The Spirit of Marty Bakko

by | February 14, 2012, 1:18pm 0

Marty Bakko, or MFB, was considered one of the most popular players in the master division. He was a skilled player that played with fire and determination on the D line. He went to 8 National & 5 World Championship tournaments. Even after losing a kidney to cancer, he was Surly’s most impactful defender at Nationals in 2007. Marty was tough.

Russ Adams, who won the Marty Bakko Spirit Award in 2011, played with Marty for several seasons and recalls evidence of such toughness. At 1999 Worlds in St. Andrew, Scotland, while Marty and Russ were playing with a NY Masters team called Cigar in the finals, “Marty collided with a teammate so violently that he fractured the other guy’s cheek bone,” Adams recalls. Luckily this incident was caught on film (24:32). “Marty had to be helped off the field clutching his right shoulder. A couple points later, he’s back on the field playing shut down D.  He stayed in the game the rest of the way and helped us win the Gold medal. That’s why his teammates loved him so much: he was such a tough, fearless competitor.”

Marty lifts the 2007 Masters Championship trophy.

But there was more to Marty, as Russ Adams recollects. Marty was also known as a great guy to hang out with after a game, and got along “famously” with opposing players. Marty was a man with integrity, he had a wry sense of humor, he was an innovator on the Ultimate field, but most of all he was a leader. A leader that inspired everyone to be better.

Unfortunately, Marty lost a battle with cancer a few years ago. Russ Adams spoke at Marty’s funeral. In his eulogy, Adams recalled exactly how much of a leader Marty was. It was the 2008 National Championships in Sarasota. And Marty surprised Surly by showing up on the first day of competition. “Only one person on the team knew he was coming,” said Adams, “everyone else assumed he’d be home with his family for Halloween.  Because of the progression of his illness, Marty could only roam our sidelines and loudly encourage us to play our best.  That affected each of us in a very personal and inspirational way.  It felt like we were now playing for something larger than ourselves and deeper than simply proving to the rest of the field that we belonged in the finals.”

Marty peeks through after a Surly victory. - Photo courtesy of Russ Adams

“Surly went undefeated at the tournament,” Adams continued, “and won the final game in convincing fashion.  After we were finished, I asked Marty which gold medal experience was the best, Worlds in Scotland, or this victory at Nationals, and he looked me in the eye and immediately replied “this one” because we had to overcome so much to get here.”

Fundraiser for Marty Bakko

Marty lives on. His leadership and kindness are now embodied in the Masters’ Spirit of the Game Award. On May 5th, 2012, at the Surly Brewery (6 – 10 pm), Surly is hosting a fundraiser to endow the Marty Bakko Spirit of the Game Award to ensure that his legacy lives on. If you’re in the Minneapolis area, or can get there, or simply wish to contribute take a look at the fundraiser facebook page or   You can sign up to attend the event there, or just make an outright contribution. Once enough money is raised to endow the Bakko Spirit Award trophy, any additional money raised will be donated to the college fund for Marty’s two daughters, aged 9 and 12.

At the Event:  There will be delicious H’orderves, brewery tour at 6:30 pm, a brief remembrance ceremony for Marty, a silent auction, a raffle and of course plenty of tasty Surly beer.

Thank you to Mike Lawler, and Russ Adams for sharing this with me, Skyd and the Ultimate community. I know that the Ultimate community will be proud to support this award, and help to remember Marty for many years to come.

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