Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ultimate History Book/30 years of Ultimate

This is the kind of post that the decision to "read more", or not, was made for. I received my copy of the Ultimate History book in the mail this morning. I have not had the chance to open it yet and do an "Al" (check to look for myself).

The book comes at a very interesting time for me as 2006 marks the 30th anniversary of when I started playing the sport. I have been reflecting upon this since July when I worked as the Ass. Director for NUTC. I was introduced to Ultimate in the summer of 1976 in the Merrill quad at Hampshire College. This turned out to be exactly where we were rooming during camp. Of course, the quad looks tiny and I wonder how we were actually able to play there in the evenings after dinner. I was 12 at the time, and my father was teaching Math for the summer session. I brought the sport home to Ithaca, NY and taught my friends how to play. We played all the time while I was in school, and our favorite place to play was Barton Hall at Cornell University.

My "career" (I have hard time giving it that much weight) has been quite out of the norm. While I have always been aware of this, I try not talk about the old days very much (despite this post). I think I try to look forward as much as possible. In any case, it came as a bit of a surprise this past Sept at the CHC, when, in the middle of a point during a random game on Saturday, Jorah turned to me and said " who did you play with in the early 90's?" I quickly gave him my stock answer. What follows is the expanded version.

After bringing the sport back to my friends in Ithaca, we continued play, as I said above, quite frequently throughout grades 7-12. As we got into High School, disc really became a big part of our lives. We were into Ultimate, but also Freestyle. We had the silicone spray and certain discs for doing tricks, etc. I must say that I had a pretty good airbounce, but no flick. In the spring of 1981, we formed the first Ithaca High School Ultimate team. This came about largely due to the encouragement of CVB, Mike Yonda, and others from the Cornell team. At some point, we had discovered their pick-up game, and they really took us under their wing. We competed in two tournaments as far as I can recall. The first, which I no recollection of (my step-brother reminded me), was the Cornell Frat tournament. We won that one...or so I understand. We then "qualified" for the New York State tournament, which was to be held at the teagle fields at Cornell. I believe we got crushed by all comers at that one, but we had a great time. My only actual recollection of this tournament is our own Keith Millman laying out waist high and then attempting a chicken-wing pass in the air, before he hit the ground. Having never seen anything like this, there was a bit of a pause before we could meekly say "Take your time".

I graduated from high school in 1982, and while I applied at schools like Brown, Virginia, Duke, and Amherst, I was rejected, without remorse, by each one. It came down to a decision between McGill and Umass/Amherst. I decided to consult the best guidance counselor I knew, and with little prompting, decided on UMASS as CVB said that they had a really good Ultimate team.

I was quite lost at UMASS. I tried out for the soccer team, but I had smoked too much pot in the morning, so I was cut by the afternoon. Luckily, ZooDisc had a place for me. During the first few practices, the team managed to get rid of my air bounce, but I still had no flick. We did a lot of "go to". Tim Riviera was the captain, and he split the team up into an A team and a B team. Mike Nevins, Greg Novack, a kid from Bronx Science, and I were all on the B team and VERY unhappy. I recall that the B team disintegrated quickly as many folks decided they couldn't handle the "rigors" of the sport. The team was really a band of crazy gypsies. Besides Tim, we had EK, Seegar, Barney, Mr Pete, John Nisley, Alex Socoloft, Ken Boardman, Jim Melody. Nevins and I traveled with Mr Pete to the first tournament. He picked us up in his red and black Mustang and flew down 91 in the fog. I also got to travel in Riviera's van. I recall doing bong hits all the way down 91 to Connecticut, then falling out of the van, and staggering to the keg. We won the tournament as usual. Heady and immortal times. The only times we lost were to the Rude Boys and Hostages. They did this thing called a ZONE DEFENSE. Never had heard of such a thing, let alone dump-swing, poppers, 2 on 1 power players, 3-handler set. We played the Hostages on a nice, gusty day at the Ultimate Affair, and our "O" consisted of Riviera standing by himself, surrounded by the cup. Usually he would have to jack it to Seegar, which sometimes worked.

We went to a tournament at Harvard. During one game, Duncan and I ran into each other in the end zone, and we were both knocked out. I went to the hospital in an ambulance. I remember lying on the gurney waiting to get x-rayed. The nurse said to me "What ever you do...don't fall asleep" and then walked away and left me by my groggy self. A big help, she was. Tim picked me up and brought me back to Amherst.

We played tournament at Purchase (I remember playing Dartmouth), Connecticut, Amherst, and Boston. Nevins and I got to play a lot for rookies. I couldn't throw, so I was pretty much a D player/deep threat. We would play the Rude Boys, they would play zone, so I would hang in the back against Mooney. We never said a word to one another. I was all business. As usual, Riviera would have to jack it deep. I would give it my best shot, but Mooney was tall....even back then.

There was no college season at this point (no force or picks either, and games were to time...or maybe 21), so we competed in Club Regionals at Amherst. Two bids to Nationals, no backdoor, double elim pansy crap. This was straight up force, mano v mano (except the club teams played zone), semis is the game to go Ultimate. I don't remember a thing about Saturday, except I wore a purple winter hat and that I went up for a D at one point, but was distracted by the unusal shadow blocking out the sun. It tuned out to be Seegar skying at some ungodly height. Sunday. My memory kicks in when we play Zekreation. This is basically the club version of Cornell. CVB has moved to Chicago or something. Yonda is the star along with Zeke. No Brenner or JC. Hard fought game. I knock Yonda out of the game when we collide while making bids for a high disc. I don't get a chance to chat with him and feel guilty forever. We win the game and play the Hostages in Semis. I looked back at an old UPA newsletter and we lost 21-16. I remember it getting quite dark, and there was a huge crowd. EK and Tim were actually able to do some good O work against their zone, so by the end of the game, it was mostly man to man. I was in during on point toward the end of the game, and we turned it pretty close to their goal line. I had laid out for the disc, and I got up to see one of their players pick up the disc and throw a short pass toward our sideline. I scrambled up and laid out, got the block and crashed into out sideline. Folks went crazy and it was quite exciting.

The following spring, Riviera calls me to ask about the team and the spring season. I think I had some motivation issues in 83-84. I was pretty much only interested in music and pot, so I made a "career" decision and decided to not play Ultimate and focus on music. Tim was pissed and leaned on me hard. We had a few very long conversations before I decided to move on. I ran into Nevins at Fools a few years ago. We were quite competitive with each other that first fall. We actually hitchhiked to Philadelphia together so I could pick up a car. At Fools, he said "Yeah, you got knocked out (at Harvard) of the game, and then I got really into it". This is not my recollection, but I think does go to show our very different paths. Mike, of course, won a championship with UMASS in 86 (my senior year), and then played for NYNY. I pretty much forgot about the sport and got very involved in music and audio production work.

I really didn't think about the sport again until the spring of 1993, when I was walking across the Boston College campus with my friend, Phil Mitchell. He said "You should come out to our Ultimate pick-up game in JP on Sundays". I mentioned that I had played before (I believe I saved him by not recounting all of the above). As I wasn't traveling for work or working on the weekends anymore, I was able to come out and start to play again. In the summer of 1994, I started to play pick-up at Weeks Field in Newton. Zaz was the hotshot, and I remember him shutting me down. He wasn't too friendly about it, either. I did get a lay out block on James Pitts early on, and Dave Meyers was around a lot. I think it was a bit humorous that I had to learn about the force and picks, even though I was the ripe old age of 30.

I think it easy to look upon 1983-93 as lost years. Could have. Would have. Should have. I think that even if Ultimate had been on the radar during this period, that I spent too much time traveling and working on the weekends to have gotten invloved at all. It took a conscious effort to adjust my lifestyle to one in which I had better control of my time, and I don't think it is a coincidence that Ultimate popped back into view. After I got back into Club Ultimate in 1998, my wife described my interest as a mid-life crises. This is probably accurate, but does not illuminate her actual incredible support for the time I have spent in Ultimate over the past 6 years.

So I am looking forward to reading the book. It seems like it will be a nice Holiday gift.

1 comment:

Alex de Frondeville said...

Um, since when did I become the poster boy for slams?