning their head to whomever holds the conch, and feeling very much the same way they’d felt several hours earlier in French class as they tried to make out the words in L’Argent du Poche.

You throw around with them, but can’t really enjoy it. Sometimes they complain you throw too hard, others you tire of throwing the same fifteen yard flat backhand over and over. You want to run around, catch one deep in stride, jump and catch a nice hammer at the peak of your leap! You love them, but, damn. If they could throw a disc well, that’d be something, wouldn’t it?

Your weekends are booked. They’re looking forward to the summer when the series ends and you can finally spend some weekends together. You’re wondering how to mention that tryouts for the club team are at the beginning of June. You’re helping run your team’s tournament, then heading to sectionals, and hoping to squeeze studying for finals in the time between practices and regionals. They’re hoping you're going to squeeze them in the time between practices and regionals. Something has to give. After nationals, when you receive the club team’s schedule and they read it over your shoulder, something does.

They’d never ask you to give up ultimate for them. Inside, they hope you’d do that on your own. But this year the club team is really coming together, many of your college teammates are playing together for the experience to make a deeper run during the college series, and you’re finally taking the leadership roles you’ve been craving since you learned what a stack was. They should understand. If they really cared for you they would understand. But it ends. You go your separate ways, each with two pieces of the same truth- neither of you understood.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Just say it

This is my brother's fifth and final season of college ultimate. I've already begun planning a road trip to nationals to be there when he proves to himself what he's known for years: he can do this without me. The tournament is in Ohio, less than an eight hour drive from my old hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, and so I wonder what plans my parents have for the weekend, and if they too are planning to be present on what will be one of the most emotional and proudest moments of my brother's life, regardless of its outcome.

They attended last year, after some cajoling and a promise that they'd not only get to watch some ultimate but also spend some time with their eldest- the prodigal son and his then girlfriend, whom he was very excited about. Our time as a family in Corvallis and the way our voices amalgamated into a single unified "Gigo!" made me happy, but as I laid in bed that Friday night I was overcome with melancholy. It's not that I wasn't excited for my brother, but thoughts of nationals two years earlier forced their reminiscence.

Gerics handed me the game disc Dean Bolton had foolishly thrown up in celebration only moments earlier. I had hucked the winning goal. The pile of baby blue bodies grew in the endzone, and while the rest of my teammates rushed to enhance it, I couldn't. I walked to my best friend Tyler and hugged him forcefully. My girlfriend Sarah Grebe came down from the stands to congratulate us, feeling happy for me but slightly out of place in the pull of Hodags that jumped up and down in unison. I found my brother's mahogany Mexican leg within the pile and gave it a tug. I wanted to hold him. It was one of the happier moments in my life, but not for the championship medals which Lyn Debevoise was readying. I was not happy because I had won a championship, I was happy because I had watched and helped my brother win his. His play in the semis and finals, where he lit up their best players like grandpa's birthday cake, had left me beaming.

And I looked at the stands again. This time not looking for someone, but noting the absence of two people, our parents, who were not there to see their two sons frame their satisfaction and accomplishment in the foreground of a six foot Mexican flag to have their pictures taken.
I took violin lessons for five years. Hated it. My parents were at every concert, wincing through a wandering melody and clapping at my hiccupped vibrato. I was in choir in high school, and although fun I sang less for the emotion than the grade I received. Then, writing and ultimate discovered me within a year of each other, a boy famished for something expressive, ferocious, and emotive. And while my writing I kept private and unannounced, everyone with ears knew of my passion for Ultimate and my drive to improve.

Yet my parents looked on puzzled, attending with reluctance a few rounds in tournaments in Madison, once at Tune-Up. They didn't get it, perhaps not quite sure what to make of a willing energy emanating from the son who never tried. Maybe they, examining this odd, new sport, felt the fad would eventually be filed alongside baseball cards, rocks, and comics in my history's attic. Taking time to see their sons play a game made sense if proximal, but to leave work and home behind for the same was an inconvenience as pointless as watering the lawn in a rainstorm. So when I first mentioned the idea of a trip to Austin, I received the same dismissive chuckle I'd gotten as a second grader telling them I was going to train my most recently caught pet frog.

Maybe though, their absence was my shortcoming. In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend in 2003 I pushed for them to purchase a ticket. I told them my girlfriend would be there watching cluelessly as well and she'd love the company. I pressed on their brow our chances of winning and told them the pools were aligned in our favor. I visited home and worked out in the backyard, lifted weights in the basement, told them of our plan to etch tattoos into our skin should we win.

"I love you. I love this sport. I love my brother. I want you to come to Austin and watch your two sons be the best in what they love most. It will mean the world to me."

I didn't say that, only scribbled it along the margins of every comment, every hint, every cleverly timed conversation about Ultimate I had in their presence that month. Instead I piled into a car with my girlfriend and two teammates and drove twenty hours to Austin. We arrived on Thursday and three days later I held my brother in one arm and the college championship in the other. I kissed both. My parents heard about it later that evening while sipping wine and dining in our Madison home.

They didn't get it. They said congratulations and understood we were happy. But we weren't happy, we were elated. My brother and I were closer then than we ever had been. My parents hadn't come. I hadn't asked them to.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Speech

Richter and I notched our first victory as high school coaches in the season opener - barely. 13-12 us. As the game came down to the wire, our innate fire for competition started smoldering and we found ourselves feeling much as we do during the club season, with a game on the line and nothing going through our heads other than the desire to win. And, sometimes, looking for an opponent to toss around.

We're far from the calm, collected, preternaturally machinal coaching robots embodied in my roommate Whit or Ben Wiggins or Billy Rodriguez, three excellent coaches. We invite the emotion, the rage, the desire, and let it course through us. So now, being handed the reigns to a fun high school team and faced with the task of breaking them down and reshaping them in our image, I wonder, how can I best motivate them mid-game, as the opponent goes on a run and their young minds struggle to grasp what is happening? How can I fire them up to play their hardest? More importantly, how can I get them to care about their effort as much as I do?

The whole episode, watching the other team come back before the intensity picked up and we finally won, reminded me of a moment in Club nationals '04. It is, still, what I consider a defining moment in leadership under duress for me, and it came courtesy of our captain, Forrest Collins. I remember it as if I were now in the huddle.

The time out was called because we were panicked. Having lost our final pool play game to Furious, we knew our first game on Friday against Pike was a must-win to stave off a pre-quarters match-up. Pike had arrived as an upstart, much improved from the prior year, and had beaten Sockeye in the first round of the tourney. Losing to Pike would force a victory over Sockeye to escape the extra game, a win would give us breathing room in case of a three-way tie.

But here we were, after a night of psyching ourselves up and a morning warming up the body and brain, playing our flattest game of the tourney and down deep into the second half 11-7. Even the last score had been hurried, a gurgitation of random cuts that had somehow become our seventh point. We now faced pulling to a team we'd not broken yet and down by four with only a few points left. In some eyes confidence wavered and a defeated complacency took hold, resigning to prequarters. This is what I felt and what I saw in the eyes of my teammates as we placed our arms around each other in a circle and waited for Forrest to speak.

He began. There was confusion at first. Something about visualizing himself writing an email post-nationals. About a come-from-behind win against Jam he had envisioned in his head. Hypothetical sick plays by Jolian. And his realization now that there was no Jam game, there was no hypothetical - this was the game he'd portended, the game we were meant to come back from and win. This was the moment that would define our tournament.

In truth, I remember everything he said almost verbatim. But why reproduce a speech? Heard, or worst yet - read, outside of its context it feels empty and trivial. Besides, it's not the words I remember best.

I looked up as Forrest's voice cracked and wavered through his words - he was losing it, he was on the verge of crying. Our captain was so emotional in that moment that he wasn't sure he'd be able to hold back his tears. This was our friend, teammate, and leader asking that we try to feel the desire as deeply as he did. A man exposing his feelings in a place where he knew he would meet no ridicule - we wanted everything he wanted as bad as he did, and until then had been in a torpor unable to express it.

Maybe a tear or two fell. It was enough. We awoke.

I remember walking to the line that point, after Forrest exhorted that the seven players that wanted it most step to the line. A casual statement that the Alamo's William Travis would have smiled at. My heart was pounding, I was shaking some. My head was spinning remembering how only moments ago Forrest had pulled me in. I would not forgive myself were I to let him down. And, as we chose match-ups and called our defense, I knew everyone was as shocked and intense as I was.

By the time the pull went up the game's outcome had already been decided by everyone wearing the Rocketship. We scored the next five straight to take the lead before Pike had a chance to catch a collective breath, and went on to win 16-14, a 9-3 run.
Perhaps, sometimes you just have to show them, your teammates or players, that you care about the outcome more than anyone. You have to shock them with your will to be better, to demand more from yourself. A leader to me isn't the person with the biggest mouth and most platitudes, it's the quiet one whose play leaves no question unanswered. Being that example to our high schoolers this year will undoubtedly be our biggest challenge.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The market's going crazy these days. Also, the UFSE will soon be a publicly traded stock.


  • Georgia - currently undervalued, sure to rise.
  • Alex Snyder - Women's callahan favorite will pay dividends on your voting investment come May
  • - Daag's gift to the people is cheap enough to warrant a token investment so early in its existence, though the pictures of the entire Davidson men's team make registering hard to stomach
  • Jolian Dahl - still a buy
  • Ryan Krug - 500,000 reasons to buy. stay tuned.
  • Mamabird - take advantage of their dip in price to get in before their ascent
  • Jam - syke! still not going to win it all. But Bruss makes this stock a hot novelty item
  • Ultimatetalk - the smarter people in the game get together to bounce ideas. But how long until the inane babbling in the Live Message text box becomes an on-demand rsd?
  • Colorado Kali - it's just a two horse race. Make your choice and ride.
  • Stanford Superfly - see above
  • Hh - second quarter expectations will be met. Booya.
  • Hodags - too pricey to get into now, but a sound stock to hold in Ohio
  • CUltimate - Byron, Skip, Skizip massage the heart of a dead invite back to life, and show what happens when adults are in charge. Earlier criticism of the commercial angle to TDing silenced.


  • Carleton - reports trickling in of miles-long lines of mice streaming out of Northfield, MN
  • Collegeulti fact-checking machine - Busted. way busted
  • Collegeulti School of Grammar - the company declared bankrupcy, stock useful only as toilet paper
  • Atlantis TD
  • Arizona - speculation bubble that keeps them in the top 16 will burst in San Diego come regionals

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This is going to be a recurring feature, where I give you my starting seven on qualities as varied as handedness and meal preferences.

Madonna. Prince. Liberace. Lebron. In most facets of sports and entertainment there are those few who define themselves less with their name than with their larger-than-life persona. These are the people who have no need for a last name. We talk of them at the water cooler, around couches in drafty dilapidated student housing, between bong rips or on road trips. The first name usually suffices, though sometimes the last name is just as good. Their personalities are as unique as their monikers, and we pay our respect by not burdening them with more than one.

Ultimate is no exception. We have our ballers, our cartoon personalities, our superstars and miscreants known so well one name suffices. Here I bring Open Ultimate's Starting Seven one-name players:


There are others. But when you hear those names, there is no doubt in anyone's mind as to who you're talking about: instant recognition. What other characters come close?