What the Huck? Huck Finn Recap

4 04 2012

It’s been a while Wing, but it’s about time I got around to this. You may remember (or maybe you don’t) that between Vogue and Huck Finn there was this other tournament we played in called High Tide. However, seeing as my computer is about to die, it’s late, and I just popped a Benadryl, I’m going to simply revert to the old adage: What happens in Georgia stays in Georgia. If anyone else wants to cover this, feel free.

That brings us to Huck Finn in St. Louis. After a long night of driving, and the generous hospitality of Broadway, Ian, and Grizz’s families, we were ready to take on our first opponent: Kansas. Knowing this was a big school and the 1 seed in our pool, we got ourselves psyched for what we knew would be a good challenge. Out of the gate we struggled to contain their quick handlers and deep cutters. After going down a few points, we were able to wrangle in their offense and force turns. Unfortunately, our offense just wasn’t there. We rewarded ourselves with opportunity after opportunity, only to turn the disc on throwing errors and poor decisions. Due primarily to an egregious amount of turns, we went on to lose 11-4.

After that brutal loss, we were paired up against Illinois State’s B-squad. We went into the game treating it like any other, and our mindset paid off. Throughout the first half we played like an entirely different team than the one Kansas had seen. Instead of ill-advised deep shots, all of our players focused on swings and in-cuts. Needless to say, we took the first half handily. The second half, however, began with a lack of focus (partly due to the abundance of sideline sandwiches), and ISU put up a minor run. We answered their call, however, and went on to win 11-3.

Our next game pitted us against an unfamiliar opponent: University of Mississippi. Both teams came out firing on all cylinders, grinding to prove to these strangers their superiority. We both went of break after break. As the game went on, play was heated and some calls were contentious. We kept our heads, however, and forced their athletes in all day. This gave us a victory 11-8.

By the fourth game of the day we were visibly exhausted, but we wanted nothing more to stick it to our regional foes, Ball State. After graduating some of their top players, we thought this would be the game to reap our revenge. Unfortunately, our fatigue showed. Not only were our cuts lack-luster, but we couldn’t keep up with the Wizards as they struck deep time after time. The lack of energy was most obvious on the sideline, however, which sounded…well, it didn’t sound like much of anything that game, and we fell to Ball State 11-7.

After a long, stern talk from Hans and the rest of the captains, Darkwing came out against Minnesota-B viciously trying to get the taste of the last loss out of our mouths. We took the win 4-11, but not without some sloppy play. The sidelines improved dramatically though, staying up, staying loud, and helping force much needed D’s.

After a night of classic St. Louis grill-out, thanks to Mama and Papa Broadway, we returned to the fields. We had just scraped our way into the championship bracket. The first point against St. Olaf can essentially sum up that game, our weekend, and truly our entire spring semester: we FORCED 6 turnovers in that point alone. Of those 6 possessions, we possessed the disc on their endzone line 3 times. And of all of those opportunities we did not score once. We turned the disc 6 times as well, and watches as those giant, nordic Minnesotans punished us in the air for being unable to capitalize on our stellar defense. Final score: 15-7.

Next we faced sectional rival Eastern Illinois Reaper. After a few points, things seemed to be going our way. We had a break or two, and our throws were looking chilly. I don’t think anyone can put a finger on what exactly began to happen – maybe it was a focus issue, maybe we were tired, maybe we got cocky – but point after point Eastern challenged us deep and upline and everywhere else on the field, and they seemed to come down with everything. We watched as the game slipped away, and we lost 8-14.

We finished up the day against Missouri S&T, whom we have seen every year and never beaten. Well, early in the game they gave us a bit of a challenge. Again, not because they were phenomenal, but because we struggled to value the disc. We came out on top, however, 13-8.

We saw what we had to fix. That was a positive, if anything. And on top of that, we all promised ourselves and our teammates that we would focus on one specific way to keep our heads in the game from the first point to universe point. Despite all of our learning and growth, many of these issues would follow us into our next tournament, Chicago Invite. More on that to come.





Winter Season – Arctic Vogue, Workouts, Chalk Talk

2 03 2012

By Griffin Muckley

I promised I would get this up before the next tournament, and here it is: a brief summary of our winter season, including a recap of Arctic Vogue.

Second semester started off with us jumping back into small groups full force. Every group approached it a little differently, but every group put in the group time and individual time it takes to get our asses into spring-season shape. We got a little help from Fitocracy. This is an awesome tool, which tracks your daily workouts, credits you points, and let’s you watch your virtual self level and and acquire achievements. Not only did this turn our lives into videogames, but it spurred the competitive edge in all of us; no one wants to be the loser stuck on level 3. It put a whole new meaning to “get on my level.” Lastly, I have to shout out to the stair workouts Billy prepared every Sunday. These grueling routines not only transcended the small group divisions by getting all of us – well, some of us – out of bed on those Sunday mornings, ready to leave it all in the stairwell. And by all, I mean the mixture of Star Grill and malt liquor left over in my stomach from the night before.

Of course, workouts can only get a team so far. To truly prepare for the upcoming spring season, we decided to squeeze in one frigidly cold tournament: Arctic Vogue.

Just like that Saturday morning, I’ll say this once and be done: DAMN IT WAS COLD. The 30 degree weather mixed with ankle deep mud puddles and sharp wind was enough to break down the most stalwart of men. There, now I’m done.

Here are the 14 of us that braved the elements this weekend to get a little dirty playing the game we love. Arthur Berg even tagged along. Weekend Motto: DO MORE!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a score reporter page for this tournament, so I’m going to recap as much as I can by memory. We started the weekend by playing a pick-up team from Kentucky. For a team of 10 players, all under the age of 20, they were extremely spirited and fun to play. While we hold them to only 2 points, they were able to beat us deep and force our handlers to turn way more times than we should have let them. Honestly, our play was remarkably lackluster, except for Danny’s successful hammer to the back corner of the endzone. The fact that a successful hammer was the most memorable part of that game, however, is sad. We let this lackluster play spill into our next half against Eastern Michigan. They were admittedly an athletic team, but I can confidently say our team should have been able to hold them to a closer game. Their will to win came through in the first half, in which the outscored us 7 to 2. This was wake up call. If we didn’t want to get walked on this weekend, we were going to have to sack up, get the blood in our hands and feet, and play like we wanted to be outside that day. We did. The score of the second half was much closer, but, in classic Darkwing fashion, we were unable to crawl back from the first-half deficit.

Next up was Xavier, but before the game an angel was sent to us from the heavens: Quest’s mom. She came with enough supplies to keep our entire team warm, happy, and willing to play another game. In addition to a propane space heater, she also came with almost 100 hand warmers and a stack of hand-knitted face masks (not to mention Girl-Scout cookies). As expected, this was a highly competitive, yet fun and spirited game. From what I remember, our handlers found themselves struggling along the end zone line on more than one occasion, but cutters like Broadway and Will were able to break away from their defenders and come up with some clutch catches. We ended up winning by a sizable gap, but not without struggling.

Our last round was against a team I can’t quite remember to be honest. I do remember looking around and noticing we were one of the only teams left on the fields. We made it 5 points into this for-fun/for-experience exhibition  game before both teams agreed to get the hell out of the cold.

After peeling ourselves clean of mud, we got back into the cars and made our way back to the Kmutis household, who so graciously put us up for the weekend. After showering, drinking some hot tea/coffee, and doing a little yoga, the 14 of us lounged about in the living room watching various cooking shows while B-Murph enlightened us with his unending knowledge of food. The night continued with a homemade meal, college basketball, Indiana Jones, and a few competitive board and card games. I just want to thank the Kmutis family for all of their hospitality. They went above and beyond what we ever imagined. By letting us into their house, take over their living room and basement, providing us food, and even doing our nasty laundry, they made this tournament one of the best opportunities for team bonding I’ve experienced in a long time. Thank you.

The next day brought fresh fields and fresh snow. After extensive warmups, we faced off with Darkhorse from Western Michigan, who we met at Regionals the previous year. Their cup made our entire team – handlers, poppers, and rails – work harder than we had all weekend. To our dismay, our hard cuts and timed throws weren’t enough. We went into halftime scoreless, I believe. It gave us time to regroup, take a deep breath, and visualize what we wanted to do this next half. We knew we needed wider swings, more rail action, and we couldn’t let our men behind us anymore. For the most part, we were successful; plus it helped that our coach that weekend, Hans, gave us the go-ahead to throw the cup. We came out and scored four points in a row that half, but yet again it was not enough. After running Santa Clara (Santa Barbara? Santa Fe? Santa Domingo? Santa Clause?) for almost 20 minutes, we learned that the schedule (in reality is was just posterboard on the TD’s windshield with sharpie scribbles) hadn’t really been updated, and we had no opponent. We set up a game with Ohio State B, but we would have to wait until the next round to play.

Once again, Kmutis family to the rescue! They came prepared with hot chocolate and coffee for the by round.

The Ohio State game rolled pretty smoothly for us. Their inexperienced team allowed us to work on swinging the disc sideline to sideline. We also looked a lot smoother in the horizontal stack, considering the gigantic mud puddle that took up the entire center of the field.

We packed our mud-caked clothes into trash bags and piled back into the cars. Of course, we couldn’t begin our trek home without stopping at Cincinnati’s specialty: Skyline Chili.

This was overall a great tournament on and off the field. It was especially nice to give rookies as much playing time as they wanted, and the a little more. Next week, we’ll be kicking off our spring season with an almost-full roster at High Tide. In addition to small groups, we even had a successful 2 1/2 hour chalk talk in Dumbach Hall, complete with Ultivids. We’ve been able to practice as a whole team for about three weeks now, so we should get to see if that has been enough time to gel, or if we still have some massive kinks to work out. Either way, I’m looking forward to some Chic-fil-a and hard core in-and-out box. See you on the beach.





Darkwing – Missouri Love Company 2010

26 12 2011

For those of you who don’t know, I spent a few weeks last year carrying a voice recorder around to practices, a tournament, and to individual interviews. I was putting together an ethnography radio piece for my interviewing class I took last fall. After a year of delay, here’s the final product:

Link: Darkwing Ethnography!





My Ultimate Addiction

25 12 2011

So, for a creative writing class I had to write about something I was passionate about. Obviously I chose Ultimate. Every player knows how the game and the culture suck you in and basically take over your life like an addiction – that’s what this is about. For the record, this was a CREATIVE writing class, so the people I talk about are meant to be caricatures that reveal a little bit about the Ultimate culture – not totally accurate representations. Hans you aren’t as negative as I make you out to be; Broadway I know you aren’t all about swag; Gerard I know you aren’t the only person that’s gone out the night before a tournament ; and Billy I would never define you by your occasional “intense” moments on the field. Also, it was written for an audience that wouldn’t necessarily know Ultimate. I don’t really expect anyone to get through the whole thing, but if you do I hope you enjoy it, and sorry it’s so long:

My Ultimate Addiction

Griffin Muckley

I’m Griffin, and I have a problem.

I’ve been clean for a day and a half, almost 48 hours. I haven’t even touched a disc in that time. I knew if I wanted to get any work done this week I’d have to hide my stash, so I stuffed my discs, my cleats, and my jerseys in a trash bag under my bed.

I’m Griffin, and I’m an Ultimate Frisbee addict.

Recovery

The line between casual use and addiction is as thin and contentious as an end zone line. They say something is an addiction if it becomes a priority. Well, the last time I was home my aunt asked if I finally decided what I was going to school for, and I jokingly told her, “For Ultimate Frisbee.” I don’t know if I was joking.

It helps to know that I’m not alone. Ultimate Frisbee, or just “Ultimate” as it is known on the fields, is one of the fastest growing addictions in the world. USA Ultimate, the governing body of Ultimate in the U.S., now claims 30,000 paying members, a 168 percent increase since 2003. The sport is played in 41 other countries as well (Tsui). The best explanation for the sport’s rapid growth is its highly addictive cult culture. Players start by playing casual pick-up games in high school. The irregular fix eventually isn’t enough, so they try out for a more serious college team. Inevitably they find themselves spiraling into summer leagues, fall leagues, indoor winter leagues, club tournaments, beach tournaments, and travelling across the city, the state, the country, and even the world to find the best Ultimate.

I’m sliding down that path now. I started playing unorganized pick-up with my buddies every Friday after school, but they all kicked the habit after we graduated. When I got to college at Loyola University Chicago I immediately began seeking out a club that could provide me with my fix. That’s how I found Darkwing, Loyola’s Men’s Ultimate team. Now, after two years of dedication, I myself am a captain, a ringleader, teaching the intricacies of the game to our new recruits. I get anxious and stressed when I don’t throw at least two or three times per week. Lately I’ve been on a binge – six tournaments in eight weeks – and despite the wear and tear on my body I crave more.

It’s frustrating trying to explain my sport, my addiction, to family and friends. I know all they visualize in their heads is a bunch of barefoot kids throwing a disc haphazardly on the sunny quad. To them it’s harmless. I just wish I could make people understand the undying need that pushes me through grueling workouts and the freezing cold practices, just for those few hours of release. I wish I could place you all in my head as I bid – leave my feet and hang, suspended three or four feet in the air, stretched horizontally with one arm out, in the hopes of knocking down the disc and forcing a turnover for my team. When I’m that high off the ground I’m superman. I am unstoppable.

The last time I used heavily was at No Wisconsequences in Milwaukee. The street lamps were still glowing orange as I stumbled out the front door of my Chicago apartment building. It was about five in the morning, and the twilight cold bit at my hands and half-closed eyelids. The sky was beginning to shade to gray as I waddled up to the four silver Dodge Caravans provided by campus recreation. I shed the three bags of gear, clothes, toiletries, a towel, a pillow, and camera into the back of the second van. Broadway was on the phone, probably trying to wake up any stragglers. He is always dressed top to bottom in his name-brand – at least name brand in the Ultimate world – gear, or ulti-swag. That morning he was decked out in a an UnderArmour turtleneck, Patagonia warm-up jersey, Patagonia half-zip from last year’s No Wisconsequences, UnderArmour leggings, VC shorts from the Chicago Invite, Patagonia jacket, 5ve Ultimate trucker hat, and his shooter sleeve with the St. Louis flag design in hand.

“My van’s full,” B-Rap slurred from behind me as he heaved his bag into the back of a van. I swiveled my head just in time to see his baby-blue eyes beneath his half closed eyelids and mop of brown hair. He shot me a shit-eating grin just before he hopped into the van, just to let me know he was still a little hungover. I rolled my eyes. I didn’t care; I was just ready to feed my addiction.

Origins of an Addiction

It started out innocently. We were a bunch of high school juniors looking to have a little fun once school got out every week. I couldn’t tell you whose idea it was to try it out, but after just one Friday afternoon we were hooked. Pretty soon it became the beginning of every weekend. We would all pile into the few cars we owned, and we would drive to the park. We always banked on one of us having a disc. One time we all forgot, and had to make a special trip to target just to pick one up. We had to idea what we were doing. Perhaps that is what kept the game so innocent. Our lacking knowledge of rules, fouls, or strategy protected us from the side effects of competition. Our ignorance let us run wildly and throw freely until we were exhausted. We weren’t looking to win or lose, just blow off steam after class. It became part of our weekly routine, and it continued every Friday the following fall and spring until we graduated. We would take on anyone that seemed slightly interested, pressuring them to come play. Sometimes we had teams of ten, sometimes of three. We even played through rainstorms, letting water drip down our faces as we slid through mud puddles.

Our caravan of soccer-mom minivans rolled up to the fields with just enough time to warm up and stretch. A sea of players and cones stretched for a quarter mile: acres of flat grass fenced in by forested bluffs on one side and a suburban development on the other. As our team president Benton “Quest” Fletcher once put it, “There’s just this intangible intensity in they air.” White discs dot the sky like a cloud of gnats. Some teams were already warming up while others milled about under the tourney central tent. There they could spread peanut butter on a frozen bagel, check out the tournament’s swag, or study the giant poster of the day’s pools and brackets.

Stepping into tourney central is like stepping into a big top at the circus; forty or fifty clowns all packed under a white tent. Some were comically tall and a few comically short. There are always the few lean athletes mulling around, but most of us are stick thin. Ridiculous explosion of color is the real tip off that we aren’t your run-of-the-mill athletes. People are generally clad in highlighter yellow stocking caps, sunrise orange knee-high socks, red zebra-striped pants, hunting hats with purple earflaps, and jerseys every color imaginable. I’ve even seen a player wearing a fluorescent orange jumpsuit. It’s as if the sport advertises to the zany and outgoing. Although, it’s just as possible that your inhibitions deteriorate once you’re hooked on Ultimate. I guess this is what you would expect, considering the sport’s first rag-tag group of addicts.

It started out as an after lunch game at Columbia High School in New Jersey. Joel Silver gathered his friends from student council and the student newspaper out onto the field in 1968. He wanted to teach them a new game he learned at summer camp: Frisbee Football. After a few weeks of teaching, games became daily events. Pretty soon the school recognized this Columbia High School Varsity Frisbee Squad as an official club. Other students began to join, but they weren’t the athletes you might expect. Some of the school’s highest achievers, as well as pot-smoking burnouts, joined Silver and his Varsity Squad. Joel and his friends stewed over their creation: tweaking rules until they developed the addictive recipe we have today. This collage of non-athletes established the original target market for the sport: teenagers that were intelligent, charismatic, and even a bit miscreant.

When a Ball Dreams, it Dreams it’s a Disc

We treaded the narrow sidelines between fields, stumbling over duffel bags and dodging poorly thrown discs. Already itching to play, I pulled a disc from my bag and told a rookie to come do a few forehand and backhand throws with me.

Most people don’t even know there are two ways to throw a disc. There’s the natural way to throw: grabbing the edge of the disc and curling it in to your elbow. This is called a backhand. A forehand throw, or flick, is what really separates a competitive player from a backyard, pickup player. To throw a forehand, you squeeze your finger and middle finger against this inside rim of the disc and hold it out to your side. Then, with a flick of the wrist – like screwing in a light bulb, as I was once told – you send the disc forward. It’s unnatural at first. For some, it takes over a year of practice to get rid of the wobble from the disc. It can take two, three, or even four years of continuous playing before you can give it just the right touch to make the disc sail smoothly, arching out and in with the slightest angle.

An air horn blew from the tourney central tent to mark the five-minute warning before the first round. “First game of the day boys,” said Tang, our captain. He’s a fifth year student with pasty skin and fiery red hair that sprouts all over his head and chin. He’s a bit doughy, and he speaks with kind-hearted passion, not authority.

“I know it’s chilly, and I know it’s only getting windier, but we’ve got our hands and legs moving now. This grass is soft; everybody get down and feel the grass. We should all be bidding hard every time the disc is in the air.”  We all imitated Tang without question, rubbing our hands in the cold dirt. We must have looked ridiculous, but that giddy sensation was already starting to settle in.

After a quick cheer, seven of us jogged out onto the end zone line. The giddy sensation started giving away to overly-perceptive paranoia. I felt jittery as my muscles tensed up. I jumped up and down, tucking my legs all the way under me in the air. Billy took four steps back to wind up for the pull. He held the disc with both hands as he extended it away from his body. As he reached the line, he torqued his body around and sent the disc twenty, thirty, forty feet in the air towards the other team. A wave of mindlessness washed over me. I only heard screams from my teammates on the sideline.

Watching a game of Ultimate is like watching the mutant offspring of every other sport you know. It’s a beautiful cocktail of finesse, speed, endurance, and intelligence. Like football, the object of the game is to throw the disc to an open teammate in the end zone. Like soccer, however, play never stops. The result is a continuous cycle of players working off of each other, moving in and out, trying to get open. Once you catch the disc, you stop moving and establish a pivot. You are now the quarterback while your marker, the man guarding you, counts down from ten. Your teammates systematically swarm around you, in front of you, and downfield for either a quick flip or a deep huck. The finest finesse of Frisbee comes from the throws. Just as golfers constantly tweak the technique of their swing, so an Ultimate player always thinks about the tiny intricacies of a throw: how far to extend the arm, how hard to snap the wrist, what angle to release the disc at. I’ve noticed volleyball players typically make great Ultimate players. This is probably because of the ability to control their body and arms in the air. It’s very common for an Ultimate player to jump up with an opponent and contort his body in the air in order to reach the disc first and sky the other player.

None of these sports other sports give me the fulfillment I crave. That’s because of the two ingredients that make Ultimate more exhilarating than any other sport. First is the physics. Almost every other sport played around the world is played with some kind of ball. Every ball has to obey the laws of momentum and gravity; to move a ball you have to throw it. Hard. Even if you throw it with all the force in the world, it will only stay in the air for a second or two. But a disc isn’t a ball. Discs found a loophole in Newton’s Laws. They slice slowly through the air and can hover for a mind numbingly long time. This allows for players run onto a disc, set up their jumps, and read where a disc might end up. All of this makes way for an aerial performance unmatched by any other sport. In a typical football game you’re lucky to see one or two amazing grabs or interceptions. In Ultimate, these beautiful feats of athleticism occur on a point-to-point basis.

Secondly, there is a spirit of the game that doesn’t exist in any other sport. This isn’t some idea I concocted on my own; the preface of the Official Rules of Ultimate 11th Edition, Spirit of the Game clearly define Spirit of the Game as “a spirit of sportsmanship that places responsibility of fair play on the player.” This spirit is both a nuance and a necessity. Ultimate was created as a game to bring people together with one goal: fun. But Spirit has a practical function as well. There are no referees, so players call their own fouls, even in the world championships. If a player disagrees with a call, the disc is sent back to where it was before the foul. It’s simple, but play hinges on the integrity of players to make fair calls. Sometimes this spirit fades in close games. Luckily, this wasn’t a problem in our first matchup.

The Ultimate High

We won the game 13-4. In Ultimate, games are played to a set score – usually 13 or 15. Since there are set times for each game to start, there are also time caps for every round as well. We circled up once more to hear what our captains had to say. This time though it was Hans, one of our unofficial coaches, who talked first.

“I’m not going to say you guys did great,” said Hans in his usual pessimistic tone. “Really guys, that team shouldn’t have been able to score once, let alone four times.”

Even if we won nationals, Hans would find some part of our game to criticize. He is a short, testy, half-Irish half-Asian man whose thin arms are always flailing. Despite his unsupportive approach, he is an amazing teacher of the game. Hans was a captain of Darkwing my first year, and he’s the one who taught me how to feed my addiction with the purest form of Ultimate.

In college, Ultimate really transforms from a pastime to a lifestyle. Practices are only three days per week, but I began sketching out cut patterns in my notebooks instead of paying attention to lectures. I couldn’t open my laptop without searching for an ultivid – a highlight reel of the nation’s best players. I read every USA Ultimate Magazine cover to cover. I constantly scowered blogs for tips. All I wanted, all I craved, was to play better ultimate.

I suppose I have the CHS Varsity Frisbee Squad players to thank for the life-consuming nature of college Ultimate. After graduating, Joel and his friends printed a book of rules and took it to their prospective colleges all around the Northeast. They immediately began recruiting students to play their unique game. These groups became the first college club teams. The first intercollegiate game was played between Rutgers University and Princeton on November 6, 1972. Thereafter, tournaments began to pop up, and thus, the college Ultimate series was born.

Although Ultimate exists at many levels – pickup teams, summer leagues, travelling clubs, even a few high school programs – college teams still remain the most well-known and highly publicized programs across the country. For the most part, college teams are responsible for drawing in new players, teaching them the rules of the game, getting them hooked, and acquainting them with the ultimate high.

It wasn’t long before Hans showed me how to fully satiate my craving for Ultimate, even if it was just for a few seconds: by bidding. We were working on a drill some Sunday morning. I was playing defense and my man just barely got to the disc before I did. I thought I was too far away to reach it. After the drill, Hans grabbed my shoulder.

“You should have had that last one,” he said as if I had done something blatantly wrong.

I must have given him a disbelieving look, because he began making the frantic and choppy gestures he always does when he is telling you you’re wrong.

“You have to bid on everything. Even if you don’t think you can get it – jump. At first you’ll miss a lot, and you’ll feel stupid,” he spat, his words getting more and more frantic. Just talking about bidding gets some players worked up.

“But eventually you’ll start to get them. Just tell yourself ‘this is my disc.’” As Hans walked away, I didn’t know whether to feel ashamed or inspired.

I did feel stupid, and it hurt a lot. For weeks my elbows, knees, and hips were red and raw from pounding on the turf at practice. After my first lay-out D ever, I couldn’t feel the stinging where the disc hit my fingers, I didn’t feel the scrapes on my knees, I didn’t feel the queasiness in my stomach, or the pain in my chest. I could barely even hear my teammates yelling on the sideline. All I could feel was the strain in my cheeks from the face-splitting smile induced by the ultimate high.

The Will to Play

Normal person would cherish a break between games – some time to recharge, rehydrate, and grab a bite to eat. But to a Ultimate player, the time between rounds is nothing short of withdrawal; your muscles stiffen up, you lose focus, the cold creeps up on you, the shivers start, your adrenaline levels plummet, and all you want to do is sleep off the exhaustion.

We rushed to the next field to play our next game against the giant Winona State team. The clouds were thickening and I was shivering as the temperature started to drop. It must have been only 40 degrees, but with the wind, it felt below freezing. Like I said, Ultimate players will do anything to break the mind-numbing monotony of withdrawal. I’ve been called insane, overzealous, crazy, and even plain stupid, but weathering the elements is just part of college ultimate. In Indiana farmland I once had to throw through winds so forceful they tipped port-a-potties like dominoes. Icy-rain came down in bullets as we huddled in the vans between games, trying to regain feeling in our fingers and toes.  Arctic Vogue in Cincinnati ended up just as its name suggested. An icy blast of 15-dgree air hit my face when I first opened the van door, and I stepped out onto a field covered in eight inches of snow. On the other end of the spectrum, I once had to peel the sleeping bag off of my arms before walking through the pudding that was the summer air. That day the weatherman advised against being outside unnecessarily. I sweated through four games that day.

Yes, it’s safe to say I would endure any misery, any pain, any humiliation just for a day with the disc. I didn’t even mind when the sun disappeared behind the clouds during the Winona State game. The temperature dropped maybe another five degrees, but I was already deep into the trip. Just the second-hand experience on the sideline was enough to sooth my nerves. I watched as Broadway sent a smooth backhand around his defender into Tang’s fingers. I could see the whites of Tang’s eyes grow when he looked downfield. B-Rap was streaking deep. Tang widened his stance and, with nothing but a casual flick of the wrist sent the disc soaring 20, 30, 40 yards into the end zone. B-Rap and his defender both jumped with their arms reaching high. The defender’s body was in front of B-Rap’s, but he was still able to wind his ape-like arm around the other man’s. B-Rap tore the disc out of the air, scoring one of our four points that game.

When Your Spirit Crumbles

That brought us to the last game on Saturday. At most tournaments, this was the last game of pool play. After this game your future is set. You are assigned, or condemned, to your Sunday bracket. Either you’ll be playing for the championship, or your stuck playing for 17th, or worse – 33rd. When you mix this competitiveness with exhaustion and hunger, the negative side effects of Ultimate start to show.

Billy, who plays in glasses and a highlighter yellow hat, occasionally falls victim to these competitive rages. Off of the field he is very calm, but he once put another guy in a headlock in the middle of the game for tapping him in the crotch with the disc. It took three people to pry his thin, freckled forearms off the opponent’s neck.

Billy had another lapse in Spirit of the Game during the fourth game at No Wisconsequences. The other player made a simple call: they both went up in the air for the disc in the endzone, and the player from Grinnell University called Billy out of bounds. Billy’s jaw went slack in awe of what he thought was a poor call.

“No way,” Billy said slowly, almost laughing in disbelief. We all stopped moving on the field. Our team could sense what was coming.

“You’re first foot landed out of the end zone,” whined the defender as he pointed feverishly at the ground.

“I understand,” said Billy calmly. But you could almost see the steam building up underneath his neon yellow stocking cap. “However,” he drew out each syllable, “you pushed me while I was in the air. If contact forces a player in the air out of bounds, the disc is considered caught at the point of contact.”

“No, I had best perspective. It’s out – turnover. Disc coming in!” the defender yelled. That was rude. It’s common courtesy to agree on where the disc should come into play before calling it in yourself. What Billy said was still uncalled for:

“Go fuck yourself,” he screamed as he walked off the field.

“What’s his problem?” the defender muttered. Billy whipped around.

“Come on man, come at me,” Billy said, motioning for the defender to come fight him. Tang was already running onto the field. He put an arm around Billy and dragged him off of the field. After a few points he cooled down, the side effects subsided, and he apologized after the game.

We finished the day with three wins and only one loss. This qualified us for the championship bracket – the highest tier of play. We were happy, but unconcerned. Food and hot showers were the only things on our mind as we schlepped our gear across the fields and back to the vans.

Peer Pressure

Within minutes of stepping through the door to our hotel room, we turned it into what I can only compare to a crack den. Bags on bags were shoved into the corners; Blankets were torn off of beds to make nests on the ground; Feet and legs intertwined as we piled onto beds. The air was so thick with the stench of wet grass and armpit sweat that I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call to complain. This chaos is only natural when you shove seven college age men into a dirt-cheap motel room.

The team founders were smart. They organized a simple system to facilitate quick decisions and minimize conflict. It’s called the point system. A player receives a point for each year they’ve played on Darkwing and for each year they’ve been in college. Additional points are given to the captains, president, vice president, and treasurer. This hierarchy allows older players to “points” younger players out of bed spots, car spots, or showers. Sometimes, players even use the point system to cut in line at fast food restaurants or other trivial things. After showering, napping, and arguing over where to go to eat, we roll out as a team for family dinner. In the team’s eight-year history there has never been a tournament at which all 28 players didn’t eat together on Saturday night.

Some would say that the most addictive property of Ultimate isn’t the sport itself, but the reliance you develop on those around you: your teammates. As a rookie, I asked “Quest” if people on the team always hung out like this. He gave me a smirk while his dark and tangled hair bobbed on his head and said, “The guys on the team basically become your surrogate family. They are your brothers. You hang out together, you party together, we work out together, and it becomes your support system.”

I slowly became a member of the family, and now I couldn’t quit if I tried. I couldn’t turn my back on HBO Sundays at the Burrow (a dank garden level apartment that houses 5 teammates). I don’t know what I would do without poker nights in the sophomore dorms. It’s impossible to summarize what it feels like to have 27 brothers to guide you through every up and down of college, but the hilarity and tradition that are engrained in Ulti-giving might portray the right emotions. Ulti-giving is an annual event where the men’s and women’s teams dress up to share a pre-Thanksgiving meal in Loyola’s dining hall. Formal wear, however gaudy or outdated, is mandatory. Juniors and seniors spend the days before the event discussing, selecting, and bargaining over with freshmen will be their “date” and will pay for their meal using their Loyola flex dollars. When we finally sit down, we look like a typical, dysfunctional family. Piles of gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and turkey practically spill off of the table while the girls and guys cram shoulder to shoulder. Teammates all fill the familiar roles; there are the bickering brother and sister, the chastising mothers, and uncles and aunts that make wildly inappropriate comments much too loudly. It’s a slice of home really, if you ignore the ambience of fluorescent lighting, the crummy salad bar, and students’ heads swiveling in confusion.

The Elite

It was slightly warmer and less windy at the fields the next morning, and there were just enough clouds to keep the sun out of your eyes while you were looking up for the disc.

We were milling around in a circle, tossing the disc around, and tying our cleats when Tang gave us the daunting news: we were playing the University of Wisconsin-Madison – The Hodags.

“What are the gold stars on their sleeves for?” asked Jake, a rookie.

“Those are for their three national championships,” explained Broadway. “I’m going to see if I can organize a jersey trade.”

Jake’s eyes opened wide in awe, or maybe it was horror.

While the Hodags may be the elite in the realm of college Ultimate, there is a tier of Ultimate, worshiped by the Ultimate community, that Joel Silver and the Vasrity Squad probably never dreamed of. The game is faster, stronger, smarter, more skilled, and more competitive; this is the club level. These teams are made up of college graduates and the top college players. There are three divisions: men’s, women’s, and mixed. The season starts in May, about the same time as the college series is wrapping up, and ends in mid-fall. Exhibition tournaments are held throughout the summer, and draw teams of national caliber, as well as teams looking to get drunk and have fun. Late fall is when the club series – basically the playoffs – begins. First, teams have to compete in a sectional tournament, usually drawing teams from one or two states. These tournaments are pretty open, provided teams played enough sanctioned tournaments in the summer. The top teams from every section advance to the regional tournament. It takes dedication, skill, and athleticism to make it this far, but there are always a handful of teams that exhibit a whole other level of Ultimate. These are the teams that will advance to the Club Championships in Sarasota, Florida. Sixteen teams in each division, with names like Furious George, Revolver, Chad Larson Experience, Slow White, Drag’n Thrust, Chain Lightnig, and Sockeye compete in what can only be considered the closest thing to professional Ultimate (“2011 USA”). A handful of Hodags play for these teams in their off season.

I took the field with Han’s words echoing in my head: “They’re just dudes in shirts.”

But the game play that these “dudes” exhibited was immaculate. Each player was built like an athlete, but they didn’t even have to show off their athletic abilities; they would find open space, make their move, and the disc was already there. It was as if could telepathically tell the thrower, “I want it right there.”

The disc would zig and zag across the field and into the end zone before I could swivel my head to see where it was. They put discs in places I didn’t even know existed on the field. The Hodags trounced us 13-2 in less than 45 minutes. In games like this though, you celebrate those two points. They represent everything we did right. After all, if we could just replicate what we did during those points 13 times in every game, we could be national champions.

The Crash

We played three more games that day. Games six and seven were truly uneventful. I could use a lot of the go-to sports phrases you hear every morning on ESPN’s SportCenter, but I’ll save you the time. We won them both. I guess that’s important. The very last game will always stay with you though. Sometimes the last game defines the entire tournament. Win, and you’re team is where it needs to be. Lose, and be ready to get an earful from the captains about how unfocused, out of shape, and unpracticed you all are.

During the final game against University of Iowa, the aftermath of the entire weekend began to creep up on me. I could feel the debilitating hangover crawl up over the back of my head as my body just quit producing adrenaline. My stomach contracted violently, reminding me I hadn’t eaten food in eight hours. As I ran down the field, I willed my legs to sprint. They told me no, we’ll give you a light jog at best. Nonetheless, I was determined to stretch out this high for as long as I could. It would be a few weeks before our next tournament.

I was on defense. My man turned up field, and I turned with him. Once he saw I was committed he darted back towards the handlers. Shit. He caught me off guard. I wouldn’t let him get the disc though. What came next happened all in about two and a half seconds. I could see the handler with the disc make eye contact with my man. I knew he was going to throw it. I measured the distance between me and the other guy. Just under ten feet maybe. I could never get there. The disc went up. I cleared my mind of every thought except one: “You will get the disc.” I coiled every muscle in my body before throwing myself towards the disc. I had to be three feet in the air, completely horizontal. It didn’t even occur to me that hitting the ground knock the wind out of me, or worse, break me. My hand was out to where I thought the disc would be. Then I felt it – the sting of the fast-moving plastic on my middle finger. I collapsed to the ground, chest first, and looked up. The disc fluttered away. I could hear my team going nuts, yelling from the sideline, but they sounded like they were a mile away. The adrenaline was back – the ultimate high. I didn’t even notice the scrapes on my knees or hips, or the pain in my chest. I was up on my feet, ready to finish the game.

It was a win. A close win, but a win. Having only lost two games, Darkwing placed tenth overall – the best outcome ever for us at No Wisconsequences. I would celebrate later. The only thing on my mind was getting out of my compression shorts and whether or not I wanted a chicken sandwich to compliment my triple cheeseburger. I had to use my arms to pull myself into the minivan – my legs didn’t have the strength left to hoist me. I pointsed a rookie out of the bucket seat. Within minutes of sitting down, my chin slumped to my chest, and I passed out.

 

Relapse

I’d be lying to say I’m recovering. I just received a text from Brian asking me to meet him on the field to throw. Just a little. Only a half hour, he promises. I think about the five page sociology paper due tomorrow; how I told my roommate I would finish the dishes this afternoon; how I’m suppose to meet my girlfriend in 45 minutes for dinner. Fuck it. I have half an hour. I yank the garbage bag out from under my bed and tear open the plastic, and pour its contents over my bed sheets. The dank odor of stale sweat and wet grass tingles my nose. There is no sweeter smell.

My name is Griffin, and I’m an Ultimate Frisbee addict.

Glossary

bid – to dive for a disc, either to catch it or to force a turnover

best perspective – when a touchdown is disputed because both teams are unsure whether or not a player caught the disc in bounds the player on the field with the clearest line of sight to the play makes the final decision

D – to knock down a disc, forcing a turnover

huck – a long throw; equivalent to the “Hail Mary” in football.

layout – to jump horizontally

mark(er) – the player playing defense on the offender with the disc; responsible for counting down from ten (the time a player may hold the disc)

pull – how to start a point; teams line up at opposite end zones and one team throws to the other

sky – the act of jumping higher than your opponent to catch the disc

Spirit of the Game – the sportsmanship with which competitive Ultimate is meant to be played; the integrity to make fair calls and to stay calm during intense competition

swag ­– see “ulti-swag”

ulti-swag – Ultimate specific gear (or other athletic gear used for Ultimate) sold at tournaments, stores, or online; includes jerseys, shorts, hats, sweatbands, cleats, warm-gear, and discs

Works Cited

Tsui, Bonnie. “Ultimate Frisbee Takes Off.” The New York Times. 29 Apr. 2009. Web. 21 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/fashion/

30fitness.html>.

Zagoria, Adam. “History of Ultimate.” Ultimate Handbook. USA Ultimate. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ultimatehandbook.com/Webpages/History/

histulti.html>.

“2011 USA Club Ultimate Open Championships.” USA Ultimate. Web. 12 Dec. 2011

<http://scores.usaultimate.org/scores/#open/tournament/9508&gt;





We Talkin’ Practice?

27 10 2011

Hey Darkwing,

After our eighth game last Sunday, the D-Line sat around and talked about things we wanted to improve on as individuals and as a team. What are things you all would like to improve on? Mention things for yourself, or for us as a whole. Let us know specific drill you think we could run at practice or small groups that you think would help us out.

- The Management





No Wisconsequences (2011)

27 10 2011

A few weeks ago, Darkwing braved the bitter winds of Milwaukee Wisconsin for one of our annual favorites: No Wisconsequences. Thanks to a first round by, we able to leave Chicago bright and early Saturday morning and arrive at the windswept fields in time for our first game.

As the name would suggest, we put everything on the line this weekend. We threw crushing cups and made big bids. Unfortunately our hard play did have some consequences; Snooki left the first game (versus Wisconsin-Milwaukee B) early to find out he had pinched a nerve when fractured his elbow. Captain Danny Glover also had to come off early due to his continuing knee injury, but not before helping force the teams 2 – COUNT IT TWO – Callahans against Blackat, which were caught by Billy Schmitt and Griffin Muckley. The game was won pretty handily thanks to 30mph crosswinds, but not without a loss of focus going into the second half. We needlessly gave up a few points that half, however, Loyola was able to come out of the game on top 11-4.

After another by, Darkwing came out rejuvenated to play a short-handed Wisconsin-Stout team. Not much was known about the team, but our tough D was enough to intimidate the Yetis, and they were unable to contain our throws and cuts. Final result: 13-3 Darkwing.

Afterwards, Darkwing took the field feeling invincible, even facing a gigantic line from Winona State. The genes of Norse warriors were apparent in these monstrous Minnesotans when they put on a cup that Darkwing had difficulty breaking. After a short run early in the game that kept the scores close, Winona devised a plan to keep our handlers from crashing. A fourth man assisted their cup by poaching closely on the force side, practically taking that force side handler out of the point. Despite our tenacious defense, our attempts to break the cup became fruitless near the end of that game, and we lost 4-13.

After the frustrating loss, frustration and vengeance pushed Loyola to a fiery victory over Grinnell. Smooth throws and great in cuts from rookies allowed Darkwing to move the disc in the wind. As the game continued, however, it became more physical, resulting in some verbal altercations on the field concerning foul calls. Strong marks ultimately shut down Grinnell’s throws and forced a number of turnovers. Matt Gesner continued his trend of hand blocks, which were crucial to each of our victories both Saturday and Sunday. In the end, Darkwing was able to run away with a 12-4 victory to end the day.

After a swag filled night thanks to the dudes from Patagonia, Darkwing arrived at the fields over an hour early to start warming up against section-rivals Illinois State Gnomes. Loyola’s determination helped the team in the close fight with ISU. A number of layout catches and D’s were essential in giving Loyola the opportunities we needed to stay just ahead of our opponents. As we say, Ultimate is a game of runs, and Loyola was able to put together one final run to come from behind just before hard cap and win 11-9.

The next game proved to be a learning experience. Taking on one of the Wisconsin Hodags split squad teams was intimidating and exciting. Playing a national-caliber team in a championship bracket is a daunting task for any team, but Darkwing took on our traditional mindset: “They’re just dudes in shirts.” (Even if those shirts did have three gold stars on the sleeve). The Hodags’ athleticism and skill was not the deciding factor in their 13-2 victory, however. Darkwing, for whatever reason, showed sloppy cutting and put on marks that were prone to being broken. Even after coaches, captains, and vets pointed out the poor ho-stack structure, players were unable to put it together.

Loyola was still pumped to play in the 9th place bracket. We met two very solid solid teams, both of whom had great spirit going into the last few games on Sunday. Iowa State proved they could put up some deep throws with their experienced handlers, but tight downfield D eventually forced a number of punts. We were able to capitalize and make it on to the 9th place game, where we would meet Iowa Hawkeye Ultimate Club (IHUC), who was just coming off of their Nationals appearance last spring. We agreed on a shortened game to 11 and we were both going to play with loose rotations. Darkwing kept to the agreement and played three, even four rookies every point. Our rookies, despite fatigue, pain, and exhaustion, played OUT OF THEIR MINDS! I can’t help but get excited for the future of these rookies, who were pulling down hucks and making continuation throws to each other in only their second tournament ever! It was thanks to their effort that Darkwing came out victorious, finishing 9th in a tournament of 48! In case you didn’t do the math, that’s power pool status. Get excited.

COMING SOON: Darkwing’s first ever highlight reel, as well as O-Line and D-Line recaps of Glory Days. Also, check out the discussion page for a new topic!





Glory: Best Earned Through Awesomeness

19 10 2011

GoPro Ultimate Video

Get Up!

This is Just Crazy

Them Boys at Stanford Have More Than Smarts








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