Family by Pops
“In the end it’s always been about family”
Admittedly, my own family life has been somewhat of a rocky road. In fact some would say I’ve never really had one, and in most respects they would be right. But, I’ve come to realize that my family isn’t biological, but rather comprised of 250-300 people who call Gainesville home and ultimate is their favorite past-time. Many many years ago, I being a nomad of sorts, landed in Gainesville and discovered this sport of ultimate. It was found amidst semesters, holidays, and the soggy swampy heat of the Florida summer. I was hooked. Ultimate was something I could see myself doing for years to come.
Anyone who started playing ultimate elsewhere will undoubtedly share my sympathies. In fact, they may very well have been as disenfranchised with ultimate frisbee as I was, but there was something about Gainesville ultimate that was different. I couldn’t have told you what it was for many years, it was, it was just different than any other sport. I loved the dynamic nature of the game, and how no matter how good you were there was always something you could do better, some cerebral aspect that you could add to your game to compensate for what you lacked athletically or skill wise. Not to mention how despite the stereotypes ultimate in Gainesville is chock full of incredibly intelligent people. However, the X’s and O’s (no thats not hugs and kisses) of the game haven’t inspired me to write this piece. I’m actually writing because of something else; something I, until recently, have been missing all along. In fact, I fear that sometimes we all lose sight of it from time to time. Family. Family first frisbee second. When we look across the field sometimes we see a bunch of faces. Some of those faces are opponents, some are teammates, some are even friends, but how often do we look across the field and see family? Do we see the person that taught us first how to flick? Or the person who invited us to our first pick-up game? Years ago I would have told you that I only saw opponents and teammates. My taste for the game and victory was so insatiable it blinded me to every other aspect of the game, and in that regard, blinded me to everything that made Gainesville Ultimate so great.
I would go to the games, get in my zone, then win or lose I’d go straight home, and mull over for a week “Why we won, Why we lost”. I didn’t bother sticking around, and I didn’t bother really getting to know anyone, and in truth I hardly doubt anyone really wanted to get to know me. When playoffs and the championship game came around I didn’t bother sticking around to watch, heckle, and drink. The way I saw it is if my team wasn’t in the game then, “Why in the world would I even bother?” League to me was something to be/become good at, something to be won. And I missed it, I was missing out on it all.
But then something changed: I started hanging out, started bringing and sharing beers with people I didn’t even know, talking about jobs, playing duck duck goose or tossing with the kids, going to Mel’s afterwards to play some flip cup and eat greasy burgers. And gradually the more and more I did these things the more and more I looked forward to the next week, the more and more I started finding excuses to hang out. I started to see the scenes behind the curtain, the cogs, the gears, the pistons behind what makes this game truly great. I began to see the old guys who have championship discs and gold medals a plenty invest in the guys and girls that were drafted 11th round. I’m not talking about coaching, though that was taking place, but they were sharing funny and embarrassing stories, war stories from leagues past. I started to realize that ultimate isn’t a game, or even a bunch of consecutive games, but rather it was a giant family reunion; week after week. New faces were coming, Old faces were leaving, and some faces never left. Irregardless once you became a part of this family, you always will be. Just like family, you don’t get a choice in who your crazy uncle is, but its a lot easier to love your crazy uncle when you realize he loves to throw the plastic disc too.
Maybe some of you know what I’m talking about, and maybe you don’t. If you feel like you’ve been a part of this community, this community, for a while I challenge you to keep doing what you’ve been doing, and if you still feel like your on the outside looking in, please let me know, I’ll be glad to buy you lunch and a drink.
As for those of you who’ve been family to me, I’d like to say thank you, for once I feel like I belong somewhere.