“We do not know our own souls, let alone the souls of others. Human beings do not go hand in hand the whole stretch of the way. There is a virgin forest in each; a snowfield where even the print of birds’ feet is unknown. Here we go alone, and like it better so. Always to have sympathy, always to be accompanied, always to be understood would be intolerable.”
-Virginia Woolf, From the Essay: On Being Ill.
His younger teammates watched silently as their leaders screamed at the fat sad boy.
“Magnum you suck,”
“Magnum you faggot,”
“God quit being such a fucking Magnum, Magnum.”
They’d grip his shirt collar, roaring from behind bared teeth,
“Magnum I’m going to fucking kill you.”
But if you were one of these boys’ mother, a nice Midwestern mother who drove up the hills of Western Michigan University and down past the tired dormitories onto the campuses fields, you’d stick around for five minutes and watch boys gently tossing a toy, wearing cleats and visors, and saying silly phrases that sound vaguely dirty or Star Warsesque:
“Not a puller”
‘Remember to use the Force !’
All the boys look nice: A young Black man is high-fiving a Hispanic boy. A lanky bundle of nerves is gently placing his hand on a balding (grad?) student’s shoulder to stretch his stork legs. There is even a fat boy (well. .. pudgy), with blond hair and a knee-brace, who runs towards a hovering Frisbee using a shifty waddle, like a duck excited by a tossed cracker.
You’d wave goodbye to your son, and maybe take a different path home, through Kalamazoo College, a narrow valley is all that separates the two schools and as Western’s towering dorms faded in the distance you’d begin to see the College’s quaint brick buildings, covered in ivy. You wouldn’t watch as that pudgy boy got close enough to that plastic to touch it, feel it spin inside his fingers like porcelain, some kind of fragile hope.
You wouldn’t watch as he dropped it.
And when those nice boys suddenly turned into Ulysses’s harpies and screamed at that fat boy with all their might, conjuring curse words they didn’t know existed, and using mental energy they didn’t know they had to create insults that would hurt even worse later, like half-life or tumors; You wouldn’t be there. You wouldn’t be there as the fat boy’s tender shoulders slumped and he walked off the field, telling himself that next time would be different. Next time he’d catch it, next time they’d all cheer at the amazing play he made, Next time he’d be amazing.
You may not know me but you have met me. You’ve heard me gasping behind you as you streaked into the end-zone for a winning score, crushed my shoulders as you leapt over me for a disc. I’ve been behind you on every sprint you’ve ever run and turfed every throw that you completed beautifully. Your cleats have run across my back every time you take the field. My name is Matthew Dagher-Margosian, and I suck at ultimate.
As far as I can remember in my playing career, none of my captains has ever come over, sincerely placed a hand on my shoulder, raised their glass and shouted to my teammates:
“Let’s give three cheers to the worst player on the team!”
Which to me is strange; teams need a best AND worst to be a system. If the best player is what drives the team to success, a platonic ideal to reach, the worst is even more important. The worst is the ground floor from which everyone else knows they must climb up from or never sink below. In this way, sports are built on the back of the losers. So why are we so afraid to talk about the brutal architecture which houses these beautiful games? Why not MVP and LVP? Why are we so terrified that by offering a helping hand to those beneath us, that they will pull us down into “The Suck”
Dear reader, we’ll be heading back to Western Michigan University to continue our story. But before you continue on this journey with me, I should warn you: it doesn’t get better. the Ugly Duckling is not going to fly away a swan. This is a going to be a brutally honest story about what it means to suck, how people treat you when you suck, and how sometimes the worst thing you can do is believe that things can get better.
Let’s get back to that fat boy.
Blood makes the Grass Grow
Kill Kill Kill
Blood Makes the Grass Grow
Kill Kill Kill
Blood Makes the Grass Grow
Kill Kill Kill
YELLOW FUCKING MUSTARD!
Western Michigan University’s Ultimate team is known as the WMU Yellow Mustard. Every Friday after practice, the team huddles together for this warrior’s call to prayer. Arms drape over shoulders and legs bounce up and down. My knee brace creaks as I smile with the group, having forgotten the drop. These are our bodies, our bodies are connected, and we are connected by our love for this sport and this team.
Then, abruptly, like a post-coital shudder we unlock arms and again open our eyes to the reality of our teammates. Without a B-Team, a crappy college team is a zoo with only one cage. So players mark territory and divide into herds of different species to coexist. Silverbacked captains and seniors gather while young buck up-and-comers casually work on their forehands all the while marginal players, like birds flossing an elephant’s back, use their magnetic personality to pry any psychic burden out of the dominant species above them.
All these players have roles: Handlers and Cutters, O-Lines and D-Lines, Pullers and Huckers, Cuppers, Midis and Deep-Deep. Roles that define you, and together, define a team.
So who could blame them for what they did to Matthew Dagher-Margosian? Imagine you’re trying to lead a team, already such a fragile clumsy organism, and this fat little freshman who can’t run, throw, or catch shows up and infects everyone like a virus? Imagine how unnerving it would be for all the other freshman. What did his presence say about their new sport, other than that it was a joke? Imagine the other veterans, who sacrificed their college years making their throws sharp, and bodies hard, seeing this fat loser, try to say that he should have a role on the team?
“ Hey Matt, you want to come to beer pong tonight?”
I didn’t know it then, and maybe they didn’t either, but that drop was the final straw. Tonight over red cups and bouncing balls, they would define the strength of the team through my failures. They would fashion my flesh into a warning for both naive youth and grizzled vets: This boy is the face of our shame, this is lowest you can go.
This is what it looks like to suck.
Blood Makes the Grass Grow Kill Kill Kill
On such human sacrifices teams are built. Across such bodies you must walk to reach greatness.
Is the journey worth it?
Find out Next week on THE SUCK!:
The Western Michigan captains will come up with a nickname so ingeniously cruel, that it will haunt Matthew Dagher-Margosian for the rest of his college career. Will our pudgy hero(?) come to realize he will always be the worst player on his team? Will he put in the work that earns their begrudging respect?
And what lies on the other side of the valley in K-College?
All that and more Next Week in Part 2 of THE SUCK!