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Monday, July 30, 2007

Wildwood and Ultimate Sub-culture

So this past weekend was wildwood. This tournament is just too much fun. I wish I could articulate how great of a time I had, but there just aren't the words. Ehhh, but i'll try anyway.

First off, this tourney is in the cesspool of all cesspools, Wildwood NJ. I would be afraid to even enter the city limits if I wasn't an ultimate player, I can't believe people vacation there. Imagine a sea of neon lights, carnival rides and billboards fused with a high school football hero turned over weight gas station attendant. There are 1,000+ ultimate players on 200+ teams. AWESOME!!! My team (Trash Gets Picked Up) was in a non-competitve bracket and we won. Next year we should probably go for competitive, but for a guy who was in a rut, it was nice to whop up on some teams and get some W's that I helped earn. I also had my cousin in from Cali, who blew away my team mates both on and off the field (I mean come on, its my blood). We won the party (I think) and basically dined on every fruit on the perverbial wildwood tree. Tons of stories and just a great time.

Now this weekend reminded me, as most ultimate tournaments do, of the fantastic sub-culture that is "Ultimate". Most folks see ultimate as a "hippy sport" which is fine, thats more or less true. However after 40 years of evolution, the sport has morphed into such a fantastic caleidoscope of personality and social interaction. Not unlike hockey players being straight filth or football players being dumb jocks, ultimate players have been distilled into such a spectacular stereotype and I am so glad to be a part of it.

So what do I mean? What stereotype? I believe that, on the whole, ultimate players are first and foremost, very friendly, very open to meeting new people, very encouraging of stranger-stranger interaction. On average if you pull aside two ultimate players from anywhere in the US or canada or mexico or wherever they will get along. They will laugh and drink together. Make reatrded jokes, fuck with eachother for shits and giggles, etc... I like to call this "spittle", or general commeradery. Unpredictable and light hearted socializing and I think most ultimate players understand this. I think this stems from the fact that ultimate is played primarily in tournaments where people are bascially on vacation with work and school completely off the radar. People get together playing a sport they love, there is usually some sort of party and everyone just enjoys eachother's company and its easy to get to know folks cuz you all already have a huge thing in common, ultimate.

Let me give you an example. I was playing flip cup with, I dunno, 12 strangers, (how awesome is that?) and I meet this guy who intriduces himself as the "fake jeff". Being a little confused I asked "who's the real jeff?". The "Real Jeff" was apparently a friend standing next to him with his namesake and rather than share the name, they had a 1 on 1, best 2 out of 3, battle to the death flip cup championship (wait, think about it.....that doesn't make sense). HA!! Excellent right? Come on thats funny, "best 2 out 3 battle to the death"? Anyway, apparently the "fake jeff" lost and got stuck with either "fake jeff" or what the real jeff had renamed him, "Nick". Regardless, funny business. Anyway, while we are waiting for more beer, the two duke it out again for the right to be called "real jeff" and "Nick/Fake Jeff" wins. Uh oh, tables turned ehh? And he and I celebrate his victory and he says to me "alright, now I am the real jeff", but I reply, "Dude, fuck that guy, you should be the Un-Real Jeff" and he replies "YEAH, thats works, i'll take it". Yeah so stupid drunk kids being retared but the "spittle", the banter, the interaction is pricless and you all have been there. After 50+ tourneys I have compiled a library of stories that are homologous and I just can't say with enough enthusiasm how much I love this interaction that ultimate has.

I also feel like as ultimate evolves, however, the UPA is slowly shying away from this kind of interaction. Now this isn't the UPA being a buzz kill, Ultimate is just getting so big and popular that having a raging party with more and more people every year at nationlals, for example, the liability increases and its more trouble than its worth. Some players are just so young or reckless and "the spittle" turns from stupid shenanigans and random hookups to over the top mischief like jumping off balcony's into pools and alcohol posioning. I feel like this is a tragedy however. I feel like partying and ultimate are one in the same. At least for me. Tournaments are fun to play in and from 9a-5p you play but from 5p-9a you party. This doesn't necessarily mean black out vomit fest, but getting retarded and getting into some trouble (peeing in public, pantsing some one, getting ridiculous on the dance floor etc..) is really important. Its what makes beeing an ultimate player so much fun. Its one of the things that binds this collection of young and old in a myriad of friendly competition and human contact. I also feel like as the sport matures, people begin to value their W/L record at the end of the tournament more than the tournament itself. Teams go to bed early so they can get up early and play well, TDs don't push to have good parties, and players are starting to avoid the hangover affect. Now this isn't wrong, its just boring.

So whats my point? I believe that the party aspect of ultimate is very real and very important. It is not something to be ignored or discouraged. Done responsbily, yes, controlled, yes, but done none the less. We used buy 40s for layout Ds, therby rewarding good play and encouraging a bit of boozing. Gotta love the stellar defender thats gotta choke down 3 40s in a night (probably would share the love). But in any event, we as frisbee players need this, we need to have fun with eachother because to fight it is to go against why we play disc. I am not saying we need to take games less serious, but just have fun on and OFF the field. It'll be more fun that way, at least for people like me and I think I am in the majority. I guess my criticism (cuz I always have to bitch at someone) comes with things like the UPA having a showcase game instead of a party at college natties this year. The showcase game was cool, but I think a party would have been more enjoyable. I mean folks have been watching good disc all day and watching the likes of Jason Simpson, Nick Handler, Miranda Roth, and Richter is nice, but I think most folks just wanted to get drunk (or at least socialize). There was a small party and it was great, but it was small. The party in 2005 (corvalis) and 2006 (columbus) were awesome, very Potlatch esk, and I loved it and I think most folks did as well. And having teams be all "Big League" and not showing up to party and hang out is lame to. I mean come on Richter doesn't show to recieve his callahan award in 2004 and Beau isn't there this year. I remember Chicken at the party in 2006 when he finished, I dunno 3rd(?), he is such a good guy, class act, but come on Mama Bird, "why ya gotta be like that?".

So what do I want? Well, I suppose first, it would be nice for people to understand hitting bongs (both beer and others) are fun and should not be discouraged. Partying and socializing at tournaments is fun and should be celebrated, not marginalized. Let people loosen up and hang out. After all thats how couples can meet and date/marry, thats how contacts for teams across the country develop, and basically its how friends are made. it's, in essence, everything that is great about disc once you take your cleats off. In moderation, and done responsibly. But the sub-culture is so awesome in ultimate and trying to weed it out is a travesty and I just hope that, what I call "modern frisbee players" don't ruin it. "Modern ultimate players" being people that start playing ultimate early, say high school, and treat it like a varsity sport with intense focus and concentration to training and competition as opposed to enjoying the experience as a whole. Thats another blog entry in and of itself, but as a teaser, just don't take my game away from me. I love this sport probably more than anything and I have devoted more time than I would care to admit researching, writing and talking about ultimate. Celebrate your roots, don't treat disc from the 60s-90s as a collection of hippies that didn't know better, but rather your roots. Their spirit is yours, their draw to the game is still very real exists in every true ultimate player today. Just love the game on and off the field and don't let competition ruin the sport.

Match Diesel

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey! i'm going to cali this weekend and won't be back until september...here is the website i was talking about where i made extra summer cash. Later! the website is here

Match said...

Match-

You are correct in your ramblings and Yes WildWood is amazing and the essense of Ultimate. However, its still a sport and people are still competitive. Also, if the sport is to grow it can't all its players playing hungover or tired at natties. Not that you are asking the likes of Mamabird and Hodawgs to get wasted before the finals. But if you have tournaments like WildWood mixed in with the likes of a Boston Invite or Cal States then you can still keep the beautiful sub culture of Ultimate alive. Every ultimate player should play their hardest at every tournament regardless of its importance. However, every ultimate player should party thier asses off at the tournaments that aren't as importance. Finding that balance is what will keep the Ultimate subculture alive and help the sport evolve.

Match said...

oops that was actually Me -Alex- Match's cousin on his comp.

bl said...

Match,

Something to keep in mind;

The subculture of drugs/alcohol/partying behavior might be fine for adults, but for the largest growing part of our sport (youth ultimate) it is totally unacceptable to link partying with Ultimate.

Honestly, I'm suprised that you would be ignorant enough to actually write on a public blog that you assist minors in drinking (assuming Yale freshman are in fact <21 years old). That is seriously dumb, and I suggest that you, at the VERY least, edit that post.

One thing that sucks about partying; people get stupid and get themselves or others hurt. Young people tend to be worse about this, since they have less experience. And the first time that someone dies or is crippled in a UPA tournament party related event...well, there goes the UPA. Multi-million dollar settlement and WFDF puts UPAs 2009 in Mumbai.

The subculture of ultimate is important to a lot of people (me included, definitely)...but it is not a vital part of the game.

ben wiggins

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Match, you should listen to Ben Wiggins, he's a smart guy.

Seriously, for the sake of the sport, the UPA can not serve alchohol to minors. At Club Nationals there is now a beer garden where of-age players can get free beer - striking a nice balance between promoting socializing and obeying state and national laws. At College Nationals there are so many players that are underage (>50%) that providing alchohol just does not make sense - most players didn't like the party in Columbus where those underage had restricted access and using tourney fees to pay for a benefit that less than half of the players can take advantage of is hard to justify.

As for Colorado not showing up at the party for the Callahan award, I've heard this complaint before and every time they missed the awards ceremony they were playing in the finals the next day. I can't say I'd do the same thing in their situation (although I don't remember going to the nationals party in 2000 or if Safdie went) but I certainly don't begrudge their decision - they've got their own priorities and for a lot of those guys it's their last night on a team together and I'm sure their hanging out and doing what they feel is valuable with their time - if you want to stick around Nationals until Sunday night, you could probably party with them.

Not to go on too long, but I am a former HS player myself and drinking wasn't a part of my Ultimate experience until a few years into it. While I'm sure you love the sport and have devoted a lot of time to it, there are others who have done the same and have a different experience and background. In my experience, despite not going to parties or when in high school (or going to parties and not drinking), players were universally friendly and welcoming. I think this has more to do with the player interaction and self-offiating on the field than what happens off of the field (although no doubt they are somewhat related).

The UPA is not going to "take your game away from you" - if anything, the organization is doing its best to make sure it stays yours. And in order to do that it does need to take some precautions like not serving underage athletes alcohol.

-Kyle

BTW, this is the type of issue that gets addressed by the UPA Board of Directors (i.e. the balance between the social aspect of Ultimate and risk management). If you are interested in running for the UPA Board of Directors you should contact Elizabeth Murray (elizabeth.murray@upa.org).

gapoole said...

Dude, I agree with Ben and Kyle. I also grew up playing high school Ultimate. Now that I'm in college, I party from time to time, but preformance at tournaments is usually a higher priority. I like to have fun on other weekends, get down with spring break, etc, but I care about how my team plays. A sectionals opponent complained that his team would have beaten us in the backdoor if they had not all smoked pot the day before. Well, that just demonstrates how important it was for that team to advance in the series.

But I do agree with you, this sport is practically my life. I love the experiences I've had, on the field and off, with Ultimate players. I make friends with teammates and opponents everywhere, and it's awesome to see that kind of inclusiveness alongside competitiveness. But I've experienced all of this without any of the partying that you say is necessary. Maybe I'm just lucky, but I would hope that as our sport expands, more kids have the same kind of journey I have, where they grow to love the sport, and then maybe get into the partying once they can handle it.

Match said...

This is a complicated issue and I suppose at certain levels I agree with wiggins and the like.

As far as underage drinking goes, I dunno, that is such a dicey and difficult issue to tackle. A lot of universities turn a blind eye and a lot do the exact opposite. I remember purple valley being a blast and I don't remember having to prove my age. I am also very honest and don't wanna be a hypocrit. In my time the best way to sell ultimate to people that don't have a background in it is to show them a good time and for most college kids, well, yeah, partying is usually involved.

I guess having fun tourneys like Wildwood, Potlatch, Kaimana, etc.. are good to keep things fun in disc and for the most part fall tourneys are more or less just for fun anyway. I suppose I can't help but advertise and endorse the experience that I had at UCSD. Probably the best 3 years of my life and I would be hard pressed to find a squid that didn't love every aspect of the game. I am also not really a fan of censorship. I know there is a responsibility angle involved and this blog is public, but it is also my opinion and I made this blog to say what I want and what I feel. I am not out to run for any sort of UPA office position, I just wanted a forum where I could say whatever I want.

And the whole college nationals party, yeah well, I agree that its more trouble than its worth. It'd be cool to at least have a sponsored bar or something, maybe a club. I supose the main reason for this entry is not to complain about a lack of "spittle" in ultimate today. Its more, the "spittle" in ultimate is awesome, and I think it should be kept in mind as the sport progresses. How one does this with hundreds of players at every age, well I have no idea. But keep the rucus, it makes the sport more fun.

match diesel

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Match, I think we can all agree that the social aspect of Ultimate is important. I used to love attending Purple Valley when I played with Brown because it was one of the best parties in the northeast.

The biggest difference on this issue between Purple Valley and a UPA event is who feels the impact if something goes wrong. If something tragic happens at Purple Valley and the Williams team gets sued we're talking about one program of maybe 100 guys and girls and a couple of tournaments that are affected. If something tragic happens to an underage player at a UPA event and the UPA gets sued and loses we are talking about serious impact to an organization that hosts almost all of the competetive structure of the sport in the US and serves over 25,000 members.

I think Ben's point about editing your post was less about censorship for the sake of the sport than helping you to remove your admission of committing a crime (which providing alchohol to minors is).

-Kyle

shubbard said...

Match,
I can certainly see things from both sides. Being a squid myself, I have had a amazing time mixing practice, partying, conditioning, cup-flipping, intensity and initiations. My particular experience was great but it was particular to me.


The UPA cannot and does not share this singular experience because it is made up of many people, looking out for many people, and covering its butt.

This seems to be a symptom of Ultimate becoming more "legit" but how could it happen another way? The sport WILL grow in size regardless of who is in charge so for legal safety the UPA will have to adopt the "legit" stance or face serious risk as already stated.

This risk doesn't mix well with large democratic entities.
It does however mix with small groups of college students. I say the teams will continue to further ultimate traditions even if the UPA is not directly promoting them.

Team sponsored party at National?

Peace,
Stephen Hubbard
aka Pumba aka smegma aka shubbard

PS- its bs to censor your blog. the internet police are not comming. Even if you were running for UPA office, which actually sounds like a good idea for you, publicly talking about aiding minors in alcoholism is no smudge on your campaign in the ulti world .

pps-even though we never played together, you left a year before me, i fondly remember you aiding me, then a minor, in the art of proper shotgunning technique while in a hotel room in Columbus.

ppps- any plans to return to SD for Infish? now that Nami, Dange and the like have graduated we could use more story tellers.

bl said...

Just to clarify:

No, Match, I do not think you should censor your blog. It's yours, do whatever you want with it. I don't think the ultimate community wants you censored either.

BUT...just pray that one of your Yale freshman never does anything stupid after drinking. If someone gets hurt, this blog could be used to hold you responsible. Lawyers tend not to be so forgiving when you admit you broke the law.

If you think I am full of it, then go ahead and roll the dice (it's what you are doing when you provide to minors anyway).

Safety first, ya'll.
blwiggins

Match said...

I don't think you are full of it, ben, I didn't realize what you meant and I did make some changes. I initally didn't think I could edit posts and I am glad that you pointed that out. I will be more careful in the future.

Handy said...

hey, i don't believe in censorship but

"its bs to censor your blog. the internet police are not comming. Even if you were running for UPA office, which actually sounds like a good idea for you, publicly talking about aiding minors in alcoholism is no smudge on your campaign in the ulti world"

i think that this ignores the fact that if someone searches "purple valley" on google they could find out that you mention, in honesty drinking there without being 21, and if that's the wrong person then Williams could catch some major shit. Censorship is wrong, but being responsible to people who have been good to you is important, there's a big difference, shubbard.

As for performance vs. partying, you should talk to your team who left the OmK party before midnight for "performance related reasons" and then played as they did on sunday. You were well missed both on and off the field, I assure you.

-Handy-

Anonymous said...

Hi.

I like to party. Partying is fun. Nationals not partying is understandable. Underage drinking is definately part of the game. Underage drinking is prevalent across pretty much all the campuses in America. I never knew ultimate to be the moral police on the issue. Those of you that think that we should be policing need to go out and get laid (at the party).

Now, I'm not saying go out and get wasted and not be able to play the next day. I'm saying go have a good time, meet the other teams and players, maybe dance a little, and have a greater respect for them when you play them on Sunday and in later tourneys. I'm not on a good team, but I know lots of really good teams that party, and some good and mediocre ones that don't, my fondest memories are always of the teams that come out and party.
It's even fine if someone doesn't drink, but at least come out and hang out. If you have conditioned properly, a few drinks isn't going to hurt you. If you don't believe me, remember Prefontaine.

Sorry for the long post, I have never posted on this message board, but in general once I have partied with a team, the SOTG and all out effort of the game seems to increase. Thanks.