By the time you read this, I will be on a plane somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on my way to Sakai to broadcast World’s as a part of the NexGen crew. Well, less romantically and more realistically I’ll probably be sitting in LAX on a layover. My hope is to run a post a day for the entirety of the tournament. These will be blog-ier than usual, really just a snapshot of things I noticed or found interesting.
I am quite excited for the ultimate at Worlds. Ultimate teams and cultures develop evolutionarily, each one adapting to the other. Here in the US, where the top 12-20 teams play each other ad nauseum and players move from one team to another, the teams have evolved to the point were there is a lot of similarity from team to team. Because there is so much less connection internationally, teams’ styles develop independently from each other – a Galapagos Syndrome for ultimate. While there is a pejorative connotation to Galapagos Syndrome, I don’t see it this way in ultimate. The development of various styles and technologies in isolation has pushed and expanded the boundaries of what is and isn’t ‘possible’ and greatly increased the overall sophistication of the game. When Feldrenner Mainz brought the eponymous German offense to Club Worlds in 1997, it blew people away but now it is just another set a team might choose to employ. More recently, the shifting Japanese zone (not yet replicated) or the South American’s intense physicality have provided a challenge to the conventional mindset of how ultimate should be played.
On a personal level, I am very excited to be going back to Japan. I lived in Tokyo and Fukuoka for two and half years when I was in high school and the experience was one of the most formative of my life. From the day Kevin brought me on for the trip, I’ve been working on my Japanese, trying to chip away twenty years of rust. I’ve managed to get just to the point where I think I can have a conversation, but can’t really. One of the crazy things I can’t understand is that of the seven guys on the NexGen crew, I am the only one staying for extra time to travel and take things in. All of the guys have a ‘reason,’ but come on, you’re going to travel thousands of miles to another country and have your trip be nothing but hotel and fields?! It is amazing how many trips we all take as a part of ultimate where the whole thing is nothing but hotel and fields. I was talking with some of my colleagues where I teach middle school about my then-impending trip to College Nationals and they were quite excited that I was going to Boulder. I had to tell them that it didn’t really matter where the tournament was – I’d be so busy that I’d likely not do a single hour’s worth of sightseeing or touring. (Which turned out to be true.) It isn’t practical to take a vacation in conjunction with every tournament you go to, but sometimes it is and you should. The times that I went wine tasting en route to Onion Fest, a Cubs game and the Art Institute before Tune-Up or hiking in the desert after New Year’s Fest were all memorable and wonderful. Hopefully, this will be as well.