Friday, October 24, 2008

My Hall of Fame Induction

One of my favorite lessons from my days as a teacher was one I called Verbal Hierarchy. The purpose is to illustrate to linguistically challenged (and largely disinterested) students that there’s a better way to communicate degrees of feeling than by simply adding really (as in “I’m really mad.”) to a sentence. It’s also a good way to show just how remarkably rich our language is, and how important proper word choice is to clear and effective communication.

Take an adjective that describes a feeling and write it on the board. A good one to start with is angry. Then ask for a synonym for angry and have the class determine whether that synonym describes a feeling that is stronger or weaker than angry. If stronger, write it above angry. If weaker, write it below. Repeat and continue, for as long as you can. Before you know it, teenagers who generally say things like “I wasn’t just mad. I was really, really, REALLY mad” are vociferously debating the proper placement of furious, livid and irate in the hierarchy of anger. Is miffed more or less than ticked, or irked, or peeved? Does anything trump apoplectic?

The exercise works best with adjectives, but nouns can be fun, too.

Some time ago, Alex DeFrondeville pointed out in response to an RSD query that I was not yet old enough for Hall of Fame induction (which was true at the time), but that once I was I would surely be a unanimous first ballot entry. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that once again Alex was wrong. More recently, Jim Parinella stated that it was an “embarrassment” that I was not inducted in my first year of eligibility. If that is true, what can he say about what happened in my second year of eligibility? Is it more or less than an embarrassment? Is it a travesty? A mockery? A sham? An indignation?

See what I mean? Isn’t that fun?

But enough of that. The truth is I’m tired of waiting by the phone, crying my eyes out night after night, hoping against hope for my Sally Field moment. It’s pretty clear now that if you didn’t play in Boston, California, or at Glassboro, the UPA doesn’t want you. While it’s true that I’m annoyed, abraded, vexed that in addition to myself, this year’s uninvited from the Sl8 include Pat King, Peg Hollinger, and CVH, at least I can be elated, buoyed, euphoric that John Schemechel made it.

So I’m taking matters into my own hands, and starting my own Hall of Fame. One thing I can tell you: not in this year’s class, nor in any other class, will you find a Frisbee. With all due respect to the powers that be (this is one of those times when a person uses with all due respect even though no respect is due) putting a piece of plastic in the Hall of Fame is just stupid. Why? Try reading Susan Casey’s essay on the ills of plastic pollution in our oceans and bodies in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007 for an answer. I wonder how many red 80 molds are part of some enormous raft of plastic waste floating in the world’s oceans.

So, without further ado I give you The 2008 Inaugural Class of My Hall of Fame:

Pat King: No brainer. I mean, there are some guys who’ll tell you they belong in the hall when all they ever do is cut bowling alley, go deep, throw ten yard passes, and write tedious tomes filled with obvious observations. All Pat did was dominate ever facet of the game, write clever cheers (anybody else out there use the word souse without referring to alcohol?), and inspire the greatest team of all time to reach the pinnacle of the sport. Not to mention complete the first greatest in a National Championship Final, and thereby create an indelible image that is nothing short of iconic. I mean, if Ultimate ever wanted the perfect postage stamp, that’s it.

Team Mom: That’s right, my mom. If you don’t know, you better acks somebody.
(Maybe the only member of my hall who’s a shoo-in to get in the other one – Moonee ate an awful lot of PB&J sandwiches.)

Windy City: Yes, the entire team. 1983 National Finals was played during a monsoon, and all those guys did was throw and catch ridiculous blades all over the field on their way to the title. 1986 they simply rolled over us, a relentless machine. From synchronized breathing before the pull, to 1-2-Fuck You, to R, to Check, these guys were clever and good. They dominated their opponents, and forced you to toughen up, quit whining, and bust your ass if you were ever going to beat them. That or go crying to your typewriter to pen a self-righteous letter to the UPA about “uglimate.” Gracious in victory and defeat, these guys were the shit.

Johnny Sky: Condor from the early 80s who gets in on the nickname alone.

Peg Hollinger:
Smart, good, tough, hard-ass, bitch of an ultimate player. Also one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. As we say in the south, Masher done good.

Andy Borinstein: Could be the most annoying pain in the ass ever, but he knew the game, its strategies, and was getting inside people’s heads and moving all their shit around long before Gewirtz and with more subtlety and style. Not blessed with much natural athleticism, but still an effective player at the elite level, and an excellent judge of young talent.

Brian Dobyns: Has coached in Open College, Women’s College, Open Women’s and High School divisions. Has started more teams than most people can name. One of the greatest throwers ever, but an even better teacher of throwing. Would have as many titles as anybody out there if that were what he wanted. Started the New York City Summer Ultimate League back in 1982, and even had the vision of a Club League for elite teams in 1980, long before most teams even thought about traveling outside their region to play.

Molly Goodwin: No explanation necessary.

Cribber: Could get in on the nickname and yes, could jump out of the building and throw the craziest blades on the planet. But he gets in because he once stood on the field at Nationals and said, “I wish all the weed I’ve ever smoked was in a big pile right here now.”

Peter “Smoke” Diamandis: Played when games were still timed. Playing with Kaboom! leading the then National Champion Windy City on the first day of Easterns. He has the disc in his hands when the time remaining in the game is less than the stall count. His defender says, “No need to throw. You guys win 10-7,” and reaches out to shake his hand. Smoke throws the flick for a score, looks the guy in the eyes and says, “Eleven.”

Heidi Pomfret: Find my RSD write-up from the first Bullseye squad at Potlach. A gem in every sense of the word, and tough as nails, on the field and off.

Pablo: Once skyed the whole NYNY team while eating a salami and provolone hero.

Skip Kuhn: Fast, tireless, and not a little bit crazy. Once fouled a guy by clipping his heels on a cut, and responded to the foul call by saying, “Maybe I wouldn’t foul you if you ran faster.”

Marty Stazak: Everybody who has ever played has one player who gave them fits as a defender. That guy for me is Marty Stazak from Tsunami. The real deal.

Leslie “Lester” Charles: Probably a no explanation necessary, but what the heck? She is still so ultra-competitive it’s crazy. Recently up in Massachusetts I was too tired (or drunk?) to come through on a promised game of Frisbee golf. She made it clear she was going to kick my ass if I didn’t go out there so she could beat my ass. I did. So did she.

Jean Francois Bullet: French National Ultimate Champion. Won 11 Championships in 11 years. Retired to North County, San Diego to surf and ponder the meaninglessness of existence and the significance of the experience.

Poppy: Yes, my dog. The best dog ever.

Bill Rodriguez: Played for years at the elite level and won a gazillion championships without ever learning how to throw. Forever justifies Joe Durso’s assessment of ultimate as a “limited skillset sport.”

Tully Beatty: Jackie Beatty – Need I say more?

Idol Musings

Last weekend it was reported that Barack Obama set a new standard by raising an astonishing $150 million in a single month, September. By contrast, John McCain, who stuck by his pledge to have his campaign funded publicly, is limited to a total of $84 million from convention to election (and probably wouldn’t have been able to raise more had he opted to go private). The implications of this financial disparity are, at the least, troubling.

Obama has been using the majority of his riches to buy television advertising in swing states, and even in some states that are not generally thought to be “swing.” In one of those new-found swing states, North Carolina, Obama commercials outnumber McCain commercials 8 to 1. As a former resident of that state, I know that many North Carolinians don’t read; they get all their information from the television. McCain’s last minute efforts, hampered by limited funds, have been supplemented by the pedestrian (though affordable) tool of automated phone calls. It doesn’t take a political pundit to know if the average Joe is more likely to hang up a phone or turn off a TV. If Obama wins in North Carolina, there will be reason to wonder if it isn’t because the average person, hearing one message eight times and the opposite message once, simply came to believe the message heard more often. Regardless of which candidate you favor the idea of people’s votes being bought, either through direct payment or media blitz, should be unsettling.

At the same time Obama’s fundraising record was being reported, a smaller item described the changing patterns of campaign contributions made by big pharmaceutical companies. Pharma has historically contributed to both parties, but more heavily to Republicans. Recently, perhaps sensing the shifting tides of democracy, that pattern has been reversed.

As we contemplate the possibility of a historical outcome to a campaign built on the promise of change, we should also be mindful of the corruptive power of money, and the sobering reality that in a system so predicated on money, the one thing you probably can’t buy is change.

On a broader scale, given the current economic times, the excesses of the campaign as a whole are disturbing. Today’s New York Times reports that the total cost of this election campaign will top $5 billion. And that only goes to Election Day. Who can fathom the price tag of the inauguration? If it ends being put on by the same people who brought us the political convention as grandiose, opulent Roman spectacle, you can bet it will add handsomely to the already bloated price tag of this exercise in modern American democracy.