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?