Win the Fields

by | October 22, 2014, 5:43am 25

I just came back to say goodbye.

Over the years that I’ve written Win the Fields, I’ve come to grow surprisingly attached and loyal to you, the readers. The readers who take the time to post thoughtful, insightful comments; the readers who email me with their questions; the readers who find me out in the world and tell me they enjoy my writing; the readers I never hear from…

So when circumstances demand that I quit writing on a weekly basis, I felt obligated to come back one last time to explain myself and to say goodbye.

I began writing Win the Fields out of necessity. The words were in me and they were demanding to be let out, like thousands of hornets caught in a jar, buzzing incessantly and bouncing against the glass. I also felt that ultimate needed what I had to say. There were things happening in ultimate that were bad, bad, bad. Things that were pushing the sport in an unhappy direction. Things that were widely misunderstood. A lot of what was bad about the sport at that time wasn’t what was actually happening (although we were in a pretty rough patch). Instead, it was how people were talking about what was happening. Cheat to Win (Without Cheating) was the first incarnation of this motivation, but it wasn’t the last. Throughout my writing, I have strived to say what was missing from the conversation. Ironically, I’ve had less and less to say because more and more is being said. When I began, there was little to no media coverage of ultimate. Now, two areas I’d written in extensively– straight reportage and analysis– are widely covered by other people.

But really, this isn’t an artistic decision. It’s a time decision. My family is at a crucial turning point: My youngest child entered school this fall and my wife returned to paid work after years of managing our home and homestead. Like all changes, this is a mixed blessing. Our bank account will be happier, but we will be more stressed and more harried. My freedom to say, “I’ve got to write my post tonight, can you cook/feed the chickens/put the kids to bed?” is gone.

I teach school for a living and it is an often frustrating experience. My school is in a small Oregon town and like most small communities, we are struggling economically. I don’t know what ‘winning’ in this situation would be or if my definition of ‘winning’ is even possible, but I do know that I haven’t consistently put time into finding out. Writing, editing and tending the comments takes somewhere between 2-10 working hours per post and another several mental hours composing and considering. Ask your friends who are teachers: “Would an extra eight hours a week help you?” My family and professional pressures had me seriously wrestling with whether or not I could continue to coach Oregon. I’ve committed to the team, but I still don’t know what that commitment will look like and the ways it will be constrained. As a part of this overall time pressure, I decided I needed to shed all my other ultimate-related commitments, of which Win the Fields is one.

I don’t really know what’s next. I have a very big, very ambitious piece in development, but I haven’t even looked at it since school began. I hope to look at it this weekend. I had hoped to look at it last weekend, too. And the weekend before that one. But I have tests to grade, my wife had to go off to a faraway meeting so I’ll have the kids, there’s laundry to do and the dump run, there’s cider to re-rack and forts to build…

…but I know those hornets are still buzzing, buzzing, buzzing.

Goodbye. Good luck. Play well. Learn much. Thank you.

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  • Rich Dana

    Thank you Lou.

  • Rob

    Thanks, Lou. I was one of those readers who emailed you back when I was captaining my college team for advice, and though I doubt you remember I greatly appreciated your insight… it was humbling to know that Lou Burruss, top tier coach, was still willing to take a few minutes to help a stranger from across the country with practice plans.

    It's unselfish people like you who make the community what it is. After graduation I made it a point to give back and coach the next generation. It's the most rewarding thing I do, and in some small way I think I have you to thank for that.

    So thanks Lou, wishing you all the best.

  • Mike Lovinguth

    Thanks Lou! It's been a pleasure reading & working with you. I am sure your dialogue and thoughtfulness will continue to push the sport forward, even if in less formal ways. Cheers to an amazing amount of important work achieved via this column.

  • Thanks, Lou, for pushing the thought of the sport a million miles ahead. Win the Fields was clearly the most important Ultimate column to-date, and I doubt anything will take its place on that pedestal in the foreseeable future. We've all learned so much.

  • Flibit

    Thanks a lot Lou!!

  • Thanks so much for the time and energy you have given to strangers.

  • Great run, Lou…I'm going to go back and read all the things you've written as I'm sure I've missed some! :)

  • Brody

    Thank you. Your work will be missed.

  • Cannot thank you enough for making our community feel both bigger and smaller in all the right ways. Best of luck with the team and the family…and those forts!

  • Thank you for what you have provided the community and best of luck with your future endeavors!

  • Thanks for sharing your words, thoughts, wisdom, insight, and for making those public.

    P.S. Twitter awaits you.

  • TitusTradewell

    Thanks Lou. I second Sludge.

  • Hey! It´s hard to read this since i´m one of those in far away places that didn´t get to benefit from close interaction, and reading win the fields was all the Lou i could get.

    I get a break. There´s a fugue player in town playing with me, and she glows some of your teachings, maybe even being unaware of it…

    But i get it. Makes sense. You might even discover a new way to give to the game, as writing once was. Time is needed for that to grow.

    Now it´s time for others to write what isn´t being said. I´m sure trying to…

    Thanks a lot for the inspiration.

  • Becky

    Thanks. There is a lump of nostalgia in my chest and I’ve only been part of this community a couple of years. Do what you gotta do; you are one of the legends of our community and that will continue even when you’ve long retired.

  • JamesB

    Thanks Lou

  • silent readers

    Thank you

  • Bonnie Melville

    Great writing and insights, Lou! Great to see you in May. Those of us who've known you from the beginning of your ultimate career at Carleton to your first coaching gig with Syzygy to today are so proud of you! Good luck to you and MIzu in this next exciting phase of life!

  • Mike Lommler

    Lou, thanks so much for your writing. Your work on this Skyd blog and your old Blogspot site has been a major influence on my thinking about the game, and in some ways has made my transition into coaching possible. I hope that I get the chance to thank you in person one of these days.

  • Andrew Buermeyer

    Its been a real pleasure, Lou. Thank you.

  • FD88

    Thanks for all the great insights into the game. Now that I don't have your writing to look forward to on Wednesdays, I guess I'll have to start reading all the books you've recommended. Thanks again and we'll miss you!

  • Props from Get Horizontal to Lou Burruss, you've inspired us from day one and will continue to do so with your ever so enthousiastic and insightful articles!

  • Gio

    Thank you so much Lou! From the Philippines!

  • samldiener

    I especially have appreciated, and will miss, your ongoing commitment to improving the experience of the game, as well as the playing of the game itself, and of our larger social responsibilities. Thanks!

  • dondon

    Your 'help D' series was the best.

  • LauchlanRobertson

    Sir, I salute you. You've been making a difference all round the world! [from NZ]