Monday, June 1, 2009

The WUFO Blog

Last Sunday, I had the honor of playing my final game as a member of the the Williams Ultimate Frisbee Organization (WUFO) to claim 9th place at the National Championships. For the uninitiated, a nice summary of the sport and of the tournament can be found here. Our achievement is significant - we are a self-coached team with no recruits, built in a school of 2000 students, and we compete against state schools with students bodies of 50,000 students, coached by retired masters who competed at the highest level of club play.

And there is a great joy in what we have done, in the friendships that our organization has created and maintained, and in the play itself. Others have reflected eloquently on this. Our team president said at our final post-game meeting, "To accomplish a goal like this and to do it with twenty of your best friends - you don't get many moments like that in life. Enjoy this." There is Eric Liddell's famous formulation in Chariots of Fire, "God made me for a purpose. For China. But he also made me fast and when I run I feel God's pleasure." Finally, Johan Huizinga's definition of play, "a free activity standing quite consciously outside ordinary life as being 'not serious,' but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly."

I have found that the point of view of the serious athlete or competitor and that of those who eschew playful competition are essentially incommensurable. There is no rational argument to persuade the skeptic of the importance of the competition to the competitor, nor can the skeptic persuade the competitor that the competition is irrational. The joy and depression of athletics is too deeply felt to be subject to such persuasions, and ultimate particularly is a game of heart. While offense in ultimate is a cerebral affair, a calculated effort to minimize turnovers, good defense originates in the gut, and requires complete disregard for safety. When one is on defense, the body is expendable because nothing is more important than gaining possession of the disc. I do not believe that argument can have any bearing on one's judgment of the importance of this matter.

Now, to something more mundane, a recounting of the team's official tournament play this season: sectionals, regionals and nationals. High placement at an earlier tournament is necessary to qualify for a later tournament.

Sectionals: Two day tournament at Williams College, 12 teams in competition for 3 spots at regionals

Pool Play:
Game 1: Williams vs. UMass-B
Come game time, UMass-B is nowhere to be found, so, in accordance with the rules, we begin assessing points. A few in, we learn that UMass-B players were involved in a minor car accident that morning. After 12 assessed points, four players arrive and we play a short mockery of a game. Williams 15, UMass-B 0.

Game 2: Williams vs. Middlebury-B
Midd-B has a few quick kids and a couple who can throw, and manage to get off a couple of deep shots. But again, this is a B-team. Williams 15, Midd-B 3.

Game 3: Williams vs. Amherst
Amherst has not beaten Williams in eons, but has almost always kept things close, invariably playing zone defense on every point. Our O-line slices easily through a weak cup, but Amherst hucks with authority and keeps things close. Finally, we force the necessary break. Williams 17, Amherst 15. Too close for comfort.

Game 4: Williams vs. Vermont
Vermont has a couple of great athletes, but not enough to fill an O-line. We force many turns and win easily. Williams 15, Vermont 8.

Game 5: Williams vs. Williams-B
The B guys play a solid offense that regularly falls apart near the end zone. Michael Levy d's Wenis repeatedly. Williams 15, Williams B 2.

Bracket Play

Game 1: Williams vs. UMass
Things stay reasonably close through the first half, Williams up 8-6, with UMass showing little interest in playing defense. In the second half, they show an equal lack of interest in playing offense. Williams 15, UMass 7. Clinches a spot at regionals.

Game 2: Williams vs. Middlebury
We get chuck-happy in the first half - bad policy against a team whose two best players are over 6'2". Midd plays expertly on both sides of the disc and easily takes half. We put our heads back on for the second half and try some zone to throw a kink into their offense. Their handlers are simply too fast and precise for us to do much damage, and we can only muster an even second half. Middlebury 15, Williams 9.

More to come tomorrow.

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