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Ego limits


At dinner last night, Kris, Brynne, Beth and I talked about various Mischief recruits. There are a couple women recruits who would fit really well on the team, both in terms of skill sets, as well as personality, the latter being one of the big traits for the team: haters need not apply.

One woman in particular had come out to a practice a month or so ago, but hadn't come back. The captains, and by captains, I mean Shirley, had contacted her via email several times, asking what's up, what's her schedule, what is she thinking, was she still looking for a team to play with? The recruit was remarkably poor at communicating back, so Brynne decided to take matters into her own hand and go to dinner with the recruit, ask her face to face what was up.

Turns out, this particular recruit wasn't interested in playing with Mischief because she 1. felt if she joined, she'd be the top women player on the team, 2. thought the team was full of egos and 3. didn't think we throw to our women. That water I was trying to drink? Yeah, I nearly choked on it when I heard this.

That the team doesn't throw to the women players is clear bunk, just watch the various Nationals videos. This is a myth that's perpetuated as near as I can tell by the other local elite Mixed team in their recruiting attempts. I find it hard to believe when we play four women in the semis at Nationals that the women wouldn't receive the disc. That, and as the person who recorded every single pass at every game at Nationals, I can say with confidence that our women not only received the disc, they also threw the disc and had their own share of turnovers.

Personally, I don't know how good the recruit is, but to say she'd be our top woman player without having actually played more than a practice with us sort fulfills the second part of her concerns: she'd definitely bring an ego onto the team if she joined.

Most of these thoughts were reactionary. Recognizing them as such, I tried to see the team from an outsider's perspective. If I didn't know the group of players, these people with whom I've shared a large portion of my daily life for the last four years, would I think of them as full of egos? Would I consider them unfair in their sharing of playing time? Would I really think our woman suck so bad that a random woman could come in and dominate?

Clearly not on the last one. It's hard to win Nationals playing just over half our players, and if they sucked that would happen. The level of play at Nationals is high enough that everyone on the field has to carry his own weight. There were a couple teams who played their men nearly exclusively, who didn't have strong women. They did poorly at Nationals. Their playing style was called out, a men's team with token women. I'm confident that the top half of our women's roster would play just fine against most of the women's teams at Nationals. But, perhaps that's just ego.

Thinking about the egos further, however, I had to wonder how accurate this stranger's opinion was. I thought about Donner Party and tried to make the comparison of Mischief to them. I hated playing against Donner. I thought they were unfriendly, unspirited, aggrogant players. Any call that went for them on the field was "Good call! Good spirit! Good spirit!" Any call that went against them was "What?!? That's wrong! That's bad spirit!" They muttered under their breath on the sideline about how the other team wasn't playing fair. They didn't interact as players with any other team, they stayed with their clique. They were poor ambassadors for the sport of ultimate, which is unfortunate as they represented ultimate at Worlds.

Now, this is my perspective as an outsider, as an opponent. In ultimate, a call is a call. It's a statement of fact of the play, of a potential violation of the rules. If a player breaks a rule, calling him on it doesn't make the opponent unspirited. Spirit has nothing to do with making the call. One could, though I never do, argue that not making the call allows the opponent to continue to break the rules, thereby violating the spirit of the game. Making the call is therefore the spirited action, done to preserve the quality of the sport.

As a result of my dislike of Donner, I try very hard not to be the horrible player on the sideline who mutters, who views the other team as the enemy, and not just as an opponent. I recognize the other team loves this sport just as much as I do, and that, contrary to my gut reaction, they are not deliberately cheating. I try to keep my mouth shut, my perspective may not be the best one, and my opinion doesn't count for anything when I'm on the sideline.

I fail sometimes. The heat of the moment, I'll call out what I saw on the field. I manage to get into arguments on the field, still. If I'm not a player, I'll remind myself to shut up. I'll bring out the rulebook and offer it if requested, but I try very, very hard to both keep the discussion on the field, as well as between the players directly involved.

It's the rulebook I think that bothers some people. Our team knows the rules. We know where to find the rules in the rulebook. We will use the rules to our advantage, just as we expect our opponent to use the rules to their advantage, never breaking them, but always knowing them. I think this also intimidates other teams. Some action may not seem "fair," but it's well within the bounds of the rules, often both the letter and spirit. Speaking of fair, the 11th edition pick rule is the most retarded rule change ever. My tournaments will be 11th edition rules with the 10th edition pick rules until it changes back to something reasonable where reasonable is defined as play goes back to when the pick happened, not when the thrower acknowledges the pick.

So, perhaps the recruit's opinion isn't really that dissimilar to what mine was for Donner Party.

Though, if she's really good enough to be the top woman on our team, she'd recognize that she's just bitter her team never won it all.