Tuesday, June 30, 2009


They say deaths of famous people come in threes, so I've dodged another bullet. Farrah, Michael, and then, tragically, Billy Mays.

It's an ironic shame that after having endured anal cancer, then the breech of her trust and confidentiality at the hands of her medical team, Farrah's light was eclipsed totally by the passing of MJ. With one improperly-administered painkiller to the King of Pop, her thunder was silenced. She was on the front page of CNN for less than 4 hours.

Then, naturally, MJ's death blew up the news and threatened to "take the internet with [it]". Our long infatuation with stardom is such a well-worn groove these days I won't do much here but note the passion with which we responded to it. One of my good friends in Denver was incredibly upset, and told me later her father had been similarly distraught, near tears even. Fair enough.

But my surprise at the wellspring of condolances following Billy Mays' death threatened to sand away at my well-seasoned, ironic view of the world. Given a news-cycle's reprieve from the MJ death, he was on CNN's front page for almost the entire day after he was found dead. Here we are, after all, mourning a man who made himself famous because he was good at getting so excited about products that we wanted to spend our money to have them. I've used OxiClean before. Meh. Perhaps my letdown was in the fact that somewhere, deep down, I had hoped using it would make me experience life and consumerism with the same euphoric passion Mr. Mays displayed. I submit that it did a slightly better-than-average job at getting the stains out, nothing more. And although I am genuinely remorseful that he had to die so young, with so many cleaning supplies yet unsold, I'm still pretty deep in the anti-infomercial camp. I am already bracing myself for Ron Popeil's obituary.

None of this has anything to do with Ultimate, of course, but if you made it this far, it's fair to tell you that I am the captain of Madison Club, along with Carleton GOP alum Seth Meyer, and that after only two practices I can safely say it's going to be a very work-intensive and rewarding season. Kansas Prarie Fire's victory over a much-depleted Johnny Bravo tryout squad at Live Logic can't be dismissed, and with Sub Zero filling its own voids (CUT standouts Lindsley and Kanner are MIA this season, along with the Madison contingent that's staying home, and the departure of Kevin Riley, CallaHeijmen, and the unsinkable Andrew Brown to various parts of the globe), Chicago Machine is looking to be, at the beginning of the season, off to the best start. But that still leaves 4 front-runners angling for 3 bids. Here come the musical chairs.

Two thing about Machine (ok, three). First, word is they cut many (all?) of the BAT guys who tried out for them. That says to me that either they're already very deep and didn't want any out-of-towners, or they made a few poor managerial decisions. Second, while planning our tourney schedule, the Midwest teams had discussed all going to the same area tourneys so as to get the most competitive games in before the series. To that end we were contacted by Chicago, who requested we all agree to go to Hoosier Hodown in Indiana, and since we were debating between HH and Motown Throwdown anyway, we decided it wasn't a bad idea. A week after we'd contacted the TDs of the tourney confirming we'd go, Chicago contacts us again. That sorry, but there were actually a few weddings unaccounted for, and an ingrown toenail, and sandy vagges had gone unmentioned, and could we please instead go to another tourney, one that better suits their schedule. We responded with the most polite "fuck yourselves" possible. We want to play the best competition, but we're not chasing after anyone on their scheduling whim. Sub Zero is attending MUDI, so we all went our separate ways. We have till Colorado Cup to mingle amongst ourselves.

(last thing I wanted to say is about Tyson Park, who is back and "playing" for Machine this year: I want you there buddy, badly, because it means I might actually get to see you this year, but I'll believe it when you're cleated up at regionals.)

Former Hottest Man in Ultimate Valley Renshaw is back to form, it's being said. My only comment to that is that Nick Nolte was once People's Sexiest Man Alive (no joke, 1992!). Times change, hair buns get cut. I suspect he and Jerrod are still going to be formidable, and I hope they don't think for a moment the other teams are sleeping on them. I did find funny they complained to Colorado Cup that they wouldn't attend unless they were guaranteed a spot in the elite division. Can you believe it! I actually LOL'd. They lost in semis of the open divison last year and they're complaining about the competition being too easy. Rein in those horses, buddies. You've got this whole season to prove yourselves.

But, for a moment, let's step away from club Ultimate and focus on the immediate task at hand: Potlatch. After a fortuitously overbooked flight back to Madison from a trip in the Grand Canyon, I scored a free ticket that I used to book my trip. Considering that I was recently let go from my job for the summer (bummer), I plan on subsisting on tuna and mustard/mayo packets I plan on stealing from some area deli (but am certainly not above receiving charity in the form of food, etc). I've got a tent lined up, a ride to the fields and back (I think), and I'm fired up about playing.

It's my third time back. The first was made memorable by events that have already been written about here, the second by my fun participation in the MLU experiment (2nd in fantasy behind Nord, bitches!), and this one has yet to lift its skirt and reveal its secrets and treasures to me. Still, there are a few things on my mind as I head there; some unrelated to Ultimate and thus for now omitted here, and some very much about my team and my role as a player.

Downtown Brown, bless its soul (pun intended), has outgrown its ability to be a single team and maintain any sense of playing rhythm and thus competitiveness, especially in light of this year's national teams, and so for Potlatch it was decided by special junta that in the spirit of Champ-bracket representation we'd bring a parsed team with the hopes of knocking down a giant or two on our way through the tourney. There was debate about this, and it will continue in our circle once there:

By what criteria should one get to play on Downtown Brown? Should the only burden of proof be that you not be white (although it has had a whitey or two in its history)? If so, does that only serve to strengthen the us-vs-them mentality that we (or at least I) purport to be fighting? In light of Obama's campaign speech on race and identity, how is it that we're defining ourselves as a team? I am all Mexican pride, and if you know me or have seen me I literally wear it on my sleeve (and skin). Yet playing division along racial and ethnic boundaries has never sat well with me, and because I've spent so much of my life growing up vastly outnumbered by whites, it would have been incredibly self-destructive for me to have drawn a line between myself and Them.

So the question remains then, who "owns" Downtown Brown? Who should get to play on the team? It's great that players of color have reached a critical mass that now forces us to ask these questions. Certainly when I started, we were the exception to the rule, and the opportunity to play with other brownie ballers made me salivate. But should that be enough? This is, after all, an Ultimate team, not a national multicultural PIRG, and when we meet we're going to play Ultimate. As much as I love playing, I am also a fierce competitor who loves winning, and while I identify myself certainly as a brownie and more specifically as Hispanic (and even more specifically as Mexican), when I'm at a tourney I see myself primarily not as any of these things, but as a player. The ultimate community is my community, and on what promises to be one of the most competitive coed tourneys I've ever played in, I want to be on a team that is as good as it can be, and that requires that choices, hard choices, be made.

Rest assured the debate is only just beginning. Feel free to give me your two cents either in the comments here, or along the expansive Burlington fields this weekend. Peace.

The discussion continues here at the Huddle. I extend Mike's invitation to join DTB for a discussion on these issues and more on - what an apt date - the 4th of July. -ed.