Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Nudge Nudge

I finally got around to giving the Winter 2009 UPA magazine a thorough look over.  I found something that tickled me.

It was obvious to me, and anyone else that knows anything about club ultimate, that when it started coming out that Chase would be playing co-ed (I mean, mixed) this club season, that whatever team had just acquired him off marriage/move waivers would be the next Club Mixed Champion.  Pardon me if that seemed like too big a leap in logic to assume.  When it turned out that Axis of C'Ville won, I decided the right thing to do would be to feign a polite surprise.

Now several months removed from that finals and looking at page 22 of the newsletter, I find that my practiced reaction was entirely unnecessary.  Chase was in on the joke too.  Find him now, tucked away in the top left corner of the picture.  There he is, giant smile upturned at its right corner, reaching up toward that eye.  And there is that eye, crows' feet dangling downward, cinched shut while the left remains open in a near universal piece of code: the wink.  The wink, that flash of facial expression to bring you in on an inside joke shared only by winker and, now, you.  Telling you, hey, I'm not being entirely serious here.  I am telling a joke.  And indeed he is.

Look at him there, winking, telling you, a bit sheepishly, "yes, I know. I shouldn't be here.  I make Mixed ultimate look like a summer camp dodgeball game between grade schoolers and counselor.  This is Julius Peppers putting on pads today against some Pop Warner cast-offs.  This is them running into the inmovable object and trying to push.  I, too, feel like I'm cheating.  Just a little bit.  Just a little bit." Wink.

I imagine, too, that on the picture to its left, Zach Eastlund is looking into an unknown distance resigned to a fate that, only moments ago, he was hoping to avoid.  As the disc hung there, gently tabling off and both he and Chase in hot pursuit, he may have found himself thinking of Sisyphus and three short feet from the mountain's ridge, heavy boulder in tow.  Perhaps today, perhaps mere moments from now, the rock will make it to the top.  But it slips away, and Chase tallies another goal, and both Zach and Sisyphus purse their lips and get angry for having allowed themselves the luxury of hope.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tuesday was the first day of classes for Spring Term ‘10 at the University of Wisconsin. As the students flooded the downtown streets again there were a select few who had their inner eye pointed toward a place far from Ag Hall or Memorial Library. For these students, Van Hise is not a foreign language center but a set of stairs, Bascom Hall not a building but a finish line. Yesterday they walked Charter and Mills and University, but their minds were already strolling Bellagio, Luxor, Flamingo. They have only two weeks to wait until their feet follow suit, and until those feet transition from restless leg syndrome on the Strip to relentless legs syndrome on the field.

Harsh Wisconsin winters are known for their calculating culling of herds, and this year’s winter has already been harsh on the Hodags. Four of our number have gone down, one a rising star now tethered for the season, the other one of our most experienced players, the Brain to many a teammate’s Pinky, putting aside his quest for world domination until his ACL is healed. The other two found life too difficult to juggle with all of Ultimate's pin already up in the air and bowed out.  With one numb gust we went from wondering how to manage 27 studs to wondering how many more of the 23 remaining go down.

It wasn’t all bad news. For once, we sent a Jewish teammate to Israel and he actually came back. The addition of Masler to the corps of defensive handlers will serve stiffen its cloth with the starch of experience, and increase the intensity as an already crowded defensive squad fights to earn playing time. With two weeks remaining until our first outdoor tourney of the spring, with each game a rock on the tipping scale of this year’s strength bid allocation, with the feel of a warm piece of plastic pinched between fingers and thumb fading into memory, the Hodags turn to the two things that never lack, the only two things they can count on during the eternal winters, the only two things that strengthen while nature weakens and wilts: their will and their legs.

At our two fall tournaments we opened the lines into two tiers of playing time. The players on the offensive line ranked among our most experienced, veterans that can be counted to conserve when the timing is crucial, miserly with turnovers regardless of pleasure. These 9 played nearly every offensive point, and at CCC showed that they can do it well when their games dovetail downfield. That left 14 sets of legs on defense, a vicious and tireless centipede ready to walk over any offense. They did not disappoint.

Now, we’re 3 days removed from our first spring trip. We’ve been sizing ourselves up against our teammates for such a long, claustrophobic winter that it’s difficult to predict how we’ll fare against teams that have the opportunity to throw, play, and just be outside. Still, it’s Vegas, and we’re feeling more than lucky.