I tried to write this article for months, but wasn’t able to gather my thoughts or feelings, let alone corral them into a constrained space where I could fully grasp them. Writing it feels like Scottie’s thoughts on transwarp beaming in the new Star Trek: “The notion of ‘writing this article’ is like trying to hit a bullet with a smaller bullet whilst wearing a blindfold, riding a horse.” Not taking into account that I am far from a gifted, talented, or even adequate writer (Journal of Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering knows what I am talking about), this topic has been a struggle due to the personal and emotional nature it entails.
My first dip into the competitive ultimate pool happened in 2004 in Brisbane, Australia. I only stuck a toe in at first, but the water was warm and welcoming. Then I put on my flippers, goggles, and sunscreen, and jumped right in, eager to fully submerge myself in the new world. I was very fortunate to have the local community take me in and invest in me. With a lot of help, I moved up through the ranks, and eventually earned a spot on the Brisbane’s best mens team. Like any determined competitor, I wanted nothing less than the coveted prize atop the tumultuous peak: the national championship. Like many of us, I had set my gaze upon this seductive and tempestuous siren and yearned for nothing more. Like Odysseus, I trained relentlessly, unyielding to adversity, inspired to be the best, and, with my men by my side, was unfettered by the journey we set ourselves upon. Unlike Odysseus, I was far from the hero or commander of this expedition, but a mere deckhand, excited to do my part.
I was never able to complete the quest and slay the beast that was a national championship. Before I could, I had to part ways with my family, those that raised me in this new world of ultimate.
I moved back to the US, and again was thrust into base camp, eyes cast upon that humble apex. I took up arms with a new brotherhood that bonded together, forged through fire and furnace, to pursue our quest. Like the fellowship of the Ring (pun intended), I was a mere hobbit faced with the impossible challenge of bringing the precious to Mordor. The truth is, though, while we all seek to have our best efforts validated, our talents appreciated, and our accomplishments highlighted, all the accolades obtained upon resolution are not of value. The treasure is not in the conclusive finish, but the path we took to get there.
While I am blessed for my journey thus far, I can take no pride in it. Everything that I have been lucky enough to be a part of has ultimately been made special and meaningful by those that took up arms alongside me. For every throw I have completed, or every successful reception, there was a teammate that put me in that position to excel. From early pickup games with helpful veterans to intense scrimmages with my club team, local ultimate communities, teammates, and mentors have always taken a chance on me allowing me to mature, improve, and flourish.
To say I was extremely happy and proud to see Bravo win this year as well as very, very lucky to be a part of it, would be an understatement. I am glad, at the very least, to see so many talented players, great teammates, and most importantly, quality guys achieve what they have set out for so long. They deserved to see their efforts translated into a meaningful outcome.
But for me personally– and not many people know this– I was more saddened to see Ring of Fire lose in semifinals than I was proud to see myself win. The truth is that my main motivation for playing is solely for the people around me. When I failed to make the traveling team for World Games, I was deeply saddened. Not for the amazing opportunity I had fallen short from achieving, but because I felt I had disappointed my fellow teammates. I gave 100% effort, but I didn’t feel that I had maximized my potential. I had entered into a contract and made a vow to give my all, be the best player possible, and elevate their games through my efforts. But I felt I had let them down, and that was unacceptable. (There is an issue at High Release that documents the members of the World Games team.)
This same feeling resides within me with regards to the Ring boys, with my Australian brothers, with my friends from high school that still play league. I love Ring for taking a chance on me and giving me the opportunity to represent them, and in turn, I promised to help them raise the trophy. There are so many people on that team that deserve a championship more than me, and I still desire nothing more than to see them achieve that. The Australians taught me this way of life, allowing me to represent them with a roster spot on the national team, and I still hope that they win the world championship they deserve.
All in all, a great friend of mine once said something that clarified why we put ourselves through what we do: “If I were to give you a gold medal, you wouldn’t want it. It wouldn’t mean anything because you didn’t earn it. It is through the blood, sweat, and sacrifice that the outcome has meaning.”
At the end of the day, it isn’t about when you cross the finish line, but the other runners beside you who make this whole thing so special. As long as teams are willing to take a chance on me, I will continue to take up arms and fight the good fight. If anyone ever sees me at the fields, I promise to give you my all and in turn, expect you to do the same. That is what really makes our sport so special…the people. As Shakespeare says, “Once more unto the breach dear friends…”