SotD: The Stakes

“If there’s no future in it, at least it’s a present worth remembering.”

Dude here,

Welcome to the Spirit of the Dude (SotD). I will talk about things that I think about concerning ultimate which generally revolve around the spirit and community of ultimate. So even though I don’t know where this blog will take me, my first few posts will be about spirit related subjects. Here comes the first post: The Stakes.

For those of you who don’t know me, currently I’m doing an MA in Digital Documentary. Even though my passion is feature films, I chose this course because Sussex University had one of the best ultimate teams in the country and they didn’t have a hands on film programme. I am serious. So even before coming to the UK for the programme, I wanted to make my dissertation documentary on ultimate. What better thing to do other than bringing them together right?

So this week, I went to talk with my instructor about how to approach the project, which part of ultimate can it be about, what to focus on and what to leave out. With my instructor I was struggling. It was not just about ultimate but also how to make it an interesting subject for a documentary. Before meeting her, I thought I had some good ideas but just as I started explaining to her what ultimate was and what made it special, I realised that nothing was getting through and I wasn’t talking about anything interesting even to myself.

With a quick twist to wake her up, I started going into more important things like ‘Hawks winning nationals, Brighton’s success in Europe and the pressures these created and suddenly she asked such a simple question that just caught me flat footed: “So what’s at stake?”

This is a question I sometimes ask myself. Why are we pushing ourselves so hard (OK, ok, why are people pushing themselves so hard since I generally sit in front of a PC)? What are we getting out of this? Why are we putting so much effort into ultimate when the most you can earn is a title which only matters in the ultimate community itself?

Most people playing ultimate right now will never earn a living playing ultimate (organizing, teaching/coaching or other means might bring some money yes, but making money by playing is not possible yet, which is another topic I’m planning to talk about in the future), so future career is not an answer. Prestige seems like a good reason, but when you come to think of it.. Sometimes I talk to a muggle (non-ultimate person, yeap I’m smart), and I would say “Mohawks were national champions last year!” or “BU won Mixed Euro’s in ’09” and the answer I get is generally something close to “Oh, that’s nice.” or “good for you guys.”. So prestige only works among players, which yes, can be a factor, but by itself is it enough of a reason? Since I’m not a great player and won’t have great successes in my career it’s not for me and the majority of people who play.

I believe the stakes comes down to why a person plays ultimate. I play for two reasons:

1- I love watching a disc fly, it was love at first flight (cheesiness alert), that’s why I love long plays (and as much skying as possible please, one good reason to play with players like Ash and Callum). Watching a disc fly, reading the flight and catching it is just an amazing feeling that can only be understood through playing.

2- The community. Not just the local community one plays in but the community of ultimate in general. The spirit we have and the crazy that we share. I love the fact that it doesn’t matter which country I go to right now, if there’s an ultimate scene there, I have a bed (or at least floor) to sleep for free and someone to share a pint with and then chuck around the next day.

But there are no stakes here still right? Here comes the stake and the main reason I play for: I love being part of a team. Wanting the same things with a bunch of people and fighting for it, together. At times screaming at each other, at times wanting to punch each other in the face but always fighting together. The only stake for me while playing ultimate is letting my team down, if I’m playing bad, I care because I bring my team down with my bad play. So when push comes to shove, all that matters, all that is at stake, for me, is my team.  Because in the end, twenty thirty years from now, it’s the times I’ve spent with these people that I will remember, the good ones and the bad ones. All that matters is the team we form.

What’s at stake is the people in your team. It’s why we play, or at least why I play.

I’m aware that this is not a clear answer since we haven’t established the what and why of the team. The crazy that we share? Maybe we can talk about that in another post.

I wish I could’ve come up with this answer with my instructor at that point, but what can one do, these things come out when I sit down to write.

What do you guys play for, what is at stake for you? Are we all crazy?

See you in another SotD post guys.

Peace. Dude out.

A big thank you to Shimmy for the editorial work.




  • Fetu

    I think that’s one of the posts I’ve been able to relate to most. I guess that ultimate takes up so much of a ultimate players social time that, for me at least, I want to succeed because recognition within the circle is enough. As for years/decades into the future, I believe that most people want to leave some sort of legacy. University (birth place for so many ultimate careers of course) is a special and rememberable time in anyone’s life. I remember ultimate players from my first year, who I haven’t seen in years, because they left a legacy. Either that they were a good ultimate player, fun to be around or simply a great laugh in Falmer Bar. Any Mohawker can leave a legacy.

    Again nothing about stakes ><

  • alex

    Awesome post Dude!

  • ed

    really enjoyed reading this!

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