December 2, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Livewire with 4 comments
After writing a creative takedown of an anonymous Ultiworld commenter on his Facebook last week, Beau Kittredge penned a more thoughtful piece about the state of ultimate over the weekend. Read it below.
[quote]I have been getting lots of questions, compliments, and concerns from friends and fellow ultimate players. So I am writing this to all ultimate players.
I love ultimate. And, chances are, if you’re still reading this you do too. I also love to call my close friends ugly and my girlfriend fat and they in turn do a superb job of repaying my compliments. But we can discuss that style of humor and love at a later date; for now, let’s stick to ultimate, flatball, flying disc, frisbee.
Perhaps it was lost in translation or maybe I just need to say it plainly. I love all the parts that make up our sport, that definitely includes MLU and even Not a Beau Fan. We are all just trying to shape the sport how we see fit. But let’s not forget that we are all part of the same great sport even though our visions may be slightly different.
“Big fish small pond.” No other idiom describes the state of star players so well. But not only have regular folk never heard of our big fish–they don’t even know we have a pond. If you’re like me and don’t fear change, then you should cheer on every valiant attempt to help our fish find a bigger pond and also get turtles, frogs, catfish and salamanders to come watch. In other words we need to try and attract more non ultimate playing fans. The NexGen League is a great example of this. With little in the way of money or resources, NexGen tried to lead us out from our small pond, and although they ended up flopping about on the shore, I genuinely respect their attempt and you should too. We don’t know which evolution of ultimate will be successful, but I do know that whichever variation does succeed it will likely be one I am proud of.
How can I be sure? Because we, the players, are a collection of inspirational people, teachers, firefighters, and plenty of smart engineers to spare. Even teams I love to hate on the field are full of nice folk. A great example of this is Sockeye: their on-field frat boy party is a carefully scripted boisterous culture designed to take you out of your game. It’s a team identity that causes many to despise them, and they use this outside hate like heat to solidify their own hard shell of love for each other. Even though many call this group identity obnoxious, if you can separate one of the fish from the school, you will find a decent, kind, well put-together chap who helps run outstanding programs like Ultimate Peace.
All I am saying is that we as an ultimate community should be more supportive of each other. Collectively, we represent a highly intelligent upward mobile demographic with tremendous potential. Imagine what we could do if we stopped bickering over which bread crumb looked the best and started baking bread together. To go back to Sockeye and Ben Wiggins, a person who on the field really rubs me the wrong way yet I am truly thankful for his commitment and contributions to the ultimate community. Ben is a great teacher and a major part of the RISEup program, an educational video series that I highly recommend to people when they ask me for frisbee related guidance.
The ultimate community is full of people like Ben: people who carry the banner of our sport all around the world with no or little pay, motivated by their own desire to bring the sport to new places and expand the reaches of its tentacles. I’ve been on plenty of these pilgrimages: Poland, Russia, Japan and even third-world places like Oakland. I’ve seen players who I thought were selfish be incredibly selfless with their time and energy. I’ve seen complete transformations happen in just days because of a single coach’s passion for the sport. Every year I try to do a few of these camps; although they are exhausting, I think they are the best thing I personally can do for our sport. This year I plan on coaching at the CUT camp even though I might have to miss an AUDL game, my GM supports this decision. All of us can be better ultimate frisbee ambassadors with our time, our money, our words, and our respect for one another. Hate is a waste of great energy that we could be using to escape our little pond.
I certainly do not hate the MLU, and I maintain strong personal ties to the Dogfish. My good friend Justin Safdie coaches the Dogfish and my friend Chris Sherwood is the GM. If you want to talk about a guy who has given everything for our sport, look no further than Sherwood aka Woody. Woody is an enigma: at first glance, he appears cantankerous, confused, and crotchety. He can barely get out of a car, let alone run, yet he is convinced he has amazing throws and talks trash like he is Michael Jordan. But if you look deeper you will find he is also kind, giving, compassionate, and that his positives far outweigh the negatives. Once there was an ultimate camp in Poland that wanted US players to come teach. When only Woody volunteered, I agreed to go with him. Trust me when I say I was terrified of being stuck in Poland with 200 campers and one Woody, but by the end of the camp I saw that Woody could carry his weight with his passion alone and that it was me who had to fight to keep up.
So then why am I playing in the AUDL? As many know I am a writer/artist and love the ability to create. I think the AUDL and the Spiders give me the best opportunity to do this. Last year it felt like the Dogfish were run by the league with Woody having little say and me having less. This year, when Andrew, the owner from the Spiders, approached me, he made it clear that the Spiders was his team to do with as he sees fit and that he would trust me to help him shape the team. Andrew showed me a plan for growing the sport at the grassroots level with plans to fill the seats no matter what it takes. I think grassroots is key for building a fan base of non ultimate players.
I also talked to the owner of the AUDL Rob Lloyd. For those who don’t know he is an executive at Cisco who bought the league last year in the height of a fiscal fallout. He seems to be a decent sort that is genuinely interested in getting the game out there to the world. I doubt he will read this so I will say in confidence that I like that he wields a hefty financial bat and wants to take a swing at getting ultimate frisbee out to the public. Getting people to believe ultimate is a sport worth investing time and money in is going to take help from people like him.
We should view the USAU, BULA, MLU, AUDL and any other ultimate organization like the walls of a house we are building that we don’t have the exact blueprint for. Yes club ultimate is a strong foundation, it’s important and solid and we all rely heavily upon it but we should still construct walls for our house. We shouldn’t and can’t all work on the same wall, I personally will help build each wall as best I can but I can only work on one at a time. Eventually I hope all the walls will come together to support a roof. Until then it is in our best interest to try to make every wall as strong as we can, to root for our friends who build other parts. It takes a lot of different talents, people, and professions to build a solid house but I am confident if we support each other we will all be able to live happily within ultimate at whatever level we wish.
When I think about pro ultimate I think about all the people in the world that we are paving the way for. I think about all my friends on Bravo and Doublewide, people who currently have no chance to shape pro ultimate but care deeply about it. The largest group who have little say in this venue is women. To help me make sense of this convoluted topic I turn to my women ultimate player correspondent Kaela Jorgenson from FURY the most dominant team in ultimate over the last decade.
“So Kaela could you give us your thoughts about the current state of pro ultimate?”
“As a competitive female ultimate player living with three of the best male ultimate players in the country it is hard to watch how flippant they can be about being involved in the professional leagues. It is painful to hear them say maybe it just isn’t worth their time to play when they already have a club team. Don’t get me wrong, I too love my club team. But I would feel privileged to play in a league trying to progress our sport on the professional level, let alone getting paid to do it. For now, this is how it is and I understand that but I would encourage the men who are thinking about playing to not take this opportunity for granted. Think about all the female ultimate players who do not have a professional league to play in.
“As one of them I can tell you that I would do almost anything to be in your position. If you want a sport to succeed you have to put the work in early, before the cameras and the paparazzi show up. You have to put in the work when only a few people are watching. You have to commit the time and take the risks so that if someone who has never seen ultimate before wanders into a stadium they will see in 30 seconds what this sport is all about. The owners and the general managers can only take it so far. They need help. They need players willing to do their part. People like Andrew Zill who have invested immense amounts of personal time and money because they believe in the sport of ultimate. All he needs is players to commit in return. Someone needs to be the first to lead the way, it won’t happen on its own. If you are a male competitive ultimate player and you care about the future of ultimate you should be the one to show your passion for the sport. Ultimate needs you.
“But if you still feel like you don’t want to play, no hard feelings; it just means one more roster spot available when I try out this spring.”
And there you have it and I agree with her. It doesn’t matter which league you play in — MLU or AUDL — they both are doing their best to further our sport and even if you don’t play you should support those of us who are putting so much energy into it. Let’s build this house together, winter is coming.[/quote]