A little over a month ago, I was trying to hang with a bunch of young guys as they competed for spots on the Raptors, a Seattle professional ultimate frisbee team. A little over a month ago, I walked off the field discouraged.
Not this past Sunday.
Sure, the guys that I threw the disc around with for two hours down at the Georgetown Brewing team’s practice may have been a little older than the guys at the professional tryout, but many of the same skills are still quite evident. The uncanny accuracy of the throws, the precise angles on the cuts toward the disc, the hustle to catch a well-placed throw in the end zone all were on display today, the first day of practice for Georgetown Brewing, the masters’ Seattle team.
Make no mistake about it: in terms of skill, these guys are as legit as that group that gathered to be pros. In fact, if this group played on twenty-something-year-old legs, there’s no doubt in the outcome. These guys who are over the age of 40 are classified as Grand Masters for a reason. They know the game. They’ve got “old man smarts.”
And especially this team from Seattle, Georgetown Brewing, which took second in the national championship last year. Many of these guys have been playing the game since the 1980s, when ultimate frisbee was in its infancy.
Now, they are getting a chance to shine on the national scene — same competitive spirit, just older bodies. But don’t tell that to these guys. The 24 who showed up this past Sunday are die-hards. Many of them play year-round in multiple leagues. Most of them don’t know how to slow down.
Exactly my kind of guys.
One of those guys, Colin Iossi, 51, from Tacoma, was playing ultimate for the fourth straight day. Between his men’s league, Friday night pick-up, and then this practice, Colin was feeling it. But when you have a love for something, enthusiasm trumps exhaustion. Of course, Colin will probably be feeling the adverse effects Monday at work.
But we’re talking priorities here, folks.
I’m early on in my rediscovering the game of ultimate frisbee. It’s something I occasionally did in college, it’s something I would get out and do with the Everett High cross country team every once in a while during the season, and then I did it casually as club advisor for the Everett High ultimate team. But, nothing like these guys.
Last spring, as I searched the internet for some pick-up games around the area, one thing led to another and eventually I hooked up with Georgetown last fall after their magnificent run to the national championship game in Denver. To play with these guys is to have new life pumped into one’s athletic life.
These guys love to compete and love to give each other a hard time.
But it’s a different kind of environment than what one typically experiences in pick-up basketball games or other sports. There are very few egos and fewer disagreements out on the field. This sense of camaraderie exists, I believe, because ultimate Frisbee is founded on the guiding principal of the “spirit of the game,” a commitment to fair play. When you call your own fouls and trust that the other guy is not going to try to make a call to gain an advantage, it breeds a common spirit.
Combine the “spirit of the game” philosophy with the type of people who are drawn to ultimate frisbee — a fairly intellectual, well-educated crowd — and it shouldn’t surprise you that even the good-natured ribbing out there on the field is more cerebral than what you find on the courts of other sports.
For instance, on the blacktop courts, how often do you hear someone jokingly ask, “What were you, a liberal arts major?” to a player who had miscounted the number of bodies lined up for the start of the next point and had made it one too many on the side? And how often do you hear a response as insightful and self-deprecating as an, “I always thought I counted as null. It’s glad to see that someone even noticed I was out there”?
That’s competition with comedic wit thrown in for levity.
Now, if I can just develop my forehand and my fast response to their verbal barbs when my forehand goes awry, I may be able to hang with these guys all spring and summer.