i’m pretty sure i think about Ultimate every day, though I no longer have anything to do with it. Just happens. i don’t try to think about it, just happens. Reminders of places and people and things and feelings and smells, friends who are busy with a game next Tuesday, Byron sends me some scores, a t-shirts, discs. Addiction.
i got into a discussion the other day with a friend who is a casual player in Spring League, and he asked if i would change my mind about playing. i will change my mind about playing when i change my mind about walking, or when microfracture becomes easy and affordable. all that is left is the addiciton.
He suggested I just go out and walk, and he is not the first. But that is not how i can play. Its not that I can’t go slow, I tried it, it sucked. I went 40%, and it was totally and completely no fun being out there and holding back cause once you start holding back why bother ever going hard? Are you out there to make a few great plays and get burned repeatedly on commonplace ones, and if so, what kind of shallow selfish prick are you? Are you out there to just have a casual run and break a sweat? and if so, you are not me, and did not play competitive ultimate for 15 years.
Go ho or go home.
The last league I played…after 2 years post surgery #2, then a few leagues, and then foolishly running 4 practices with Ironwood in ’06, and then taking another year off since 4 practices of real running made me ache so bad…our team was horrendous. Sam drafted me and i figured semis for sure but flukes and injuries and a 1-8 record and i never played for a team so bad in 20 years. and I was still running hard and throwing my body around every point, still helping total newbs who were just out to have a few beers cause their friends signed them up, still thinking i could change a game, and still feeling the high in those moments when i still could change a game. It is how I play, and it was wonderful, or so it seemed at the time. And so it seemed every time. There is nothing like the rush of body and mind working together to attack! attack on O, attack on D, attack the disc, go ho or go home. Its why i have one knee and suffer shoulder and collarbone achiness and my middle finger on my right hand just feels harder to bend from throwing thousands and thousands of forehands. The pain has finally gotten through to me what no adversity or frustration or grassburn could: stop.
What’s left is dealing with the addiction.
I wish I could find a way to find balance that did not involve pretending I never went to Albuquerque, or could read the reports from Nationals without my heart skipping a beat and a tingling in my cock to run. I can not play, i can not play, and i still can not move on.
The easiest and only solution that has not driven me crazy with desire to play is to stay completely away. My shoulders and hip and knee mostly feel great, which is quite nice. And I do not have the constant restlessness and stress of trying to be a hardcore player in a team sport. The most stress you get on a bike is about sucking, or a stupid hiker, or a car…moments otherwise sealed off in the joy of playing. Ultimate stress and politics did not always blend well with the aggression i brought to playing. Too much stress and aggression; the price for the rush.
All that argues the merits of staying away. i accept this as there being no alternative and not being in constant pain. But it does not address my fundamental dissasociation from myself. I have to not think about things when they come up, and they always come up, and they always trigger memories that only grow less passionate as i stay away from the game.
I must abandon my memories, in bad times kill them off and in good times hold them at bay. How can i look back on these influential once-in-a-lifetime moments and feel their power over me and my history but not be moved to resume the course upon which they were found? How can I abandon my own history? How can I not take pride in who I am today and not see the influence of team sports, the reliance on hard work, and the confidence great plays gave me? If I deny who I am, will i change who i am?
The last time i touched a disc was taking my collection of them down from the walls in the gear room in preparation for the painter. They’ve since been sitting in a hefty bag in the garage. I want to remember my history, i want to write down memories of things i will never do again, the stories behind the discs and the great plays that you never forget. I really want to throw. but i can only barely manage that in moderation. And i wonder if when i am finally able to write down these memories, their resonance will be gone.
a taste in moderation:
The Callahan in 2003: I was captain of Ironwood, we had a great chance to go to Nationals, and the pain and sweat and adversity of all season came down to the backdoor game against Never Nice Guys from San Diego. And everything you could want to have in the game-to-go for us was there: homefield advantage, they played the harder previous game, legs…and we were up 5-3. And then the wheels fell off and so many little things misfired and all that ever was weak about Phoenix Ultimate became exposed in the biggest game of the year against a superior, more-experienced team. And it was 12-5, and then our O finally scored. And I was the D captain, playing in front of hundreds of my local friends, and a great pull that hooked downfield exactly 90 yards in front of me. And a big sprint upfield that became faster as i saw where the pull was landing, and then the realization that they were setting up right in front of me, and then i turned on the jets, and layed out, and was 4 feet in the air and totally horizontal and catching the disc for the defensive score. We lost 15-10.
my first t-shirt in 1989: it was Spring Regionals my freshman year. The team was good, not good enough for Nationals but good enough to come close. I just began to taste what being good was about, I bought a UNCW Seamen t-shirt, an original Toad-Dye – shirts from Toad Leber who was a local fixture in the Wilmington, NC scene. It was the longest road trip I’d ever done, the biggest tourney I’d played in, the best night of post-travel drinking and camaraderie I’d had with the older players during my lonely freshman year. still have the shirt.
picking up with Houston at Centex in 1999: I got plugged in through a friend that I had met through a friend at a tournament in Tucson and impressed enough to get on the team. I had a very solid, very solid weekend with a Nationals team. I played better in the earlier games, but still came on strong in the harder games. I ended the tourney something lke +15, 3 turns all tourney, and 2 goals in the finals which we lost to another Nationals team 19-18 at hard cap. I remember proudly scoring those goals late in the game, in short spaces that were suited to my ability to get open, when the team needed an open cut and another weapon and i came through when the game came to me, and realizing how I could be an effective middle on a Nationals team. I was an Observer at Nationals in San Diego later that year, and some of the guys on that team asked me why I didn’t come out to play with them that fall…cause I didn’t think I could make the roster as an out-of-towner, cause I was mind-fucked by living in Tucson to give up on a chance at a real team, cause i…cause i was stupid and blew my best chance at an Open Nationals appearance. but I could have — i outplayed some of the guys they took to the Show with them that year. I could have. and that is what must count at the end of the day, after 10 years of playing in the desert of Arizona left me nothing to show for it but coulda-beens and never-weres. I could have.