Saturday, December 03, 2016
So when Avery told me, I was fired up. What a sweet experience! For those within, at least - those without saw not what was offered but what wasn't, and the discourse (to use the term extremely loosely) since then has been a battleground centered around who got invited, who didn't, and why.
The commentary in these kinds of conversations about equity will often revolve around systemic racism, systemic sexism, systemic what-have-you. The use of systemic here isn't an indictment (although those that disagree it's a factor personally take it as one), it's a descriptor, and of course gender inequity and current cultural norms are a factor. What systemic here represents is a sum, the addition of myriad tiny decisions that lead to very real outcomes, whether intended or not.
The systemic outcome here is that ten dudes, five of which I coach, will play ten other dudes for ten minutes in front of a crowd of 80,000, and that during the planning stages of this event we did not think to invite Bella or Heist or any other women's team to be a part of those twenty people.
What often gets lost in the online discourse are the little moments and decision that led us to the sum total, and result in all these commentators taking Avery to task and/or assuring us that, in his shoes, they totally would have played it differently.
So how did it happen? Why didn't we think to invite Bella to a fantastic event with massive exposure? I alluded to the answer in my initial tweet about this whole thing as the furor started: it happened little by little, as the distance between the Hodags and Bella grew. We used to have practice side-by-side year round, indoor and out; now we have separate indoor nights and practice on opposite days in the spring. We used to travel to every tournament together; today the existing elite tournament structure has us rarely attending tourneys together during the season. The halcyon days of inter-team romance and hook-ups ensured that the teams were quite literally joined at the hips; there are no Hodag-Bella couples right now. The distance between the two team has never been greater, and we don't talk or think about how the other is doing very regularly. I'm not forging new ground here in typing that, when presented with an opportunity to invite someone, you think first of those you spend time with, and not those you don't. Of course. When you don't interact with people you begin to think of them less and less.
And I should have expected the online reaction, just as most everyone should have expected the invites to fall where they did. The distance between the two furthest Ultimate players is increasing, and the dialogue between those of us who disagree with each other is thinning. That Opi, one of the luminaries of our game right now and someone I admire greatly, would disavow her laudable work with E.R.I.C. on the basis of a five-word FB post from the non-profit's founder, shows me that not even the best among us is immune. It's far easier for us to not interact with "them". Disgust is effortless then.
I'm not here to tell anyone with whom they're allowed to be angry - it's your right, and the online world has gifted us with an unending supply of ways to tell people we disagree with to fuck off. But Big Picture consequences come from the sum of Little Picture decisions, and everyone collectively deciding that those we disagree with aren't worth our time, or are racists, or misogynists, or deplorable, or not as woke as we are - well, that tends to undermine the pride we feel in our Spirit of the Game, in self-officiation, in the notion that we are as open and inclusive as we all agree we are. How can we claim to be a sport that purports to teach how to resolve disputes through civility and conversation when we don't reflect that in our personal lives?
Tomorrow some dudes are going to play Ultimate in front of a large crowd at the halftime of an NFL game, and for those participating, I couldn't be happier or more excited. And because it's such a wonderful opportunity I understand how disappointed Bella feels in not being taken into account. Moving forward, one path might lead back online, where we'll be free to talk past each other and misconstrue arguments to our advantage and villainize each other while doing some feel-good virtue signaling. There is perhaps another path, in remembering that the personal is political. We can reach out to Bella and spend time together. We can organize and volunteer at community service events, together. We can exist in the intimacy of each other's social lives so that we're always reminded of the interconnection of our fates. We can be political by being personal with each other.
I have a little Hispanic daughter, so the issues of racism, sexism and discrimination are very near and personal to me. The demands on my time with her mean that I won't be able to directly take part in whatever Bella and the Hodags do going forward from here, but I know my players, and trust them fully as great, decent and thoughtful people, and can extrapolate that out to our female counterparts, so I have faith that they'll work it out. And as concerned as I am about the aforementioned issues, I am concerned more about our desire to push others away, to live in smaller and smaller bubbles of thought, to dismiss and belittle those we disagree with. We cannot cure any of our social ills if we continue our retreat to the comfort of the familiar.
I'm immensely proud of Avery and love him like a brother and like a son, and see no fault in how he handled all of this as it was placed on his lap. I'm excited to watch the Periscoped halftime show tomorrow and watch my friends play on a field they've seen on TV their whole lives, and to listen to their stories when they return. And I'm looking forward to what the two teams do going forward, and trust they'll build deeper connections between themselves.
I am excited for the future.
Friday, October 16, 2015
The ultimate community is pretty cool. At tournaments, I regularly meet new people and rekindle long-lost friendships from teams and years past. While names sometimes escape me, the familiar faces and shared experiences do not. It's one of my favorite parts of ultimate - mingling with teammates and friends from cities long removed when we meet on the cross-roads of the triple crown tour, fun tournaments or just plain summer/winter league.
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
I regard myself as perpetually lucky. Starting with #13, I consider myself superstitious to a fault. In any competition, I believe I will win. I've always thought this way.
So on my birthday this year, I decided to sneak in a lift. I usually do my best not to make a big deal out of special occasions - shying away from attention. But as I swiped my card into the fitness center, the 19 year old attendant, who rarely ever looks up, suddenly snarks, "Happy Birthday."
It caught me by surprise, as I had know idea my information was even visible before the gate sprang open. I smiled and mumbled "Thanks," feeling bashful like he caught me doing something wrong. Immediately I had a bad feeling. I tried to shake it off and went HAM on my routine, crushing my last sets of hang cleans at 190x5 and 200x5, with half the gym watching. I grabbed some beer with a buddy and headed home, only to realize something was wrong. My foot kinda hurt. Nothing serious, just a very small ache, exactly where I had broken my foot 3x before. This had me in a tussle for about a week, before I was able to regain confidence in the 4 inch drywall screw holding my 5th metatarsal in place.
But that was only the half of the problem. As my foot discomfort faded, I realized I had a more urgent problem in my hand. Injuries accrue every season, but my middle finger wasn't feeling right. From a dull ache to a shooting pain, the discomfort was increasing with my workload. I started icing on the way to work, but found it much more difficult to ice while typing. Soon, I couldn't throw a flick without pain. Suddenly, everything I had worked so hard to gain was gone. It was like starting over - nothing tangible to show despite all the work. I finally realized that my game was entirely dependent on my big throws. I was lost in the world. Frustration and disappointment overwhelmed me in the coming weeks. I couldn't contribute in my normal capacity. Suddenly, I was mortal.
It made me realize that I had to change and adapt if I wanted to factor in down the stretch. I became a game manager instead of a franchise quarterback. So, I made strides in other departments, like cutting deep and fighting for resets just to throw the swing pass. I turned up my defensive pressure, locked down on my man and stopped poaching entirely. Ironside struggled to convert breaks in semifinals of Nationals against Sockeye and we lost on universe point. I played hard that game, but couldn't make any difference.
When the off-season began, I focused on leg strength and hand rest. I took roughly 7 months off before slowly increased my throwing regimen. The cause of this injury? Trying to throw 80 yard hammers on the turf with my college kids. For some reason, I wanted 80 yards in all every capacity - flick, backhand, hammer. If memory serves me, I maxed out at 72 yards in the moment of injury, partially tearing the collateral ligament of my right middle finger.
Despite the disappointing finish to the season, I learned that I needed to develop other parts of my game if I wanted to become a complete player.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Almost everyday after work, I grab my wireless headphones and begin my trek to the gym. Up the hill, I blast my best pump-up songs and explode through my lifting sessions with bass-pounding enthusiasm. Then, I made the mistake of wearing them during a murderball throwing session in a moderate rain and ever since, the volume "up" button has stopped working. To my horror, I realized that once I volumed "down" -- there was no going back up. For weeks, my workouts dragged, especially when I needed Lil Wayne's Beast Mode the most. But today, as I was contemplating how much weight to add to the bar, a miracle occurred.
My headphones sprang back to life, volume increasing a notch every second as the beat took hold of me. It was a sign from above -- better put on the big plates. I had no excuse anymore, I had to go hard. With the bass reverberating through my soul, I stared into the mirror - readying myself for action. I have a tried-and-true habit of imagining a rival competitor, just before the moment of truth. Without fail, my instincts kick in and adrenaline surges - this is the person who wants a piece of me. This is the person who wants to take me down and beat me to the punch. As I open my eyes and snap back to reality, the emotional response has taken hold and is screaming KILLMODE. Half the battle is done, as my body is now primed for athletic explosion. The reps and sets merge into sweat and grunts, my best effort, all thanks to my wireless headphones.
But as the years wear on -- this rival competitor morphs from opponent season to season -- from the most important game to the individual match-up. I've literally been training against the mental image of my strongest competition since elementary school. It comes naturally to me - especially when I'm weary of the task/lift before me and need some motivation. Just the thought of losing to Brodie pushed my dead lift over 385.
Suddenly, I knew who I was imaging as my rival competitor. It was Stubbs - someone I see in practice, at workouts, in the gym, all the time for the last four years. I wasn't imagining Sockeye, Chain Lightning, Revolver or Doublewide - I was imaging Ironside's offense as my competition - because for the majority of the season -- those are the players I'm battling day-in-day-out.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
From Dan Heijmen ('03-'07, Callahan '07). He wanted me to pass this along to the CUT world at large.
Hodag Love to Cutboys everywhere.