Ultimate extremes

And by ultimate, I mean frisbee. But watch what you call frisbee, that's a disc you got there. A throw is a toss. And we're snobby about it, dammit.

Disclaimer: Not we, or not me, anyhow. I am not an ultimate player. I am just game, and a good friend, so last summer when I was told my cardiovascular endurance and shining face were needed, particularly in girl form, I went for it. Got thrown straight into games, ran all over the field (dead giveaway of newbie status), didn't sub out often (they weren't kidding about needing women), laughed a lot.

When it works, ultimate really is a great experience. This summer the first game I could make was this past Thursday. Captains called the game at 5:30 when it was pouring, so the rest of us stragglers played pickup. We took cover in the police horse trailer parked on the sidewalk for five minutes at one point, and I had to play barefoot because my shoes were soaked and sneakers are no good anyway, but the rain cleared around 7:30 and from then on it was as lovely as DC can be in July. We played unevenly matched in numbers most of the night, so shit got chaotic on defense, but usually pretty evenly matched in skill. After almost two hours somebody said, ok, play to 3, win by 2. I think we actually got to 6, and then we did it all over again, evens most of the way. They were great people. One of my favorite things is when everyone on the field applauds a well-executed play. My second favorite thing is insta-trust with a teammate you just met. And it was the very last game I will ever play with a dear friend headed off to Ann Arbor. He made the winning throw. Er, toss. I'm learning.
Learning was what I set out to do at the WAFC clinic tonight after work, on the strength of that beautiful scrimmage. Couldn't have been more different. Implicit teaching by example and egalitarian play was replaced with spoken (or shouted) directions and clearly demarcated lines between experienced and beginner. Again, I arrived later than others (who are these people who can walk half an hour to the south side of the Mall and be there by 5:15?); there were beads of moisture on brows and shoulders of most already by the time I got there.

First drill (that's right I said drill. not all ultimate players are hippies, apparently) was read the huck. A huck is a long toss, the Hail Mary of ultimate. Drill masters were Charlie (fortyish, kindly twinkling blue eyes and manner to match, helluvan arm) and Damon (clearly my age, less prone to instructing, not as consistent but still pretty durn good). Charlie really wanted me to learn how to find the ones with left-tilting lips, floating back up the slope toward him. I have never had great spatial relations, particularly depth perception, and missed it many times. One time with a defender on me I even had a collision. When I got it Charlie went down on one knee with a yell. Damon, intentionally or no, liked to keep me on my toes, throwing it nearly to Ohio Drive once, while the next was a slider up on his portion of the slope. Ever the newbie, I still ran all over the place. Charlie made up for Damon's quiet, shouting after me, "Good legs, but take the shortcut!" Moral: there is no shortcut if you have no idea where it's going.

Next up, box drill, an ultimate classic. You set up on two cones in a line, toss once, then cut on a forty-five degree angle to that line, catch the disc tossed to you by the person at the other cone. Cycle back, repeat. I was called to be the demonstrating catcher with a "hey pretty lady in the pink." [Aside: a girl's hotness level in the ultimate context is three times what it normally is, in keeping with the male-female ratio]. I immediately disliked this drill master with his stupid big yellow wraparound sunglasses and imperious instruction, but I caught the damn disc. Stood unsure as Andy - everyone I've ever known named Andy was cheesy - told us "great" or "terrible" on each toss, cut, catch, or drop. You didn't earn the right to dish out that tough love, buddy, we all have jobs, most of us had rough days, we just want constructive criticism. I caught all of them, three or four times, but had three poor tosses (maybe I was focusing too much on the hate), with him snapping his fingers after me once, and got sent back to throwing school with a too grandiose flourish.

Anything to be out of that drill, even shame. And Tim I liked. Wore the bandana uniform and was very matter-of-fact in his help. Each time it spun with vigor in a level plane straight to his hands I got a "perfect," if it wobbled or went up and to the right, either silence or a tip. I was grateful. Andy's sidling in to "help" didn't faze me.

And then we scrimmaged. I tried not to take it too hard when the soon-to-be high school gym teachers directed their line-up coaching right at me, telling myself it was because I was the last beginner still there. I even made a couple of points, in both roles. As Charlie high-fived me for one of the last ones, he said, "ok, new play, I'm gonna huck it under 14th St bridge, you take off running after it, run around the Tidal Basin, haul off and huck it to me before you're off the road, and if I don't catch it we're sunk." Perceptive, that one. Good-natured ribbing of my dogged determination to get it right is always appreciated. I walked all the way home with a smile on my face, work completely erased from my mind.

whoa, that's a lot of frisbee talk. if you made it to here, you're awesome and should leave a comment to show everyone. c'mon, i dare you.


At 19/7/05 08:57, Blogger Tami said...

I made it this far. You've given me a whole new outlook on frisbees. You're out having fun. That is what counts, right?

At 19/7/05 22:27, Blogger la lawyer said...

I miss team play on the Mall in any form.


Post a Comment

<< Home