html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Maybe I'll captain, if they need me to.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Maybe I'll captain, if they need me to.

When I first started organizing Ultimate leagues, I loved every aspect of it. I stepped out fields in every park I could think of; I analyzed the player ranking system with Dave; I wrote the content for our website; I got us in the Sac Bee; I helped arrange the swag; I recruited captains and wrote long letters to them, discussing their responsibilities. I studied draft methods and disciplinary policies. I worked with our registration lists until I knew them by heart; people like it when they say their first name and you know their last name and team off the top of your head. Running league was the most engrossing activity I had done since falling for my ex.

I ran league for a couple years; now the thought of running another makes me wince and throw my hands up to ward it off. Part of it is that I already know how; arranging the round-robins on our fields is a chore now, not an interesting problem. Some of it is just that our leagues have gotten substantially larger and there is more prep involved. But mostly, I think last fall’s league broke me. Between team practice, beginners’ clinics, and pick-up, I went into fall league after two months of being on a different field five nights a week. I wasn’t the league director, but last fall’s league required that I be on the fields three nights per week, to set up fields, tell people where their games are, explain the rules and collect scores. I was already longing for a night at home when two teams got into a brawl.

If you don't play Ultimate, it is hard to understand how hurt we were. It was on beginners’ night, and the teams came from a background of other team sports. Ultimate players would never do that. We asked around and no one we talked to had ever heard of a fight between Ultimate teams. The longer someone had played Ultimate, the more shocked he was. After the sheer shock of it came the hurt. These people would come into our league and hurt each other? On our fields? The ones we pour our fun and spirit and respect into every week? We spent tens and tens of hours setting this up, and they would use our structure to fight? While wearing t-shirts that said our name?

Then we had to figure out what to do. Kicking them out was obvious and tempting, but we finally arranged and led a reconciliation between the teams. (We also required that they intermix their teams whenever they played each other. And they forfeited all their games, on the theory that if they couldn’t concentrate on Spirit of the Game and winning simultaneously, we would relieve them of one consideration.) That brawl alone must have cost me forty hours of discussing and arranging a response with the other organizers and teams. I was never so ready for a league to end.

Since then I’ve found that I can’t work up any enthusiasm for organizing Ultimate. I commit to tasks, but find them so profoundly uninteresting that I can barely make myself do them. I’m all proud of how well I can arrange stuff, but that doesn’t count for much when I don’t actually get around to doing it. I have to either get back on the ball or stop taking on responsibilities.

Last week I put out a call for help running fall league. About ten people showed up for the organizing meeting yesterday. Very impressive Roxie said she would be league director. People readily took on jobs to help her. I didn’t. I didn’t say I would do a thing (although I’ll end up doing some amount of advising). There is now a fall league committee. When everyone left I took some deep shaky breaths and got tears in my eyes. There will be a great fall league and I won’t be much more than another participant. But more importantly, ten whole people heard me describe every task involved in running a league. If I am hit by a bus, they can piece together the process. Our leagues will continue, with me sometimes and without me sometimes. I think my life is starting to turn in a new, still undefined direction. I think yesterday’s meeting was a step toward freeing myself so I can find that new direction. I certainly feel freer. I’m even looking forward to playing in fall league.


Anonymous justus said...

Most people (myself included) suffer from this to a certain degree but some seem much more prone to these kinds of sequential monomanias. In the past every single person I have known who spends five nights a week on a task -- any task -- has been a person whose company I do not relish finding myself in. They have, without fail, been uninteresting people. Partly because their social life is constructed upon such a narrow basis and parly because their constant, cultlike "I'd love to do X with you but I'm going to Freaky Activity That Is Okay In Small Doses But I Go Way Overboard With It" responses are offputting.

The people I've known who are like this are, by definition I guess, unbalanced but they seem to have this gaping void in their life and when they think they've found something to fill it they throw themselves into it 110%. Maybe some people think that kind of passion is cool or exciting; I just think it is kind of sad that they are still that naive about reality. Invariably they wake up 5 years down the line and discover they gave 110% but they only got about 50% in back.

One girl I know was unhappy with her job (a typical case of "I don't know what I want to be but both my parents went to college for biology so I will, too" that ended up working as a secretary for Fidelity) and her long term relationship when she Discovered Yoga. An introductory class quickly turned into five nights a week. Five nights a week turned into quitting her job and flying to California to become a yoga instructor with hopes of setting up her own studio on Cape Cod. That, predictably, meant ending the long term relationship and me finding out five months later than she was suddenly engaged to be married.

Three years later the engagement has evaporated, as have the dreams of a yoga studio. Life is too complex for any single thing to support that many hopes and dreams being built upon it.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I have a bad case of sequential monomanias. Family, school, tkd, the hippy co-op, water policy, boyfriend, Ultimate. That's about my entire life history, and it is remarkably few influences for a 34 year lifespan. I don't dabble. I have never played a game of volleyball or tennis. There are nice things about it. When you're in the cult, life is simple. There's always something to do, people are like you, and you can talk esoteric details forever. It makes monogamy easy for me. But when something ends, I'm profoundly lost for a good long time. I can see Ultimate ending in the next 2-3 years; maybe this time I'll manage a graceful transition out.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous justus said...

I was on the varsity tennis team in high school. At the time I was living in Lemoore, California, which is home to the Lemoore Naval Air Station. I think Lemoore NAS must been the destination for a lot of people when they started shutting down our bases in the Philippines because Lemoore High had a ton of Philippino kids. For reasons I've never understood tennis was a popular activity for many of them -- I was one of only two white guys on the varsity team, the rest being Philippino. Between guys and girls, varsity and JV, it was only 20% non-Philippino.

And that is the story of why I know how to swear (and say banana and white boy) in Tagalog.

Everyone should play tennis. It is way better than Ultimate. Especially now that all those hot Russians chicks are into it.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Tennis for me! Five nights a week!

My ex and his best friend are both Asian-Am. They were heading out to play tennis one day and I asked them which one was Michael Chang. They looked at me confused and my ex said "We both are."

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pfft, there's nothing wrong with throwing yourself into something 100%. That's how you get better at something. As far as I'm concerned life should be a long series of such pushes. Throw yourself into something until you get good at it, then on to the next new thing.

And, as far as 2 teams brawling, I wouldn't see any real problem with that either. It's just to be expected in any adequately competitive sport. There's really no way around it, once people start taking it seriously, and really pushing to win, tensions are going to run high, and eventually someone's gonna snap.

But then, I've always liked that side of people. I don't particularly like the outcome, I'm not saying I like the inevitable fights, but I do like the attitude.


9:04 AM  
Blogger Abby said...

I remember you were talking a while back about wanting a new challenge in life and that was probably marriage and kids... How about making the preliminary step in that challenge learning how to balance your enthusiasms? Your kids will thank you for it.

Just a thought.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Kids for me! Five nights a week!

No no. No balance. I'll dedicate myself solely to the kids, managing their every act and living vicariously through them. They'll do tkd and organize Ultimate tournaments their entire childhoods. They'll thank me later, when they get into the college of my choice.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely HATE the attitude that causes people to be so competitive that they feel that it is ALL RIGHT to have a brawl. (or, that they get angry with themselves and others for making mistakes, for making them LOSE)
First of all, the tension that you BRING ON TO YOURSELF should NEVER EVER be taken out on other people. Having been the recipient of the feelings from those way too intense people, I have NO respect for their selfishness.
And especially in ultimate where Spirit of the Game is the Golden Rule. It was g*ddammned traumatizing having to deal with those idiots who took a BEGINNER LEAGUE so seriously that they started fighting. BEGINNER is the key word here. They were NOT good players and yet their competitive instincts were so high they had a brawl? I don't ever want them getting good enough to join the advanced league.
People say that ultimate was created by a bunch of love happy hippies. You know what I think? They had the right idea, they created a game that is competitive and also enforces spirit of the game. To me, that is what makes it fun. The other team is NOT the enemy, they are working hard just like you and you should respect them for that.
Ok, end of rant.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous ptm said...

As I believe you and I discussed, I got similarly burnt out on ulty for a while. I was captaining one of the local club teams, helping organize tourneys and leagues, one of the half-dozen on the short list that you always called about ulty here in town. Got burnt out, took a year and a half off. Now I've channelled my serious efforts into other things (like underwater basket weaving) and just play in the local rec league. It's not as good ulty (and I'm not as good), but I have more fun and get to do way more other stuff.

Then again, that assumes wanting to do other stuff.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know, maybe it's less appropriate in a coed league. I think women tend to be less aggressive than men. But, when it comes to competition I want the other team taking it seriously, and relentlessly pushing me. That's the nature of competition. And, under those circumstances there are going to be physical confrontations, it's just the way it works, at least in men, I don't know how women react to such things.

But, again, I like that attitude in people. The ones who are right on the edge, and being very aggressive are the ones who are going to push you the hardest, and that's the whole point of competition. It's not to make friends and have everyone happy at the end of the day, it's to test your limits.



12:32 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Respecting your opponent means giving her the most competitive game you can bring. Respecting yourself means playing hard and fairly. Respecting Ultimate means appreciating the joy of playing as much as you respect your opponent and yourself. There is no conflict between competing to the limits of your physical ability and playing with good spirit.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

There should never be physical confrontations. We constantly see men and women contest for a disc with everything they've got, then slap hands or help each other off the ground. You can be relentlessly pushed and then thank your opponent for giving you such a good opportunity to be your best. Ultimate requires way more of its players than physical skill.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then, this must be a difference between men and women. I grew up playing pick up basketball all over the north chicago suburbs, in gyms and parks and churches, and where ever there were courts. Fights were normal, all over. Not necessarily brawls, but it wasn't so uncommon to have to pull 2 guys apart, or for some people to end up in a shoving match. It wasn't uncommon for someone to get mad, then take it out on you in the next play, fouling you ridiculously hard, throwing you to the ground, under cutting you, whatever. I've been tackled going for last points, clearly illegal, but no one cares, you just call the foul and take the ball back.

But, then, even amongst friends, it wasn't uncommon for us to fight with each other, shoot each other with bb guns, bottle rockets, roman candles. My oldest friend knocked one of my teeth out when I was younger. It's how guys are with each other.

I've always loved it.


1:18 PM  
Anonymous ptm said...

Justin, Megan is right on the money about the cultural prohibition on intentional violence in ulty. It's almost completely true among men's teams, too. There are a couple exceptions, but they're exceptional enough that everybody else knows them and thinks they're dicks.

One not all that relevant difference is that you can get more hurt in ulty than most sports. Between having the distance to get up to full speed (unlike basketball), not always having all the relevant players in your field of view (unlike many sports), and spending time in the air vertically and horizontally, there are some heinous unintentional collisions. I've certainly been on both ends of a few.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous justus said...

It's how guys are with each other.

No, it is how you and your friends are with one another. That isn't really the same thing at all.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, it's how guys are with each other. The whole first part of that I was talking about fights playing pickup basketball all around where I lived with strangers.


9:17 PM  
Blogger ScottM said...

I know I've been sucked into spending a lot of time on one thing, when I only intended it to be a partial interest. It tends to happen when I join an organization of flakes (say, RenFaire, though it happens in many fields). Then, just for showing up consistantly, you get dragged into leadership, which is a greater time suck...

I've always been about "balance", not throwing myself into something 110%. Even so, the novelty of being dependable tends to draw me in... and into the boring, backside management end.

3:35 PM  

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