Universe Point After Afterword: Part 2

by | September 18, 2017, 10:37am 0

The author attempting a mark against Texas Sick Hammers in the 11th place game on Sunday morning. (William Brotman - UltiPhotos.com)

Looking for Part 1? It’s over here.

I got back to Pittsburgh knowing that I had a month or so to improve my wind and endurance, which I thought were fine going into regionals but obviously needed some work. So I obsessively sprinted the hill in the alley behind my house, 70 yards up, 70 yards back down – every day. Get home from a rough day hauling lumber and drywall up three flights of stairs? Run the hill. Exhausted from chasing around a three year old all day? Run the hill. 95 degrees out? Run the hill. I knew it might be my only shot to play at nationals and I wasn’t going to waste it by being unprepared.

As for my family, we used nationals as an excuse to go visit Jessi’s parents up in Wyoming, which meant that my little boy Henry would be able to see daddy play. We flew into Denver two days early, visited friends and went to dinosaur museums – all awesome, totally fun stuff that I nervously fretted through waiting for Friday morning to arrive.

And then finally, graciously, Friday morning did arrive. We got to the Aurora Sports Complex to see by far the largest collection of ultimate fields and ultimate players the world may have ever witnessed. All seven divisions of open, women’s, mixed, grandmasters and great grandmasters were spread out over an area so large the place needed giant towers marking each compass direction. There were over 2,000 players on 79 teams from all over the country. It was massive. So massive in fact, I immediately regretted telling Jessi it was cool to just drop me off at the entrance and that I’d “wander around to find my team.” I’m relatively certain that if she hadn’t shown back up with the car fifteen minutes later, they’d have eventually found my skeleton along the road with my cell phone pressed to where my ear used to be and Black Tide Matt still attempting to give me directions….

“We’re over by the merchandise tent and…..I mean you should see….ok, there’s a green team playing a white team next to us. Do you see that? Cramer? Are you still there? Cramer? Do you see the green versus white game?”

“We’re sorry, the Verizon customer you’re attempting to reach is no longer available….”

“It’s field twenty-two. I think. Twenty uh…..just look for the green vs. white game. Cramer? Cramer?”

Eventually I got there alive, received my uniform, (#95 for the first year I started playing ultimate), warmed up, and in a blur, the game started.

After all the planning, all the hoping, all the dreaming about first setting foot on the fields at nationals, I don’t really remember lining up for my first point. I really thought I’d go out there and suck it all in for about thirty seconds, looking around at the mountains and the blue sky and having a quiet introspective inner monologue like, “You did it. You’re here. You’re on the field at nationals. All the hard work has paid off. Suck it in. Remember this moment forev….”

“Cramer, you have number seven. Force flick. Let’s go.”

And I was running.

Our first game was against a Boston team called Critical Mass. On my first point, they turned it and a 5’6” guy rotated to cover me so I shot deep. I was twenty yards behind him streaking for the end zone when we decided to throw away a swing pass.

“Oh, goddammit.”

Now I had to decelerate and chase him from a 20-yard disadvantage. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would become a microcosm of my entire weekend.

On my next point, we were coming out of our own end zone when I lost the 6’4” guy that was on me on an in cut. Our handler spotted me but the throw went sailing way up to the left. I had to slow down and jump, but probably would’ve caught it if the big dude didn’t go straight through my back to get the D. I really don’t like to make calls so I talked myself into shrugging it off – which even the dude who’d hacked me found quite surprising.

I’d describe my teammates as “quite baffled” by the non-call. Luckily we forced turn in the end zone and marched down to score. As I came off the field, Brody put his arm around my shoulder.

“You didn’t get fouled on that catch down there?”

“Nah, I definitely got wrecked. I just didn’t want to be a dick.”

“Cramer. This is nationals, man,” he said with a wry smile that replaced the flick to the forehead he obviously wanted to give me. “Not summer league.”

I nodded. It was a great point. “Not summer league. Got it.”

As for Brody, he was a bit jetlagged after arriving from Israel the day before. He’d participated as a counselor and photographer at a camp called Ultimate Peace, which brings together Arab, Palestinian, and Israeli children for a weeklong ultimate and friendship spectacular. Kids who are often raised to be enemies are put on the field in mixed-culture teams and have to practice, play, cooperate, and jointly work out their differences. In the first nearly fifty years of ultimate, it might be the singular best thing that the game has brought to the world. Some day the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President could sit down and hammer out a long lasting peace because of a friendship that Brody helped foster that week. I mean, he could’ve legitimately helped usher in centuries of worldwide prosperity never before seen on Earth.

And yet it still wouldn’t excuse his first pull of the tournament, which went 60 yards straight sideways out of bounds into the parking lot, hitting a minivan and giving Boston the disc two yards from our goal line. In fact, as I imagine the 2057 Israeli Palestinian Peace Accords, I believe there’s a good chance they begin as such:

Israeli PM: “I’m not sure my country is going to like this.”

Palestinian Prez: “I don’t think mine will either. We’re going to get a lot of heat. A lot of heat.”

Israeli PM: “Well, nothing can be as bad as Brody’s pull against Boston. If he can rebound from that and still have a spectacular tournament, we too can forge ahead no matter what the circumstances.”

Palestinian Prez: “We can indeed. Hand me the pen old friend.”

BAM – Age of Aquarius.

Despite virtually spotting them that goal early on, we cruised and won pretty handily 15-5. My favorite moment of the tournament actually came in the 2nd half when I got a fingernail on the tall guy’s throw for what I’d hesitate to call a point block – more like a point skim. Either way it forced the disc into the ground and off the turnover I ended up with a hockey assist as we went up 10-3. As I came off the field, Henry comes sprinting down the hill with his hand raised in the air.

“Good job, daddy! Great playing! High five!”

And I high fived him – and picked him up and spun him around there at nationals, an old guy playing the sport I’ve loved for over two decades, there at its highest old guy pinnacle – and my boy was there to see it. Whether he remembers it or not is somewhat irrelevant. He was there. And that is the top moment of my entire ultimate career to this point.

As it turned out, I desperately needed that moment the rest of the day. Flying high off our ten point opening game victory, we mentally lollygagged through our next game against Chicago’s Old Man Winter. Nothing went right. We couldn’t complete wide-open dumps. I swear we had double digit uncontested drops. Unforced error after unforced error and we fell 14-10. All you need to know about that game is from a picture an Ultiphotos photographer captured of Black Tide Matt standing on the sidelines with a look on his face as if trying to pass a kidney stone just moments after learning his kid totaled his car. It pretty much sums up that game.

We were 1-1 and now had to match up with the best team in the pool, a bunch of monsters out of Minneapolis named Surly. All through our second round game, dark clouds were creeping in from the south as everyone kept an eye on the skies and hoped their approach would be slow enough to get in our third round games – which turned out to be a tad optimistic.

Surly was up 2-0 when a flash of lightning hit close enough for everyone to sigh, look at each other, and reluctantly begin trudging to our cars. USA Ultimate had mini tornado sirens that started going off and (to use my favorite British slang) everybody just sort of cocked about. I don’t believe it ever actually rained. Me, Surfer Bryan and Defensive Dennis all tried to go take naps in my rented Kia Soul before realizing how hard it is to nap in a fucking Kia Soul and giving up entirely.

Unlike the east coast where trees block your view of damn near everything, in Aurora, Colorado, you can see for sixty miles in each direction. Which is awesome until you’re trying not to see lightning. For ninety-four minutes every player there went, “Ok, it’s been at least ten minutes since the last bolt. They’ve got to be starting the games here pretty (flash)…..damn it.”

It was an odd break that nobody seemed to know what to do with. Do we crack open the beer we brought or not? Should I stretch? I should stretch, right? Fuck, I really want a beer but I also really want to win this game if we play it. But do I want to win as much as I want a beer right NOW? Hmmmm.

Anyway, after a long delay that took everyone’s heads right out of the game, we resumed play against Surly in what amounted to a wind tunnel. I was guarding this big dude with glasses not long after the lightning delay mercifully ended. During a stoppage of play, we both noticed the sky light up off in the distance. I glanced at him. He glanced at me.

“We didn’t see that,” he said.

“See what? I was looking at the clear blue sky over to the east. We’re all old. If you saw a flash, it could’ve just been your vision going. Cataract maybe.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Totally possible. I really oughta get that checked out.”

Having been placed on the 2nd defensive line, I wasn’t getting to play much. In critical situations the captains simply put guys on the field they knew and trusted more. And my mind was honestly starting to drift. Through the Chicago game and later into the Minneapolis game, I just didn’t feel part of it all. Then on my third point of the Surly game, our zone forced a turn in the gale force winds. Brody was tired from running around in the cup, so he asked me to switch to popper from my normal deep receiver position. One of our handlers, a dude with a bright red hat named Jessup who somehow could huck right through the wind had it on the goal line. I shook one of their wings and got open. Jessup spun a brilliant little backhand through the cup that was right at my knees.

And I dropped it. Hit my hands. Didn’t stick. Broken finger or not, I let the team down. When you’re not playing much, you want to stand out when you get on the field. Dropping a wide open catch on your own goal line is not how you want to do it.

We actually gave eventual champion Surly a good game losing just 10-7 but after the game I felt empty. Like I didn’t belong. Three games and somehow I didn’t end up with a single stat. No goals, no assists, no D’s. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for by a long shot. I just….didn’t fit.

Weirdly the thing that helped regain my confidence was that goddamned Kia Soul. Captain Ryan and Black Tide Matt had reserved a couple tables for the team at a pizza place in what I believe was western Kansas. I’d planned on just taking a shower and hanging out in our room at the Embassy Suites to sulk and mournfully shake my head all night, but because the restaurant was so far away nobody wanted to get a taxi or ride share. So I was damn near forced to drive people there. As the miles stacked up, my teammates got more and more thankful for the ride. And suddenly, oddly, I had a purpose. Even if it wasn’t for something on the field, my teammates were glad I was there. I got them to and from the pizza place. And that was something at least. I wasn’t totally useless.

The next morning was our critical crossover game. We finished #3 in Pool B and Kalakala out of Seattle finished #2 in pool C. Winner would finish in the top eight. Loser couldn’t finish higher than ninth. In a lot of ways, the whole tournament rested on what we did in that first game of Saturday morning.

Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the awesomely creative team names there that weekend. Great grandmasters led the way for the men with teams like Boulder “Old and in the Way,” San Francisco Relics, and Cincinnati “Age Against the Machine.” But personally I’d give the top three to the women’s division for Seattle iRot (a fantastic play on Seattle Riot), Atlanta Atlantiques, and the hands down winner New York “I Thought This Was a Wine Tasting” who lands the top spot and it’s not particularly close.

But the one name that confused damn near everybody was the team we were about to play. So before the game I approached one of their guys.

“Hey man, so I gotta know…..”

He chuckled. “What’s Kalakala?”

“I imagine you guys are getting that a lot.”

“Yeah,” he answered. “It was this ferry boat that was sleek and luxurious back in the 40’s. And then some guy towed it down to Seattle from Alaska but couldn’t get the money to fix it up so it just sat there in the water slowly falling apart.”

“Ah,” I said, the light going off in my brain. “Just like us. Where once we were young and sleek, we’re now just rusting hulks of our former glory doing all we can not to sink.”

He smiled. “And we’re all in the same boat.”

I laughed. “I like you guys.”

In what would be one of the most exciting games I’ve ever played in, we came storming out of the gate and surprised them. On the second point, we made a D and on the resulting break out, Guillermo threw an around backhand way out in front of me. I laid out, tipped the disc up to myself and caught it as I flipped over, wasting three seconds of my stall count searching for my glasses and hurriedly jamming them back on my face. Guillermo cut out then shot back in and was the first thing I saw when clarity returned. I flicked one to him and took off up the sideline as he put up a huge hanging huck for one of our bigger guys, a wide-bodied defender named Dan. Dan was one-on-one with a guy about his size but I’d seen him play enough to know he was coming down with it – which he did just in front of the goal line.  I hadn’t slowed down since I flipped the disc to Guillermo and was wide open in the center of the end zone. Dan turned and saw me, letting go a soft backhand.

As the disc was in the air my only thought was if you drop this one, just keep going up the hill and straight to the airport. But I didn’t. I pancaked it in front of my stomach. We were up 2-0 and at long last by the grace of the lord had a stat at nationals. An important goal in an important game no less. I could finally, finally relax.

We were up 4-0 when I went back into the game. Halfway up the field, my tight mark forced a bad throw that got undercut by funny, happy dude named Dom who like a lot of guys at the tournament looked as if he used to be all muscle….before he had kids. His abs were still there, just buried under a layer of dad.

Anyway, when Dom undercut the disc, he immediately flipped a five-yard backhand up to me. Seeing he was going to be wide open for a power position huck, I put a little lob on a platter for him up the sideline. With a receiver streaking wide open deep for the 5-0 lead, he wound up a mega-backhand and…..for some reason thought better of it, awkwardly jerking the disc across his waist and letting go a flick completely against his momentum. The resulting throw had the flight properties of a bad hairpiece – a floppy blade straight out of bounds that didn’t even give the receiver a chance.

Dom stopped and watched the disc sail off toward the water coolers with his mouth wide open. He turned to me, his hands pulling his eyelids down his cheeks as a Kalakala guy went to retrieve it.

“Why the hell did I do that?”

“I don’t….uh, know,” I said, still squinting toward the end zone. I knew he felt awful. It was exactly how I felt at the end of the Surly game. I just patted him on the back and turned to play defense. It sounds shitty but I was sort of glad to have a kindred spirit who was having just as lousy a tournament as I was. Although I’d have traded it for a 5-0 lead in a heartbeat. “Let’s get the D.”

Even at the time, it felt like a turning point. Soon afterward they started to score. And we got nervous. We flubbed a catch at the front cone that would’ve put us up 6-2. Next thing we know it’s tied 7-7.

My favorite two moments of the game came in the 2nd half. Tied 8-8, Seattle put a curving backhand up the line in front of our tents. One of our best players, a lanky yoga freak (and former club champion with the Santa Barbara Condors) named Gav tracked it down and extended to tip it away just in front of the Seattle receiver. While the disc was in the air, another Sunset guy, a short, stocky handler in a backwards Kansas Jayhawks hat named Katz raced over from the center of the end zone and laid out as well. The three of them, all coming to the disc from different directions had a demolition derby in the air, Katz undercutting the Seattle dude, Gav’s ribs landing on the Seattle guy’s head and the Seattle guy’s knee somehow nailing Katz in the groin. When it was all over they looked like extras in a movie about Omaha Beach, squirming, rolling, limping, and crawling away.

From the center of the end zone, Dom looked at me and pointed to Katz, who was rolling on the ground in pain.

“What happened to him?”

For some reason instead of answering him in English, I decided to play charades and lightly cup then punch an imaginary set of balls.

“What the hell was that?” Dom laughed. “That gives me no information!”

“I don’t know. I didn’t want to yell across the field that he got hit in the junk! That was the first thing that popped into my head!”

In the end zone, Dom mimed what I’d done. “I’d have never got ‘hit in the balls’ out of that!”

Katz grunted and crawled to the sideline tent. “I’m fine by the way guys. Thanks for the concern.”

I turned to him. “How’s your (miming cupping and punching testicles)?”

“I have no idea what that means.”

“He’s totally ok!” I yelled out to Dom.

There was a rather lengthy discussion about whether the play was dangerous and constituted a foul, but the Seattle dude after his initial irritation at having his head landed on was really spirited and said no foul. Gav had made a spectacular play to get the disc and all contact happened afterward. So all seemed well. Although we’d learn later that Gav had cracked a rib, thus seriously limiting one of our better players – which really didn’t help our cause the rest of the way.

I didn’t find out about my other favorite moment in the game until the party later that night as I chilled with one of our best cutters, a bull of a dude named Adam who at 48 was somehow always open.

“Sometime during that game against Seattle there was a point with like four straight turns,” Adam laughed. “I was dead. The guy guarding me was obviously dead too. We’re both there with our hands tugging at our shorts so I just looked at him and said ‘hey man you wanna just…..pretend for a while?’”

“What like a truce? You don’t run too hard, I don’t run too hard?”

“Yeah,” Adam heaved.

“I’m fine with that.”

So they pretended. Ladies and gentlemen, I present grandmasters ultimate.

Anyway, the soft cap went on with the game tied 11-11. Game to 13. Seattle scored. Then our offense came back and tied it on a beautiful stall nine backhand from Brody to a tall receiver named Doug. Our sideline went berzerk. I sprinted onto the field with high fives at the ready hoping to be called in for the resulting defensive universe point. I was fired up. But all our screaming and hollering had drowned out the fact that back near the throw a stall had been called. Brody swore he got it off but the defender swore he hadn’t. Goal came off the board. If we wanted to tie the game, we’d have to do it again.

Off the reset, Brody managed to get a dump off but three passes later one of our most sure handed guys dropped a wide open pass with nobody around him. Seattle took the gift and scored to go into the top eight and send us into the “ninals” bracket. It was a disappointing result but after such a fantastic game against such a great bunch of dudes, it was really tough to fly off the handle afterwards. All we could do was regroup and play on.

Our next game was against the #16 seed, a team called Team Helm out of Columbus, Ohio. We won a fun, somewhat lighthearted game 15-9. But the very best part of the experience came in the spirit circle after the game when their captain explained the reason they were named Team Helm.

“For those of you that don’t know, we’re named for Paul Helm, our teammate, friend, and…..in a sport filled with good people, one of the best. We um, lost him earlier this year. He battled and battled and battled but the cancer eventually….” he trailed off and choked up a bit. “This game today was competitive but also spirited and fun. A lot of laughs out on the field and even more on the sidelines. And it’s just a beautiful day and…..this was his type of game. He’d have loved this. He’d have loved this.”

Standing there in the circle with my arms around two of his teammates who were nodding and biting their lips trying not to break down, I went to a place that’s so rare to go, to a moment of full and complete clarity – a pure, deeper understanding of my own mortality and just how lucky I was to be standing in that spot with those people. To be there, win or lose, to compete, to smile, to shake hands, to fist bump, to dive, to jump, to run – to still be able to do what we do. I’m sure everyone in the circle felt it. A connection. A shared sense of purpose and community as if for ten or fifteen seconds there was not only a single team comprised of players in different jerseys, but in many ways a single player. Maybe I’m nuts. Maybe I’m the only one whose very existence, whose very atoms briefly touched another plane just out of our reach, but I doubt it. It was a very moving experience.

When their captain was done with his tribute, Captain Ryan brought us all in together. After every game so far at both regionals and nationals, we’d crunched in tight with the other team and yelled in one voice “Ultimate Forever!” And I occasionally jokingly yelled “Ultimate until entropy completes its inevitable march toward the nothing from which we came!” But this time instead of shouting “Ultimate Forever” to the sky, San Diego and Columbus came together to yell….

“Paul Helm forever!”

I raised my hat to the clear blue sky in tribute. I didn’t know the guy. But I knew the guy. We all know a Paul Helm. Rest in peace, buddy, wherever you are. Thanks for helping me to see and appreciate the bigger picture.

After that, our final game of the day was a 15-10 loss to Raleigh Hootenanny just before I lugged my gear back to the Kia Soul to find the rear passenger’s side tire completely flat. So after sprinting all day I got to lug the spare out of the back, change the damn thing on a sweltering blacktop parking lot, and drive to the Denver Airport – where everyone in line at Avis curiously avoided the dude in the white #95 jersey who smelled like sweat, sunscreen, and more sweat. Like ten people made eye contact as if to ask, “So what’s your deal,” before catching a whiff of my jersey and quickly realizing how little they truly cared.

Anyway, because of the flat tire I got locked out of my suite. On the way to the fields I’d forgotten my key and by the time I got back, everyone was already at the tournament party and thus not there to open the door. So I got to show up at Dry Dock Brewing smelling just as wonderful as I did in line at Avis. I planned on staying about twenty minutes tops, just long enough to use my meal and beer tickets before bumming a key and heading back to shower. That was before I sat down.

The back patio at Dry Dock was moderately populated when I arrived and I immediately spotted Guillermo and some of our great grandmasters guys because you can see our jerseys from the space station. So I hit up the food trucks, got myself an Apricot Blonde and chilled. And of course about ten of us start swapping stories about Poultry Days in 1988 and Mardis Gras in 1999 the Kalakala game earlier in the day and next thing I knew I’d been there for two hours. So Guillermo buys a round of beers. And we finish them and I buy a round of beers. And the party is slowly filling up. I look around and it’s all so damned familiar. Scruffy dudes with long hair and visors and hippie women with dreds and sarongs, slowly tamed by fatherhood and motherhood, work, and family, but still with that familiar ultimate party twinkle in their eyes. The music was loud, the beer was flowing, and the laughter was constant. Though everyone there was over thirty and we may have collectively traded in our pure youthful wildness for something a bit more subdued, it was still an ultimate party. Which meant anything could happen.

To demonstrate my point, Dom, Guillermo, and I were swapping stories with one of our great grandmasters players, this gray-haired dude named Al when a younger woman in a pink tank top came over and tapped him on the shoulder. She pointed at a few empty chairs next to him and asked….

“Are you using these chairs? Ok if we take them?”

Al, being an old guy of course says, “Well that depends. What do we get in return?”

And I swear to you the girl looks him dead in the eye and with the face of a lawyer negotiating property rights goes, “I’ll suck your (nickname for Richard).”

Of course Al, being in his 50’s doesn’t get even remotely flustered. He just chuckles and says, “Go ahead and take them. We’ve got plenty.”

And the girl walked off with the chairs.

After witnessing the exchange, it took me and Dom a second or two to regain our faculties. Finally Dom threw up his hands in exasperation. “Al, what the fuck was that answer?”

“Eh, what was I supposed to say?”

“You say deal, Al!” I shouted, palm to my forehead. “You have yourself a deal! That’s what you say!”

And what made this party different than all the others came via his reply. “Eh, I’ve been married to the same woman for thirty-three years now. My sense of fantasy died a long time ago.”

And Dom, Guillermo, and I banged on the table in solidarity, toasted Al’s marriage and drank well into the night.

The next day brought our final game for 11th place against a team called Sick Hammers out of Texas. And it ended up being a great game – back and forth the whole way. Throughout the first half they were scoring on us easily because well, for some reason we couldn’t figure out that a team named Sick Hammers might ya know….constantly look to throw a bunch of fucking hammers.

“Guys, seriously, they’re not called Sick Backhands or Sick Push Passes,” Black Tide Matt said. “There’s a clue about how to defend them literally right in their name! C’mon!”

My final point came halfway through the second half when I burnt my guy to the end zone, didn’t get the disc and cut in toward the goal line. I was wide the hell open – and the thrower put it almost straight into the grass. I laid out anyway, hitting awkwardly on my ribs and my hip. As I stood up and prepared to play defense, it was like someone jabbed a fire poker into the middle of my back. I went down to a knee.

“Ooooh, shit. Hold up, guys.”

I’d tweaked my back and bruised the living hell out of my ribs, something that made me grimace for going on two weeks. And it was a fitting bookend to the weekend. I swear that out of the twenty or so passes thrown to me in those seven games, I had to lay out for fifteen of them. I started to seriously wonder if somehow I was an optical illusion, appearing like I was always seven yards away from where I actually was. It was the only thing that made sense.

That aside, the weekend was amazing. Frustrating or not, I can’t look back on it with anything but absolute joy. All my years dreaming of playing at nationals and I got to do it. And when Captain Ryan caught a four-yard flick to the corner on universe point to beat Sick Hammers 16-15, suddenly it was all over. Just like that my first nationals was no longer in the future or the present. It was part of the past. It was something I’d done. One bucket list item completed.

We took team pictures, checked out of the hotels, and came back to the fields to watch Surly beat Boulder’s Johnny Walker in the grandmasters final at almost the exact same time Minneapolis Surly COUGARS won the women’s championship on the adjacent field. So that was cool to see. And one field over from that, my old friend Barefoot Ben (who’d had to completely relearn how to throw after shattering his right elbow in 2014) was helping his Washington DC team finish second in the masters division – ensuring that he’d get to play at the World Championships in Winnipeg in 2018. All his hard work and painful rehab had paid off. I couldn’t have been happier for him.

As for me, I wandered around, talked with a couple old friends from Pittsburgh who were playing for various teams around the country, said goodbye to my Endless Sunset teammates and just like that I was on I-25 headed north to Wyoming.

I finished the tournament with one goal – and that was it. We came in a disappointing 11th. And like I imagine happens with just about all Grandmasters players, my mental state fluctuated wildly between, “Ya know, I’m still pretty damn good. I could play this sport another fifteen years, easy,” and “That’s it, I just don’t have it anymore. Maybe it’s time to give this shit up.”

Often those thoughts occurred on consecutive points.

But I can honestly say that now I can hobble away from this sport without any regrets or what ifs. I have plenty of friends who had to give it all up at 28 because of work, kids, or injuries without ever getting to nationals. So I truly am lucky to have lasted this long.

At 40, I now wake up in the morning and my back hurts no matter what I did the day before. My ankles, my right elbow, and my neck pop like firecrackers at random times throughout the day. Where once I could easily touch the top of the square on a basketball backboard, I can now barely scrape the underside of the rim. After all this time, I can honestly envision a future not so far away where I put my cleats away for good. And I’m ok with it. I’ve done enough. Soon it’ll be time for someone else to take my spot in this wonderful game.

But who am I kidding. In 2027 when I get an email from Black Tide Matt that says, “Cramer, we need a guy for our Great Grandmasters team. Are you 50 yet?”

I’ll sigh, smile, and answer, “Yeah. Yeah I am. See you at regionals.”

Photo by Dominic Scarfe

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this final chapter, please consider purchasing Universe Point by Skyd Press, available now on Amazon. And a special thanks to everyone who has bought the book, enjoyed it, and reached out. As any writer or artist will tell you, it means more than you know to realize that all the work (in this case six years) you put into a project has been worth it. And if you think a friend or fellow ultimate player would enjoy it, please let them know! If we’re being honest here, that’s 99% of our marketing campaign. So far it’s been successful beyond my wildest dreams so a heartfelt thank you to anyone who has contributed to the success of the book by recommending it to others.

Thanks and see you on the fields – uh, if my body holds up. – Cramer

Universe Point is available now on Amazon!

Comments Policy: At Skyd, we value all legitimate contributions to the discussion of ultimate. However, please ensure your input is respectful. Hateful, slanderous, or disrespectful comments will be deleted. For grammatical, factual, and typographic errors, instead of leaving a comment, please e-mail our editors directly at editors [at] skydmagazine.com.