Building an Empire

by | March 6, 2018, 6:20am 4

There comes a time in life where change must happen in order for growth to continue. Since I wrote my last article, what started out as a look into my role in gender equity slowly became a bigger look at my role in life. This introspection came about when I realized there was a critical flaw in my intention to play for the team willing to do the most for women. This plan would put the onus on the AUDL teams and the gender equity movement to determine what the best route would be. It turns out to be an impossible request; the flaw being that every single person involved has a different opinion on the best way forward. That problem is compounded when one team or person chooses a path and no other team or players follow. It’s been an interesting development to watch from the inside. Although there are many people working hard behind the scenes to make positive change, these past few weeks have left me with a helpless feeling that I am not knowledgeable enough to tell people which path to walk. After all, it’s their hard earned resources on the line, not mine. That is why I am going to do something a little crazy with faith that in the long run it will be the right path; a path where I hope to be not just someone with ideas, but also someone with the means to implement them.

My biggest weakness in everything I do has always been my comprehension of business. Although my creativity and determination allow me to do incredible things, my good ideas and positive intentions are not enough to change the world the way I want. At the heart of all things I want to do is the cold hard truth that everything is just business. It’s a dirty word creative people like me actively avoid. That’s why most of us end up as starving artists walking down a wooded path, talking philosophy to the trees, with only a strong moral righteousness to keep us warm against the reality of the cold dark night. Sure, there may be nothing wrong with that, but as I grow older I am realizing it’s not the path for me (plus, I hate the cold).

After my last article, I was actually feeling disheartened and unsure of what to do until I was approached with an age-old proposal from the New York Empire family, based on the idea that teaching a man to fish is better than giving him a fish. For those that struggle with reeling in analogies, the fish I speak of is a slippery, ruthless business fish. They proposed a complete and equal trade: my entire ultimate skillset in exchange for their extensive knowledge of business.

Ultimate may be special, but we are not above the rules of business. If we actually want to create a sport that has real pro athletes from all walks of life, we must learn it. At this point, the AUDL is the only league that seems to be trying to make that a reality for men and women. Regardless of the speed of the progress, they are at least walking on the right path, and it’s up to people like me to convince them to jog by running with them.

My new plan is a four year plan, just like a college education —  but instead of school, my subject matter will be real world material. In that time I will learn everything about business through the two lenses I care most about: my video game studio and the world of sports. This is going to require sacrifice and a complete move to the East Coast, leaving my safety blanket of closest friends in San Francisco, and, more important than that, it means leaving Revolver for good.

Revolver is the embodiment of what it think an ultimate team should be. They are the teammates I trust completely when everything is on the line. I won’t even be able to finish my Revolver career by playing in the bid we earned for the World Championship, for it is a program built around no one being above the program, and I am no exception. I’ve broken up with girls before, but this is even harder.

I tried writing Revolver a letter many times but kept deleting it, and in the most cowardly way possible, this is how they are going to find out that it’s over.

It would be a lie to say that as I write this my eyes are dry —  they are not — and the couple in the coffee shop next to me seems adequately uncomfortable with a man letting his tears do the typing. It’s been a hell of ride and I’ve learned more about life from this team than any other relationship. Revolver taught me how to be part of bigger picture; a picture etched with beauty, humor, integrity, respect, camaraderie and the rise from an underdog to a dynasty. Revolver Ultimate grew from being a hobby to a way of life that helps me walk down any path with confidence. I love you guys, and using my typical escape from emotion with humor, I’ll end with: “It’s not you, it’s me”.

The craziest thing about all this is that I have no contract and no written agreement with the New York Empire. I go into this new adventure with nothing but a promise that if I leap, I’ll be caught. In the business world this is called stupidity, but in the real world this is called family, and it’s where I will begin my new life: with a new family I trust completely. Together as family, we’ll go all in, sharing skills, combining knowledge, stockpiling passion, and accumulating the talent needed to build both a video game and an ultimate Empire. They, like me, understand it’s going to be a lot of work. We have responsibility to everyone, and I look forward to earning the respect from the entire community and proving that despite our differences in vision, we are actually in this together.

The next craziest thing is that my new Empire team is unknown to me. Marques Brownlee was the only teammate I briefly chatted with about making this huge life change. His calm demeanor and understanding of what I want to do gave me a huge boost of confidence. It’s funny how such a young kid can provide someone as old and seasoned as me with the confidence to continue, and is another powerful reminder that friendship and help can come from anywhere if we’re open to it.

Then, of course, there is the heart of the team, Jeff Babbitt. We have never talked or even shaken hands. All I know about him is that he shares my opinion that Lebron James is the peak of what an athlete/player/human can be. That is a good start. Of course, the real important thing is that he is exactly the heart you can build a team around. His devotion to success and doing whatever it takes to help his team is apparent in the small amount of film I’ve watched. I will be the old Batman relying on cunning and he will be Superman relying on the fact that his strength is not from our world, and together we will assemble a team of heroes to vanquish the everpressing white walkers from the North (formerly known as Canadians).

Last on the list of crazy is how much I am going to have to step up in every way possible. At age 35, my body needs to be rebuilt from the most fundamental level to be able to play for the next four years. Intelligent trainers and proper nutrition are going to be a must. The video game studio needs to become a real business and not just a creative passion project, which means my mind must be educated by the super lawyer team, the diverse advisors, the eclectic angel investors and the wizardly new dev team. Of course, there is the monumental task of building the New York Empire, a team worthy of New York sports team lore. It would take a book to explain what that entails, but the hardest part for me will be the business side. Already, I have listened to talks that give me hope that this team will be the first ultimate team to be able to crack the code of taking this sport to the next level and not just be a barrel of burning money. Jim Gerencser showed me what one man’s passion and persistence can do for ultimate. The New York Empire have an entire network as crazy as Jim, all willing to step up and figure out a sports business, a no sane person would touch, and a business I need to understand if I am going to transition onto my next mission.

Four years from now I hope to have the business knowledge, the capital, and the right people involved to really enter the fray with my hard earned resources on the line. My idea for a truly equitable league is pro beach. It’s an opening that has not been attempted, and as such it would not compete with any of the existing leagues; in fact, I am sure that even USA Ultimate will want to be involved. A league could be built from the ground up with values and a structure that benefit everyone, from players to owners to the all-important consumer. If done right, it could have a women’s division, a men’s division, and they could combine for mixed games. Smaller fields mean a smaller roster and coverage that’s easier to film and produce in a compelling way. My vision combines the pro volleyball model with the Lei Out model. Parties, music and world class ultimate. An event. A spectacle built around fun and around a solid business plan.

Over the past month, the one thing I learned is that I have to be humble enough to accept that I am not ready to change the world in the meaningful way I thought I could. Instead, I have to change myself. To evolve. To leave things I love, settle down and focus on the parts of life I’ve always hated, like the cold hard truths of business. Some people go to school for four years to learn business. I am going to New York, to the middle of the melting pot, to learn what it takes to actually forge the future. To be honest, I’m terrified. I am going to miss the whole Bay Area, its quirky open culture, my four weird roommates, my many inspirational training partners, and, of course, my diverse collection of friends who accept me in all my oddities and my often-misinterpreted introvertedness. At the same time, I’m excited. I’ve roosted in my cozy San Francisco bubble long enough. With my loving girlfriend as my copilot and our collection of stuffed animals as our crew, it’s time to push this winged contraption into the winds of change.

Catch us New York, we’re coming in hot.

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