Saturday, August 09, 2008

wtf

On a cold, drizzly, November morning in 1984, I woke to the sound of helicopter rotors and the vibrating sheet rock walls of the Pilot House Motel in Santa Barbara, California. In my memory, the sound was so loud, the rotor wash so pervasive, I would have sworn the motel was actually on the tarmac, but across the room Pat King slept right through it. Who could blame him? Getting up would only mean the beginning of another exhausting day dragging our marginally talented team on his back in vain pursuit of our impossible quest, a national title. Another day of playing every point, touching the disc every other pass, drawing the other team’s best defender, and knowing that no matter how well he played it probably wouldn’t be enough. I’d have stayed in bed too.

Pat’s team, KABOOM!, was a dog and pony show whose bulldog was lost for the season to a freak kidney injury. That left the rest of the team riding the pony, Pat, as far as he could carry them. In the past I may have slighted some of my former teammates by suggesting that we weren’t a very good team, but we really weren’t. We were tough and fearless, and we played a slogging, plodding, northeast style that was brutal on the eyes. When we won, we won ugly. Come to think of it, when we lost it was pretty ugly too.

KABOOM! was a ragtag hodgepodge of players who weren’t especially fast, couldn’t throw especially well, and were named after a toasted oat cereal with marshmallow stars. But we had two legitimate star players, and when they were in form we could play with anybody. Alas, when one of them went down with an injury, it was a different story, or so it looked from the sideline where I was standing in November of 1984. I have no idea what it looked like from where Pat was standing. I never found myself in that position because Pat never got injured. Except for that one time…

Back in the day, my brother had an urban landscaping business and he got a job putting a backyard garden in behind an upper west side brownstone. He hired Pat and me, and then told us that our fist job was to remove a sidewalk that ran the perimeter of the yard and was four inches thick. Oh, and we had to do the whole job with a pickaxe and sledgehammer, then haul the pieces out by hand in milk crates. By the time we finished the job Pat had sustained nerve damage in his right wrist from hitting a concrete sidewalk with a pickaxe several thousand times. Being Pat, he didn’t let the cast keep him from playing, although he did play with a tennis ball nestled in the fingers of his right hand to keep him from involuntarily lunging for the disc and causing further damage. It surprised no one that within days Pat could throw better lefty than most of the guys on the team, but I digress.

The average annual rainfall in Santa Barbara is about 15 inches, but on the last day of pool play in 1984 they got about half of that. The wind whipped, the rain came in sheets, and we wrapped ourselves in plastic to stave off hypothermia. But with the game to go to semis being a matchup of the high flying Condors against slogging KABOOM!, the rain was our best friend. With Pat leading the way and me wrapped in plastic, we were leading at half. Sadly, all good things, even miserably cold, driving southern California monsoons, must come to an end. When the sun came out for the second half the Condors came to life, and despite Pat’s efforts, for the second straight year KABOOM!’s season ended one game short of the semi’s.

1985 saw the return of the bulldog, and with the dog and pony show in full swing, KABOOM! finally made it to the semifinals. A hard-fought victory over Windy City earned us a trip to the finals, and earned Pat another brutal job. Having blown my ACL on game point, I was reduced to a sideshow in the finals. It again fell to Pat to carry the team on his back, and did he ever.

If you can stand watching grainy footage of guys wearing short shorts, making a bunch of turnovers, and sliding around on a brutally bad field, get a hold of the 1985 Finals. You will be treated to two delightful treasures.

The first is the commentary of the Condors’ Keay Nakae, a great player who happened to also be a colorful commentator. Late in the second half, with KABOOM! in the midst of an improbable comeback against the Flying Circus, he offers up this gem: “Circus looked like they had this game in the refrigerator, but they left the door open and KABOOM!’s been snacking.”

The second is the play of Pat King. He literally takes over the game. With everybody knowing he has to touch the disc every other pass, he still gets open at will. Point after point he throws a 30 yarder, catches a dump from the receiver, throws another 30 yarder, catches the next dump, and throws a goal. He goes up in a crowd and gets a block, throws a bomb to the goal line, then sprints downfield and catches the goal from the receiver he threw the bomb to. He plays every single point and never seems to tire. And when the game is over and Circus has won, he reacts not with resignation but fury, because he fully expected to win.

So why am I telling this story, and why now? Well, I told it once before, to the UPA Hall of Fame selection committee, several years ago when Pat was first eligible. I added in the details of Pat’s importance to New York, as well as the plain truth that he is quite simply the greatest player I ever played with and absolutely deserving of election into the Hall. I’ll save you the trouble of looking and tell you that the selection committee didn’t see it that way. Not that year, nor in any of the subsequent years when his application for admittance was still eligible for consideration. Initially I was dumbfounded. Now I think I understand. Sadly, my understanding is significantly more troubling than my dumbfoundation (not a word, but should be).

If you do some looking around on the HOF section of the UPA web site you’ll learn a few things. One is that the HOF vetting subcommittee has a distinctly Boston flavor. In 2005, three of the five members were former Boston players. In subsequent years that number drops all the way down to two. Another thing you’ll learn is that five of the past ten players voted into the Hall played all or some of their careers in Boston. A little more pointing and clicking and you’ll learn that of the 18 championships awarded in the Open and Women’s divisions from 1979 to 1988, 3 were won by Boston teams. Imagine that. Half of the players who make it past a committee that is 40-60% Boston players come from….Boston. And yet only one sixth (roughly 17%) of the championships from the early era were won by Boston teams.

By contrast consider that 7 of those early titles were won by California teams (about 40%) and three of the past ten players voted in played in California. Hard to argue with those numbers. But then you see that during those early years Windy City won two titles and lost in the finals twice, but no one from those great teams has been named to the Hall. Is it possible that certain members of the selection process are treating the Hall like their private, restricted club?

Which brings us back to Pat King. On page 70 of the Ultimate History book there’s a full page picture of Pat holding a disc aloft above Brent Russell of the San Diego/LA Iguanas. The caption tells you that Pat spiked the disc wrathfully. For the record, he didn’t. He flicked it backwards away from Brent, and it fell softly to the ground. Did this image and its attendant misinformation hurt Pat’s candidacy? How about the fact that several of the members of the vetting subcommittee had their seasons ended by Pat’s team year after year? Did they let that cloud their judgment? Who knows? What I do know is that Pat had all the skills, played both ways all day long, was a leader on and off the field, and played with great success at the pinnacle of the sport for over a decade. Sounds like a hall of famer to me.


So my question is, What the fuck?


In the interests of journalistic integrity, I should probably point out that although I was eligible for election to the HOF this year I was not selected. Seems the committee didn’t know I was old enough, which serves as a nice reminder that, pretensions to the contrary, we’re still a marginal hobby sport run by a bunch of erstwhile stoners who struggle to get their acts together. By way of explanation cum defense, Jim Parinella said I shouldn’t be offended because they also overlooked Paul Greff. Sadly, the admission didn’t have the desired effect. Pat King has been eligible for years, has applied, and has been rejected. But I’m supposed to feel better because they failed to consider Paul Greff? Sorry.

But I can allay Jim’s concerns about the matter. After all, who would want to belong to any club that doesn’t want somebody like Pat King as a member?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

wtf is right. it seems ultimate, at times, is more of a popularity contest than a sport. For those of us that were NYNY, or just general badboy, fans pat is definitely recognized. I do remember that photo of pat fake spiking on that guy, remember him gettin ripped on rsd and also remember IT......because i was there. You guys crushed iguana so bad that game there was no need to intimadate them. But i tell ya what i DONT remember though.....who the fuck this greff guy was. I can remember moons, mada, jerimy but thats about it. I guess he was just one of them random boston dudes scrambleing to try and punch the disc in as they would dump swing (for what would seem like days) proir to turning it on there own line due to NY's relentless D......that or their pregame greasy fried chicken dinner.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't keep up with Ultimate gossip or Rec-sport-disc too often, and certainly know very little about UPA HOF. When I started reading your post about Pat King not in the HOF, i couldnt believe he wasn't in. But my real WTF moment came later in the post when I learn that you are not in the HOF. Is this actually true? Since I've been playing ('91), there have been two dominating Ultimate players, and KD is one of them. KD really not in the HOF: c'mon now that's crazy!

river

Anonymous said...

I only saw pat play once -- in Hong Kong, about 10 years ago, when he was well past it. He killed, and Hong Kong won a 12 team tournament.

Anonymous said...

My name is Doug Lilley. I've been playing about 30 years and the three best players I've seen are Mooney, KD and Pat King. I don't know anything about the Ultimate HOF but if those guys aren't in it, that's crazy. Carry on...

Anonymous said...

with this blatent charge of boston homerism within the upa hof its somewhat telling that no bostonites have chimmed in to contest. Especially jim p. Could it be they are still disgruntal over the many ass whippings handed to them by KD and PK et al.

parinella said...

Ken, that's not what I said. I said that you weren't nominated, and that others (including Paul) weren't either.

Paul is great, but you're Kenny Freakin' Dobyns. As I wrote to you after you asked why were you "snubbed", it is embarrassing to us (the vetting committee) and the sport that you were not inducted the first time you were eligible, unanimously. I feel stupid about it. But the reason you weren't inducted is not homerism. Fifty or so peer reviewers (including Pat King and HoF-er Dan Weiss) looked at the list of names to be voted on and did not reply, "Why isn't Kenny here?" There were also other too-young guys like O'Dowd on the Peer Review group (it is my recollection that you did not want to be part of this group, which is why you weren't). The only thing I can think of is that they noticed your name was missing and assumed that you were too young. Late last year (after the peer review voting had been concluded but before any announcement) I was looking through the NY website for ages of your teammates that I thought might be old enough and saw that you were finally of age and was surprised (I thought you were just 44 or 45; last year's minimum age was 46, this year's is 45).

If you know of other 45 or 46 year olds who should be included, let Finlay know.

Anonymous said...

Fin Waugh is a complete dick and one of the biggest a-holes coaching ultimate. If he somehow reads this: lighten up, Fin. Do you want to be liked or hated?

Anonymous said...

My favorite comment on the video of the 1985 Finals is when Kenny enters the game and the commentator Keay describes you as "the man who hurts the ground". Now that's a classic line.

You, Pat, and Keay are all obvious Hall of Famers in my book. It is a sad commentary when the election process fails you Kenny, the game's greastest player.

The other part of your story causes me to remember one of the most exciting finishes to a game I ever saw, which involved you three. 1983 Nationals in New Orleans. The first time to The Show for Kenny and Pat as they lead upstart Kaboom versus perennial contender The Condors. I started watching the game early in the second half, with Kaboom leading the favored Condors by several goals. The game remains tight, but finds the Condors slowing clawing their way back to even. This was one of those last games of the day situations, so the crowd on the sidelines kept building as other games finished, which only added to the tension. The teams continue to battle, pushing the game to double game point. Kaboom receives the final pull and begins working the disc upfield for the winning score. But the game ends dramatically when Keay makes a diving block and immediately picks up the disc and hucks it downfield. His receiver is running towards the endzone uncovered and needs only to secure the disc, which he does. The
classic "thrill of victory, agony of defeat" moment ensues as the Condors rush the field in joyous celebration, while the Kaboom players slump to the turf, as the game is snatched from their grasp.

Anonymous said...

so it wasnt homerism after all.....just stupidity. Par for the course eh.

kd said...

OK, let's try to read for comprehension and keep our eyes on the ball. This 14 paragraph post spends 13 of them talking about Pat, and asks the question, "What the fuck?" in reference to why PAT is not in the HOF.

As for me, I pretty clearly state the selection committee didn't know I was old enough. I never use the term "homerism" and probably wouldn't, seeing as how it does not roll off the tongue near so easily as "dumbfoundation."

Jonathan said...

From what I have heard about the HoF selection process, it is
highly political and filled with personal agendas, as most are I would imagine. Here's an example: Danny Weiss, A unanimous first ballot HoF'r for sure, didn't get in the first time his name was voted on by the committee because their votes were all spent voting in their own pet nominees. He didn't get a single vote that time. Each thought thought that Danny would be carried in by the votes of other members from the selecion committee. Danny was eventually voted in.

Both Kenny and Pat should have both been unanimous, first ballot HoF selections. I think of them as a pair. They could not have achieved their level of greatness without each other as players or as leaders...and they were great at both.

The irony of this fiasco is that one very prominent member of previous (maybe current?) HoF selection committees who has already been "self-selected" owes his own selection to Kenny. If Kenny hadn't decided to end NY Ultimate in 1994, after 7 mostly dominating years at Boston's expense, then DoG's 6 straight years of "Glory" which coincided with NYU's demise would have simply ended then as "Death". Then we all could have been treated to another one of Boston's "genius" names such as Titanic, or First Time Gary and The Reacharounds.

A couple of questions for those who might know (such as board member Parinella):
Who is on the selection committee? Who has been on the previous committees? Why is there no transparency?
Why were only 4 HoFamers (only 3 players) selected when there could have been 5? I can think of a few besides KD and PK who are worthy right off the top of my head (Mike Glass, Kaey Nekae, CVH, J Seeger, Liz Marino, Molly Goodwin).
Why do men and women compete for HoF spots? Shouldn't there be a specified #for each gender?

JG

Anonymous said...

kd.....its obvious you are campaigning for pat and not yourself, which is highly commendable.

homerism(in this case) = a "distinct boston flavor".....which was (indirectly?) the cause of the "dumfoundation"(ism?).....right?

stupidity because the selection commitee just didnt know your actual age. Reminded me of this rookie wrightsville beach cop that couldnt do the math and figure out i was under age as he was staring directly at my ID.

i know you seem to be unwantingly(prb not a word either) getting drug into this issue because many see you and a pat as a tag team(dog and pony as you say) of sorts and may feel that you two were/are equally deserving in your accomplishments. and i doubt that pat wouldnt do the same for you......and deservingly so.

To a certian extent this isnt about either of you as much as its about how f'ed up the upa, hof and the whole sport is.......to me anyways. I'm just thankful for any chance i get to rip the upa.

ulticritic (as if ya didnt know)


ps. on a different note. I've been campaigning for your mom on an rsd thread.......ya think theres a spot (or should be) for her in the hall?

parinella said...

Here is a link to the Hall: http://upa.org/hof. It's easy to find (link on the left of the UPA main page, or the first hit from google). That should answer some questions.

Anonymous said...

Even the baseball Hall of Fame had similar issues in the early years. Joe Dimaggio didn't get in until his third year of eligibility Link

Never subscribe to malice what could better be explained by incompetence.

jacob said...

This link to an rsd post I made last Fall helps to explain why Pat and kenny are not in the hall of Fame:


http://groups.google.com/group/rec.sport.disc/browse_thread/thread/33...

jacob said...

Never mind. That link doesn't work. Here is the text:


Pat King: "I get tired of people talking about how dirty we [NYNY]
were and how we were just a bunch of cheaters and bullies. It's a
bunch of crap. We busted our asses to be as good as we could possibly
be and had a lot of fun along the way."

me: And the rest of us get tired of you ex NYNY guys trying to rewrite
history by claiming all that you did was in good fun. I was on that
junior team that NYNY scrimmaged back in 1988 in Central Park. When
you guys brought that ox to the field all roped up, we though it was just a gag .... until you rushed at it with your machetes, screaming at the top of your lungs.

To be fair, some of you (Ben Usade, Danny Weiss) chose not to
participate in the slaughter at all, and some of you (Cribber, Mike
Nevins) were giggling and not really swinging at full strength.
However, the fact remains that most of you (as a means to get psyched
to scrimmage a bunch of high school kids who looked up to you) ruthlessly butchered an innocent animal.

To make matters worse, you had apparently not brushed up on proper ox- machete-group-slaughter (see Apocalypse Now), so the poor animal
actually briefly survived the slaughter, left desperately grasping for air as blood filled its lungs and its warm entrails slowly oozed onto the sidelines, the aroma creating an nauseating mix with the stench of your burning crack rocks (none of which you offered to share with my
team).

You can fool yourself all you want, Pat. Those of us who were there
remember what you were. Keep the Shiites on the field!

Anonymous said...

Please post your cow story just a few more times.

-friz

jacob said...

I assume you're being sarcastic, Friz. I realize that running old material (for the third time) is kind of lame, so I can't blame you for a little ribbing.

Pat King emailed me about how he got a kick out of the ox story, so I posted it on KD's blog, figuring that at least some people reading that blog might not have read it on rsd, and might find it funny.

I grew up playing ultimate in NY in the 80's, and the guys I looked up to looked up to KD, Pat and crew. That ox story was originally written as a silly tribute to the bad boy antics of NYNY, but also as a means of mocking those who exaggerate how bad those antics were.

More importantly, when I posted this story on rsd the second time (when the HOF snub was brought up), some people actually believed the story might be true. Incredible. Maybe there is no connection between the HOF snub and the fact that some people in the ultimate "community" are willing to believe that P King and the NYNY guys slaughtered an ox to get psyched for a scrimmage against high school kids. Maybe.

By the way, since we are all frisbee people, singing off as "friz" is pretty pointless. In the future, you may want to leave your actual name.