You may know me, or someone like me.
I’m the “muggle” one of your ultimate friends is dating . The “civilian” girlfriend your teammate references as when he tells you he has to miss practice when we fly out to a friend’s wedding. You may have seen me around, on the sideline of a game, or met me at your team’s end-of-season banquet. You may have noticed me, you may have not. But this is my story.
Before I dated an ultimate player, I hardly knew how to throw a disc, much less anything about the sport itself. And although, throughout the first month of our relationship, my better half tried in earnest to teach me the intricacies of a forehand, there was one thing that became quickly clear: I came second to the disc.
You see, ultimate is more than just a game; ultimate players live and breathe ultimate: they go to ultimate parties, they spend copious amounts of time with teammates and opponents alike, they stream videos of ultimate from their desks at work, and they take vacations to exotic places… only to play more ultimate.
The first thing I noticed was the sheer time commitment. The amount of time spent on ultimate seemed excessive. My partner spent an average of 15 hours a week on the sport, which doesn’t sound like much, but — unlike other sports — ultimate doesn’t have a season. During winter, there’s winter league. During the spring, there’s a professional league. During summer and fall comes “actual ultimate season.” And throughout the year are tournaments of every sort: some local, some national, some international. Near or far, rain or hail, sleet or snow, there wasn’t a condition that would prevent my disc-chasing partner from lacing up his cleats.
When he wasn’t playing a game, he was practicing. If he wasn’t at practice, he was attending a team meeting to discuss strategy. A common occurrence in the household played out something like this: He would come home from a long practice, only to then throw his cleats down and grab another pair.
“Where are you going? Isn’t practice over?”
“Practice is over, babe. Now I have a league game. Call you after. Bye!”
The sound of his voice faded away as he hurried out the door, leaving behind him the only remnants of his quick stop home: the trails of black rubber pellets that dropped from his cleats during his hasty exit.
Ultimate soon made its way into our bedroom. The sight of colorful piles of jerseys on our bed before every tournament became all too familiar. Just like baseball players may trade baseball cards; ultimate players trade jerseys. Evenings before a tournament, “jersey talk” ensued, which largely consisted of which jerseys would be most appealing during “trade night”. Now, the trading part I was fine with — the real crime was the actual jerseys themselves. It was impossible to stare at one jersey for too long. I developed a theory that the choice of colors was strategic; the louder your color, the higher likelihood of you never being missed on the field (but with it, the higher likelihood of a migraine). Imagine every design faux pas combined and sublimated on a polyester shirt — that sums up an ultimate jersey.
Of course, with every questionable side, there is indeed a bright side. I found my partner’s commitment to the game endearing and his desire to keep the spirit of the game alive inspiring. On the field, ultimate’s culture of openness and respect pervades the game. As a bystander, I could taste the passion as I watched a game from the sidelines. And by dating an ultimate player, I gained a respect for the ultimate community at large. As I met his teammates, opponents, and friends, I learned to appreciate that the community is full of open-minded people that are just as passionate and successful off the field as they are on it. To this day, I remain perplexed at the dedication he put into the sport, but I wouldn’t have changed our time together for the world (even if, after two years of dating, I never figured out what a bye was).
If you, dear reader, are thinking of (or are currently) dating an ultimate player, don’t make your partner choose either you or the disc. Ultimate is an inherent part of who they are, not something that can be turned on and off. Asking anyone to choose their romantic partner over their passion is a travesty; the two should never have to be mutually exclusive. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be explicit about the time you need. Communicate often and directly!
Conversely, if you are the ultimate player your partner is attempting to date or understand, bring your partner into your ultimate life. Don’t ever make your partner feel he or she comes second. The disc doesn’t keep your bed warm at night. The disc doesn’t wipe away your tears. Prioritize your time together away from ultimate and be sure to share words of appreciation once in awhile — how lucky you both are to have found one another. Chase discs — and the stars — together.