Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pitt is the Ultimate Champions

One of the highlights of my weekend was watching Pitt play for the USA Ultimate college championships.  They defeated Wisconsin 15-10 in the finals.  Go Pitt!

This warmed my heart for many reasons.

1. I love ultimate & I went to Pitt.  The club team started the 2nd half of my senior year (spring '98) by Kirk Edleman.  Despite already being hooked by the sport I had no part of the college team, so it's just an alum cheering for his namesake.

2.  When I did start playing ultimate ('97) there were a few highlights of that team (Mountaineers). 
A) Running deep to have a disc float down into my lap - thrown by either Henry Thorne or Evan Schmidt.  Every speedy rookie should have the joy of chasing a perfectly thrown disc to help them learn to cut.
B) For halftime at games Henry & Karen's kids would take the field.  Watching 6 y/o Alex Thorne toss wobble free flicks 40 yards to his 4 y/o brother Max.  Amazing for 2 reasons. 1) These youngsters were physically too small to throw a backhand.  They couldn't bend their arms while holding a disc and get any velocity; so they only threw flicks.  All rookies struggle making a flick happen and these kids were effortless with it.  2)  Catching.  They didn't do sloppy pancake catches to protect their face; it was an automatic grab of the rim regardless of velocity or location.

Alex & Max both played a major part in the Pitt program accomplishing this feat.  Congrats to them and their proud parents.

3.  In many ways this is the purest and hardest fought championship in sport. I would watch the championship game regardless of the teams on the field.  It is still an underground sport where the "pro" league (just started this year) may end up paying you $200/game.  FYI, that isn't enough to live on.  Every college team is hungry for the title.  They work hard, they practice hard, and they play hard.  The players work to be the last team standing when the fields are cleared of those who didn't measure up.  There is one championship and one champion.  Not computer selected, not controlled by a political structure with TV contracts; it is purely who played the game best and won.  Better than every other team out there.

There are not really scholarships for ultimate.  Pitt has one (not a full-ride) and I'm not aware of any others.  Ultimate battles for athletes with the "real" sports for players.  I'm not sure there will ever be an ultimate coach sitting in a living room trying to convince some parents that their school is better than all other schools for their precious child to go play ultimate at.  No university is paying ultimate coaches.  I've heard the "real" sport coaches deride any participation and leverage against it.  Ultimate is played by folks who love the game and play it at the highest level for the love of the game.

Go Ultimate!  Go Pitt! 

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