Friday, October 17, 2008
Skip is in town right now. After a conference call between Cultimate and the UPA yesterday afternoon, they met up with the Hodag officers to discuss the current situation. I'm sure it's not the last of the conversations, as many reservations remain, and more will be hashed out when a few more of the players in this play arrive for No Wisconsequences this weekend (which shows good weather now, brisk in the low 60's with slight cloud cover).
Oh boy, where to begin. OK. Carleton and Wisconsin have become a brotherhood of sorts, and through communication have loosely decided to move together in whatever direction they decide. And it seems like the rest of the teams are in agreement: they have many reservations, want UPA cooperation, and demand a say in the final outcome, but are very intrigued about C1. They like the general premise. They think it's a good thing. They're anxious to experiment. And, despite concerns about having to change the approach to the season, having a schedule known months in advance and having every game matter sounds fun. It's exciting.
Who would have thought that in the 5 years I've been out of college Ultimate the Hodags and CUT would be loving each other like an old couple? Even I was on Carleton's campus a couple of weekends ago raising toasts and reveling with Northfield. I'm developing a mancrush on Grant and Kanner. At a house party in Stadium 205 (if i can remember the number...probably not accurate) Muffin, in full Morfin-mode and wearing a white CUT jersey, was approached by a member of Carleton's basketball team that looked like a strapping athletic buck. A paraphrased summary of the exchange:
"Hey, you play on the Ultimate team. I've been wanting one of those jerseys for a long time, I think they look fly."So you see, our relationship has gotten so good that even Muffin is helping CUT with their recruiting.
"Fuck yeah. Ultimate, bra. You should come play for us."
"I've wanted to, I think it's a sweet game, it's just hard to play basketball and Ultimate."
"Are you athletic? Can you jump high? How fast are you?"
"Yeah, I can jump and run."
"What's your vert?"
"Like forty inches." (Not a made up number)
"Fuck! Dude, try out! Man, I will jerk you off so hard if you play for us. We all will, we will jerk you. Come play dude, jump over me! Jump over ME! We will jerk you so hard!"
Dude walks away slowly.
"Come back! Play for us! I will jerk you off!"
Moving on, there are some idiots that are decrying Cultimate's proposal as an end to spirit of the game. Asking if 5 Ultimate sponsoring this and simultaneous putting something about Spirit (capital S) on their website is contradictory. Talking about how how everyone is going to throw elbows in people's mouths. Assuming refs. Talking out of their ass without a peg-leg of information to lean on. Spirit is within. It's how you play, but more importantly how seriously you take yourself and your honor, regardless of whether there's a rule there or not. You respect yourself and your efforts now, you will respect yourself later, be it in Ultimate or elsewhere. If you come prepackaged as an asshole, you'll remain the insufferable douche you've always been. Cultimate isn't about to create a legion of d-bags that aren't already there.
This whole proposal most directly affects teams 25-32, bubble teams that put together a season magical enough to upset some of the 25 proposed C1 teams early on in the year before fading hard and fast when real shit is on the line. And the best of those teams can play into the final tourney. The proposal has the best 13 teams from C1 play in the championship tournament along with the winner of a play-in game between the best two of these bubble squads. The winner takes the 14th slot, the loser becomes the #1 seed in a 64 team C2 bracket tourney held concurrently with the championship at Devens. The winner of that bracket tourney, as well as the play-in game winner, become part of C1 for the following season, and on and on it keeps growing. You can still earn your way in, same as now. Keep winning, and your competition will keep improving. Sleeping your way to the top still not an option, but you may want to confirm that with Skip.
The teams considering the C1 option also agree that they want a seat at the table: representation and a voice on the Cultimate Board of Directors that will guide the championship league and play. One of the biggest complaints about the UPA is the lack of communication between their board and the players regarding proposals and progress, a big reason why the idea of C1 had a foothold to begin with. In talking with a board member recently, they told me that I didn't get it, how much the UPA does, and how they're talking about innovation, and that there are heated exchanges with people trying to change the sport. Well, that's the thing, no one got it because they're so closed off to communication with the general masses that we're left to make our own assumptions about what is and isn't getting done.
And it's clear from how seriously the proposed C1 teams are taking this proposal that they've filled in a lot of the blanks themselves, and found that they were troubled by how many blanks existed in the first place. And Cultimate is providing a lot of the same answers that have been talked about in dens and living rooms by these players for years. A lot of the snubbed teams are complaining that they want "their shot" at the big teams. That they're entitled to play against the best of the best. But several of the captains on these C1 teams raised a point that seemed to resonate across the group: Are they? Are the teams that play ultimate casually entitled to playing those teams that offer a substantial portion of their college experience and lives to being the best they can be at this sport?
This I think gets to the crux of what this is all about, what I was thinking in the back of my head when I wrote my Splinter Cell post. "Elite" now seems to be a dirty, pretentious word in the Ultimate community as well as the political one. But the fact is there are some teams that don't put in a quarter of the work the Hodags do. That's not an exaggeration, and I'm not arguing that they need to work as hard as Wisconsin or Carleton. They're not trying to let Ultimate rule their lives like that. But there are some teams that do, and have been rewarded with dominance in the sport as a result. No, not all the teams that do this are currently included in C1, and this will need to be addressed. But all the teams in C1 do live this life. They care about being the best. They are willing to make concessions above and beyond what most of the haters on RSD are willing to do. They are looking to play against other teams giving (and giving up) as much as they are. They are not interested in proving themselves against ragtag groups that occasionally get enough players to scrimmage at practice. They want to measure themselves against equivalent foes who have earned the right, through their hard work and dedication.
And as the conversations continue, more of those 25 teams are warming up to the idea. A season where every game matters. Opponents as vested in being the best as you are. Schedules set months ahead of time. Reduced uniform and travel costs. A push toward the summit. It sounds enticing, but most importantly, it sounds like a lot of fun.