Thursday, January 21, 2016

Leiout 2016: Roll the Credits

It has been more than 3 years since I have posted here and twice that since I last played any sort of ultimate. Despite my obvious dormancy, I was tempted by an invitation to Leiout this year and, perhaps against my better judgment, I accepted.

Executive Summary
I tend to ramble (on paper and in real-life) so I will leave my top-level thoughts here. For those interested in some depth to the reading experience, this captures the right tone.

Ultimate is a magical sport that has given me a great deal (personally and professionally). I picked up a disc in 2002 because I needed to make friends and the UCSD Air Squids accepted me as the freak I am. Now, almost 15 years later, I have experienced more with ultimate than I ever thought possible and the core draw for me remains the same....the people. With that in mind, Leiout was a bittersweet experience filled with excitement and euphoria, but also a lingering sorrow that some call a "friend hangover."

From beginning to end, the tournament was an ecstasy ride of social interaction. Old faces, new friends, everyone 100% engaged and in the moment. Winning, losing...these terms weren't relevant. The only 2 things that really mattered were the companion(s) at your side and the time you had to spend with them. As the years have passed, I have come to appreciate that time is the most precious asset we have. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day and there is no buying more.

Much like sand slipping through an hour glass, one minute I am catching up with an old college friend in a McDonalds at 2 am, the next I am boarding my flight home at LAX, crippled with the knowledge that I may never see these beautiful souls again. See, ultimate once occupied a wondrous place in my life, it was the beating heart of my passion and confidence, but not anymore. Long gone are the days where I belonged in cleats and the world of ultimate media has vastly evolved since my blogging days. But worry not, my life has become amazingly fulfilled with new challenges, journeys and, most of all, faces. I am as happy as I have ever been (perhaps even more so), but Leiout was a haunting reminder of the happiness that once was and the faces I no longer see.

If anything is taken from this post, let it be that I love all of you. The dear friends, the new acquaintances. We are all part of the same beautiful mosaic called life and there is room for everyone. I will never forget any of you and I hope our paths cross again, perhaps in a galaxy without 175 grams of plastic as its center.

Rather than recant the entire experience front to back, I thought I would tell my story through my social experiences, each of which I will hold dear for as long as my insane memory lasts.

Bjorn's Posse
Bjorn - A sincere and heartfelt thank you for giving me a spot on your team. We haven't had a substantive interaction in 6 years and 9 months, yet you (like the rest of your Texas brethren) accepted me with open arms and I cannot thank you enough. From our first interaction on the Friday night booze run to my departure in 205, your good and conscientious nature never ceased to amaze me. You are a treasure in the ultimate community.

Ted - For many years, I was the sideline clown, the focal point of all attention and spirit. It is a fun, but ultimately exhausting role and you crushed it this year. We as a team cannot thank you enough for your endless and hilarious energy, even in the face of 16-hour jetlag and Dengue. Playing in the Elite division was a big ask, but from the first pull you brought constant positive energy and yours will be the presence that will endure in our minds for years to come.

Drew - Definitely my man crush for the weekend. I enjoyed every interaction I had with you, even the ones with you badgering me with USAU talking points that I had no real position on. I can remember sitting down with you at Barney's Saturday night in a moment of complete calm. I have always been a bit intimidated by exceptional players (perhaps overcompensating with social charm), but you never made me feel like anything less than an equal. You listened to all of my mind expanding drivel, always with a smile and a thoughtful response. The only thing I neglected to say during one of our last talks about passion and intensity is that one should never be sorry for who they are. We can always work on controlling and polishing our character, but "this above all: to thine own self be true."

Christina and Drew - I loved your flare this weekend. Both of you brought such great schwag and smiles. You also had great attitudes that allowed me to strut my peacock feathers. On Saturday night I busted out my typical high octane social download of my entire life story and you both were such great listeners (an absolute 'must have' for any entertainer). We didn't get a proper goodbye, but I am so glad that our last interaction after the finals was the two of you walking to the beach a ways off from me on a much needed biobreak, lying facedown over a dugout hole in the sand. I was focused on the business at hand and thus didn't have a free hand to wave goodbye with, but I did manage a foot wave and your response was a hearty laugh that no goodbye could have bested.

Jimi - My personality is poisoned with an incessant need for people to like me and you were my white whale this weekend. Not to say that you were hostile or cold, you just had your own vibe that didn't necessarily jive with mine. Interestingly enough, once I started to get a sense of who you are off the field, I knew exactly why I had to work for your attention....we're exactly the same. Confident, intelligent, strong-willed individuals who remember everything (except names for some reason). In any event, I have on many occasions faced off against a kindred spirit without knowing it and I am glad I saw the light this time. Thank you for sharing your attention and American Spirit.

Kate - I don't recall us sharing too many on the field moments, but like many of my bonding moments, ours was over an existential conversation at Barney's. We were both wrapped in a warm blanket of influences and I can remember thinking, "You look the way I feel."

Walch - The humble superstar. It is a rare privilege to talk shop with someone who is an active elite open ultimate player and yours was a perspective I had never heard. Our sojourn at the E.R.I.C. House was excellent solely because you let me pepper you with questions and I even let you talk once or twice. What's more is that I think you may have enjoyed the interaction as much as I and there is nothing more flattering for a fanboy than to feel welcome at the Big Boy Table. Thank you for being such a stand-up guy, it comes as no surprise given your Texas (State) roots.

Edith - If there was a spectrum that captured impact/word count, you would be at one extreme and I would be at the other. You tended not to drop endless dialog like some of us, but when you did speak up, it was always pleasant and insightful. This came in handy when I felt compelled to drop 1000 words on you and Walch in the 3rd floor hallway at the Wyndham around 3 am. Thank you for your willingness to listen, to share and for sleeping on the floor. Oh, and you're a great player, that's probably important, right?

Kwai - You were just fun. Through the games we lost, the game we won and the games we watched, you had a smile that never faded. I think my favorite moment with you was when we both vented about how rough Saturday started out, but also how great it ended. You also made me feel better for not being an active player, although I think your play was a bit better than mine this weekend, even if it was for another team ;)

Noah and Kim - Like me, you didn't seem to want to take too many chances on the field, although Noah seemed to rake in style points every time he got on the field. Regardless, you had great attitudes under all circumstances and ensured that our positive emotions and livers were fed at all times.

Smalls and Keith - You two were probably the most steady pair on the weekend. If we had any chance in any game, it was because both of you played above the team mean. I don't envy the lactic acid in your muscles following the tournament, but the entire team appreciates and thanks you for the constant effort you both exhibited against unrelenting competition.

Dan - Thank you for being older than me, but no thank you for showing that old guys should still be able to ball. As if that weren't enough, you get to live in my utopia of San Diego. All kidding aside, you were a lot of fun this weekend and I got a kick out of watching another pair of family members ask people, "Who on this team do you think I am related too?" I'd be curious to know what pair is more surprising, you and Noah or me and Alex.

Debbie - Like Kwai, you were just fun all weekend. A big smile and willing sense of humor is critical when you're down 7-1 at half. My wife gets a kick out making fun of my bromance moments and you giving Ben/Choppa and I grief for having a Squid-B gush fest was well received. I also loved your stories about Drew's mom. I can say that both made me laugh and shutter in equal proportions. Oh by the way, don't tell him and the other Yale guys how miserably my playing abilities have atrophied.

Bubbs - You had a tough draw with a cold to start the tournament, but you managed to make it through the weekend with a few highlights. I think my lasting memory of you will be those first few hours at the hotel and Taco Libre. I was feeling some serious buyer's remorse early in the weekend given that I was about 10 years older than everyone else, knew absolutely no one and had very little to contribute in the way of contemporary ultimate activity. Nevertheless, you took me under your wing, got me into a fun uber to Busby's and entertained me with your and your friends dating competition.

Shy - I am not sure where to put you. It is not often that I play with and against someone during the same tournament. In all seriousness, you picking up with us on Saturday for 2 games gave us a much needed jolt of talent and a spirit break for Ted. Fortunately, I think you played better for us than for DTB. Playing ability aside, your radio-esk voice and commentary during our games and the finals (alongside Ted) were witty and hysterical. I speak for all of us within megaphone listening distance, thank you for providing much needed humor during some seriously one-sided contests.

Random Interactions
The Yale Crowd - Such a pleasant surprise to run into you all at Barney's. Setting the high score on Hoop Fever (or whatever it was called) with Drew was a real highlight of the weekend, especially considering that I got props from a total stranger in the bathroom afterwards. I also loved the 5-year post college conversation. Playing at Yale was one of the best/worst periods of my ultimate/personal life. I never really fit in with the Ivy undergrads and now that we are all several years removed from the experience, the maturity gap between us (my lack of and your excess of) is a bit narrower and we can speak as equals.

Prof - So proud of what you have accomplished since we first met. I may have pulled a few zingers by you (*cough* seal the deal *cough*), but it was you who gave me the confidence to walk right up to a stone cold stunner 12 years ago and then date her for a year. Keep kicking ass in everything you overachiever. Best of luck with Barcelona.

Old Squid/Psycho Sightings - All of these were great. A few words with Pumba at Busby's, a nice chat with Nos, Flakes and Forge at the fields, a brief encounter with Dollar and Amy outside the Pub. Being on the other side of the universe from San Diego, I have been off the Air Squid radar for over a decade, but it is nice to know that I haven't been forgotten completely. I treasured my time in La Jolla, it set the tone for my adult life (ultimate, personally, and professionally) and while I didn't actually play with any of you (formally), you all seem to hold me in some regard and that means a great deal to me.

Ben/Choppa - I think my bonding sessions with you were the most rewarding of the weekend because it is not everyday that I get to meet someone new with whom I have a shared history. Knowing that Squid Lite is alive and well is very comforting as is the knowledge that some of the traditions we enjoyed and created back in the day are still in place. We are a twisted bunch, but it is our weirdness that makes the whole experience worthwhile.

Steffi and Mia - I really enjoyed our brief interaction at the Pub. You two were there for my landing in New Haven and as my wife would say, "I was pretty rough around the edges." Now that we have known each other for over a decade, I hope you have come to appreciate a few different/evolved sides of my personality. I thank you for your patience with my younger/wilder self and also for your support of my #husbandorwife efforts. I am not sure what my overall goal is, but it is nice to know people find it moderately entertaining.

Pug - It is too bad we only see eachother ever 5-7 years (if ever). I suppose it is mostly my fault for not playing anymore, but just like back at The Pit, I treasure any opportunity to hangout with you. I think we always saw something of ourselves in each other and while I may not see you for years at a time, I will always consider you a good friend and hold you in the highest regard ;)

Misha - I apologize once again. You should have thrown your McDonald's cup at me. Good on you for sniffing out my bewilderment, it is not surprising given you have twice as many doctorates as I. Nevertheless, you have always been so kind and respectful to me and I will always appreciate it. Best of luck in the future (ultimate and otherwise).

Jeremy - It was so nice to finally meet you in person. You have such a strong and good way about you and the Ultimate community is lucky to have such a figure. Best of luck with Rising Star Ultimate.

Liam - I started this blog in 2007 because there wasn't a lot in the way of Ultimate Media. Now almost 10 years later, the ultimate community looks a whole lot different and people like Liam are the reason why. It was a blast to meet and hang out with the new Editor-in-Chief of Skyd Magazine, mostly because we are two passionate people that tend to boil over on a regular basis. Elliot left his baby in good hands and I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Other Random Connections - My Leiout experience was rounded out with a handful of other moments with friends from different circles including Skip, Wheels, Chicken, Trudy, Kief, Runner and likely a few others. It is always nice to see the look on someone's face after they haven't seen you for such a long time. It almost makes the 5-10 year gap worth it.

My Blood
Alex - Last but not least, I must thank my dear cousin. You keep me young and I am so proud of what you have accomplished, both on and off the field. It kills me that we see each other so rarely these days, but at least we are family and will always be in each other's lives. I love you and I thank you for making this happen.

Just my thoughts

Match Diesel, PhD

Monday, November 5, 2012

Heating up with Doublewide

I had the great pleasure of chatting with two of Dub's finest, Max Cook and Kurt Gibson. 


PS I also recorded a podcast with Dutchy that may have gone under the radar.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Heating up with Matt Rebholz

Nice little conversation with one of the game's finest and most successful leaders.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Heating up with Tommy Li

A nice conversation with a great kid.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Heating Up with John Korber

Sitting down with my friend and former teammate John Korber to talk CTC and the AUDL.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Heating Up with Nancy Sun

My last of three podcasts leading up to WUGC 2012.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heating Up with Bart Watson

An ultimate nerds wet dream.