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Loyal Heights


UltiPhotos: Open, Womens, Mixed, Masters - Thursday - CUC &emdash;
An Account of the Most Obscure, Most Ludicrous, and Most Selfless Gesture of the Year

Quarter-to-three on a Wednesday afternoon, and even for Furious, this was cutting it absurdly close.   The sanctioning of a tournament usually entails a reverentially bureaucratic process not for the faint of heart, which Voodoo and Furious now jointly attempted to compress into most of a day.  Few people realized that this moment, transacted over a keyboard, in fact represented the thrilling climax to the Furious season.  There comes a point of familiarity at which one learns to wear the absurd with a sort of dashing savoir-faire.

I had just become the official organizer for the world’s most obscure ultimate frisbee tournament (2 teams, 4 games), somewhere in Loyal Heights, Seattle, Washington — a place I had never heard of but which doubtless had coffee shops in abundance.  Cooper and Beehner, captains of Voodoo (and more to the point, our saviours),  knew the territory and populated the paperwork with words that probably made sense.

Our chances to find our quota of sanctioned games had finally eroded to this manifestly insane moment.  A summer had overtaken us too fast, and though we had all played so much ultimate, we had not yet played enough. We needed 10 USAU-sanctioned games for the Triple Crown Tour. In a season full of competing and conflicting obligations, we were increasingly in danger of failing this last one.  So far, Furious only had 6 recognized games; we were just hours away from complete disqualification, and Voodoo had offered to give us our last 4.

Technically speaking, the registration window would close in under 15 minutes, but that fostered only an academic sense of urgency.   Registration had not even opened since everything was still under review in what was doubtless a flurry of confusion at USAU HQ.  Just as well, I thought, since I still had an incomplete roster, and a possible talent pool of 32 from whom we needed to choose 27, about 10% of whom could be relied upon to fail to have signed their waivers.  E-mails continued to follow each other like sands through the hourglass.

It had been a logistically frenetic season, and though we had seen our opportunities, none could have been called a winning draw.   The eligible tournaments had maddeningly fallen on unmanageable or unpalatable dates.  The ones we could manage fell tantalizingly just outside of our Elite-Flight entitlement.  The ones we attended that could have counted in every other way (Flowerbowl, CUCs) had the misfortune of taking place on Canadian soil (and by the writ of the rule, this renders them ineligible for sanctioning).  At every turn, the same questions came up: can we afford the cost* and risk to send another skeleton crew to get smashed and injured between tournaments?  Under such circumstances, would we even play well enough to mitigate our anemic showing in Atlanta?

Taking the calculated risk, we pinned our hopes on collecting our last, much-needed games on an optimistic pseudo-plan that had been bandied about for months, but had yet to crystallize: a local, purpose-driven tournament, starring Furious, Blackfish, Rhino, Sockeye, Voodoo, and maybe such other teams as necessary.  There is a certain nervous energy encompassing a gambit such as this, owing to the obvious catch: who wants to play?  And what can we offer them?

“Amicu certus in re incerta cernitur” — Quintus Ennius

And now I will say this for the ultimate community: when push comes to shove, we have each others’ backs.  By this time, Rhino, Voodoo, and Sockeye had covered so much ground, and their schedules had been every bit as unforgiving as ours.  That they even entertained the possibility of meeting us for a game at this point bespeaks remarkable patience, and the debate rolled right up to the eleventh hour.  Because none of the teams could muster full strength, going on record and putting regional strength bids at stake meant serious thought and scrutiny of the rankings, which meant waiting for their official publication.**  And with Rhino clinging tenuously to the #16 spot, playing #22 Voodoo and #25 Furious made for uncomfortably risky business.  Ironically, it was only after Rhino and Sockeye reluctantly declined to play that USA Ultimate pronounced that the tournament games should not count toward the rankings,  to formally remove the temptation for collusion.  So the entire venture was now officially recognized as elaborate chore work.

That at the end of it all, Voodoo made time to meet a scrapheap Furious team for an entire day on some hot, uncomfortable turf field in suburban Seattle was a class act above and beyond the call.  Much ado is often said and opined on the spirit of the game, usually in the context of the heated moment, when a foul- or a travel-call has to be made.  In my mind, we often overlook the less sensational but more meaningful decisions people make off the field.  And lo, as the clock ticked down, and the final decision had to be made, Voodoo was unflinching.  They had all the power in the world over us; to simply decline to play would have eliminated Furious George from the 2013 championship series.  And yet they went out of their way to help a regional rival into the series.

Lessons Learned:
– Score Reporter is the Devil’s plaything. And its “Help” file is like six tickets to the same circle of Hell.
– Your opponents may turn out to be your best friends

Next Lesson: Washington Sectionals

UltiPhotos: Open, Womens, Mixed, Masters - Thursday - CUC &emdash;

*For American readers, some interesting math: to understand what it costs to fly from Vancouver to anywhere in the U.S., multiply by 4/3.  This is why Furious looks 33% more annoyed than everyone else.
**And of course, the rankings were late to come out, so the final decision was postponed to early afternoon on Wednesday, Aug.21.

Alex Davis

6 Responses to “Loyal Heights”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    I’m confused. Wouldn’t ending the regular season with six games just mean that your games wouldn’t count for strength bids? You could still play in the Series and qualify the normal way, no?

  2. Alex Davis Says:

    No, teams that attended the 2012 championships are required to play 10 sanctioned games to participate in the series.

  3. Jeremy Says:

    Ah gotcha. Didn’t know that.

  4. Josh Says:

    Nice post. Indeed, Jake Cooper is one of the most selfless sane people around (a vegetarian who volunteers to teach science in prison). You may say I’m biased because I’m his brother, but I say that’s why I know what I’m talking about.
    Oh, I’m sure that Beehner guy is great, too.

  5. Eh... Says:

    Could use a little less thesaurus.

  6. James R Says:

    Great story, and excellent writing.