i can't remember the exact year, but it had to be early 90s. i went to fools to play with the dwarves because, well, i'm kind of a stubby little guy myself. still, most of the dwarves were stubby guys i had always played against, and arriving at the fields that first morning i was a little nervous about what kind of reception i might get. but i had a good gameplan, which was to have fun, fit in, be short and laugh a lot. well, it seemed good at the time.
i hadn't been at the fields for more than five minutes, hadn't even put my cleats on yet, when one of the original dwarves (taco?) saw me and said enthusiastically, "we've got dobyns. now we're definitely going to win."
fast forward to fall 2005 in raleigh, nc. after a three year break from winter league (and a 28 month hiatus since i last threw a disc) i decide to put my name in this year's draft. in truth, my sister-in-law had concocted a good plan. she suggested that, as she was a captain, i should sign up saying i would only play in two games and couldn't make the season ending championship tournament. she was sure she would be able to pick me up in a later round and i could play with her and my brother. well, it seemed like a good plan.
i was chosen in the first round, the fifth overall pick.
in a post to rsd today, eric zaslow unwittingly made a very shrewd and timely observation. he commented that i'm clearly concerned with my ultimate legacy, a comment that, as he meant it, is totally false. i couldn't care less about my ultimate legacy as he describes it, the collective opinion of a vast and faceless majority who don't know me and never will. (on a side note, if i really were all that concerned about how history sees me don't you think i might have bristled at the description of me in the history: a comical napoleon?) i am, however, concerned that the legacy of having once been great will dog me to my dying day, and that the one thing i really want to do when i go out on the field these days is the one thing i might never be able to do-have fun.
at our most recent winter league game we were involved in a close game for a change (we had won our previous two rather easily), it was a beautiful day (although the fields were a little sloppy) and i was having fun. after catching a short pass near the sideline, i wound up and threw an absurdly big backhand fake and heard the call: "travel." i turned to my defender, and i was probably smiling when i did so because that's always been one of those calls, particularly in league play, that i think is kind of absurd. noticing that a big glop of mud had splashed up onto the rim of the disc, i reached out to a teammate on the sideline to wipe it on his shirt. at that point my defender says, "why don't you wipe off your ego while you're at it, old man." i turned and for the first time really looked at the guy. he was my height, portly, with a beard, wearing a visor, and obviously very fired up about something. and then it hit me; he was fired up about covering me. all i wanted to do was have a little fun, not get hurt, and get back home in time to cook an almond torte i was taking to a friend's birthday party that evening, and this guy was out for blood, and willing to talk trash to get it. in winter league.
so, why the pity party? why now? well, the recent reactions to my rsd posts have ranged from the "you're unnecessarily harsh," which i deserve, particularly as it relates to my post about jessi's research, to "you owe more to the game considering your stature and reputation," to which i say nonsense. after two hospital stays (one in intensive care), two knee surgeries, and countless cuts contusions, bumps and bruises, i owe this game nothing. it's one thing to say a professional athlete who has parlayed a playing career into a tidy living owes a bit of respect back to the people who lined his pockets, but all ultimate ever provided me was a place to compete. in return, i brought everything i had to the table every time i played. if you ask me we both kept up our end of the bargain. we're square.
so now, nearly 30 years after i first played 3 on 3 in central park, i occasionally sit down at my computer and post some comment on rsd for the sole purpose of amusing myself and the small handful of like-minded people out there who read along. so what? i like to go out to winter league and haul my aging carcass around while throwing at what must surely be about a 50% completion rate. so sue me. i ruffle some feathers and poke some fun and tweak some noses and never take myself any more seriously than i take anyone i'm making fun of. sew buttons on your underwear. is it really such a crime? and why shouldn't i do it? because once, long ago i was great and my team won and people looked up to us (or alternately hated us and wanted to see us perish in a fiery car crash)? i'm not buying it. zas and zags and tony and joe may be selling it, but i'm not buying it. not even if they throw in a free copy of their book(s).