Wednesday, April 25, 2012

10,000-word Essay on Ultimate

Gather 'round for a tale from a writer about playing Ultimate frisbee.

Ultimate Glory [Bill & Dave's Cocktail Hour]
By Dave Gessner

A friend of mine once said that our bodies are like credit cards; we get the bills later on. I am forty now and have been paying my bills lately in the form of varicose veins, arthritis and a torn rotator cuff from almost two decades of playing that silly sport; I've become like an old sailor who can feel weather coming in across the Bay in my bones. Not long ago, on a particularly achy day, I said to my wife: "If I were young again, I wouldn't play that stupid sport." She looked at me the way she does sometimes. "If you were young again," she said. "I'd give you a beer, toss you a Frisbee, and you’d chase after it like a border collie."
...
For many, myself included, all this action can prove addictive. The Ultimate world is full of people who, for reasons they can never quite explain, have given up the normal benefits of life to chase plastic, men and women brimming with the passion and impracticality of the cliched artist, a band of jock Van Goghs, painting on and on without the faintest hope of a sale....

Whatever the mysterious motivation, each year more innocents are drawn into Ultimate underworld, often leaving behind mystified parents wondering exactly where they went wrong. After graduating from some of the country's best schools, their minds are subtly warped, and, instead of putting their energies into sensible pursuits like law or medicine, they throw them into this ridiculous sport. It’s kind of like a new LSD in this way: Turn on and drop out. Suddenly Ivy league graduates are working at warehouses so that they can have time to pile in a van to drive down, stuffed in with ten rank-smelling teammates, to a tournament in Texas. Meanwhile they live in warrens filled with other players, and drink beer and talk incessantly of Ultimate. It's enough to make parents want to call in the de-programmers.

If possible Ultimate Frisbee might have been an even more perfect instrument of self-torture...

Part of the appeal of playing serious Ultimate was that life took on the simplicity of quest, a little like stepping inside of a good science fiction or fantasy novel. There were heroes and villains and wizards and trolls and even a few princesses to impress... My father was right when he said it wasn’t the "real world." Instead it was like a game of Dungeons and Dragons and you were in it–right inside it–complete with your weapon and your own special magic powers. A secret world where you were part of a secret tribe....

So what if no one knew what the hell Ultimate was? When NBA players say they "love this game," they also mean they love the money, the attention, and the perks. I loved Ultimate despite the fact it had nothing like that to offer. I loved the pure play of it, the great moments, the camaraderie, the stories we told after. And as silly as it sounds, it is true: Frisbee helped make me.

Read the whole essay...

1 comment:

Amber Bassett said...
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