Notes from the B-Pool
by Jason Alexander

Reprinted from the UPA Magazine
March 1997
    What's important here isn't who played or who beat who, or even how good they were.  Its about how cool the sport can be when pick-ups from around the country can have so much fun.  I got hooked up with Chicago at New Years Fest through a friend of a friend and a little e-mail.  My participation gave us representatives from 6 cities.  When I found my contact on Saturday morning, he said "Great to have you.  Half the team is playing disc golf, the other half is making a beer run."  I said, "I'm gonna like this team."

    Fifteen minutes before our first game, a straggler from the Bay area came and asked us to vote on taking one more along for the ride.  His offer of two cases of beer and playing only every 5th point won our approval, and gave us a great moment to laugh and bond as we toasted his tactics.  He eventually played about half the points, and had some sweet hammers to boot.

    One good zone point and 50 passes later, and we began to gel as a team and as friends.  We suffered a second round loss, but nobody bitched and nobody complained, and we all realized that that in itself was worth the trip.  We got tighter and tighter as the day went on, and each game got easier and easier as we realized what trusting your team and your knowledge of the game was about.  This was capped by our last point on Saturday againt Flagstaff--a sweet homey O that never got nervous, and a perfectly timed cut from the back to snag a hooking forehand at the top of its arc for the goal.

    The sun went down too soon, and only hunger forced us to move from under the tree where we drank beer, passed a bowl, and enjoyed just how unique a sport Ultimate is.

    On Sunday we had 5th seed and came out against Huckaholics.  Since we had all partied a great deal the night before, we knew that any success depended on making it a quick game.  I think their heads were not quite in it, because they made some mistakes early and we went up 5-0, and then cruised to a 13-7 win.

    Our next game was Coho from Seattle, who had pulled out a huge win over San Mateo (who I still think had the best team in the B Div).  Chicago and Seattle were very evenly matched, with about the same level of skill and numbers.  It was a terrific game, with strong playing and spirit by both teams.  They went up, then we tied it at 3.  They took a 6-3 lead, we came back to take half 8-7, we went up 11-9, they came back to lead 14-12, and we pulled it out 15-14.  One of the best games I've ever been in--there was not a single player on either team who didn't whole-heartedly shake hands and view their opponents with respect after that one.

    By the time the finals rolled around, we never really got fired up.  I think we basically shot our wad in the Seattle game.  UCSD had som many numbers and so much energy that they had a mental edge.  I think they knew it, and to their credit they made us realize that they were not intimidated by our age, miles, or coolers on the sidelines.  We hung with them and were up 8-7, but they pulled away after half to win 17-12.  We pretty much ran out of energy, psyche, and made a few tactical blunders.  They had a funky wishbone O where they sit a swing on either side of the disc and wait for the dump.  We had our stoppers cover their handlers and also alternated a clam and a 3/3 front-back D.  This was not so good--since you can't really ever shut down a dump, we had our best man-to-man defenders covereing guys standing still, while our mids were forced to run with their mids.  We did  lot of straight-up D and force flick to take away the huck, but they still threw it and had the legs to run down a lot of junk.  At least six goals cam from hucks that our deeps just didn't have the speed to get.  Had it been earlier in the day, had we been in better shape, our D might have worked better, but they beat us and earned their win by taking advantage of our weaknesses and playing to their strengths--speed, stamina, and an O that kep the disc in the hands of the few guys who had good throws.

    No one on our team was upset by the loss.  We were so happy with our weekend on so many different levels--we had 13 guys from 6 different cities:  5 from 2 different Chicago teams, 3 from Cincinatti, 2 from Las Cruces, 1 from Tucson, 1 from SF, and 1 from KC.  We all had a great time getting to know each other and playing tough disc.  On the field we found we all spoke the same language, knew the same code, and subsumed our egos to the karma of a pick-up team that can exist for one weekend without the bullshit and politics that are present on every team in every sport.  We exchanged numbers, drove each other to hotels and airports, played golf, put guys up, got offers to visit for other tourneys, and generally basked in the euphoric feeling of what an amazing thing Ultimate is.

    Not bad for a bunch of guys who didn't know each other Saturday morning.