Well, I guess the word is out, so there is no sense in keeping it a secret anymore. Many people asked me about the impending change to Boston ultimate, and yes, it's true.
I sent my retirement letter to DoG a couple weeks ago.
It was remarkably short and dry, I must admit. I tried to muster up some mush, but I got all of my teary-eyed feelings about retirement out of the way back in 2004, my first "final" season. That year, I went through the fall knowing that it would be my last, so I was able to deal with all the baggage of experiencing my last practice, last trip to Sarasota, last time leaving the fields, last free beer at the tent, etc. (at least as an Open player; at this point, I still don’t think that Masters counts, even as I plan to play this year). I still really wanted to play and felt that I could play, but it just seemed like too much to handle anymore, especially having a small child.
But then I got a couple months away from the season, and I had already begun to miss it, and to forget the bad parts. I decided that I didn't really have to retire, and you know we gave Furious a helluva game in the quarters, so who knows what another year would bring? So I plunged ahead. (Cynics say I came back just to sell more copies of the book.)
The next year wasn't nearly as hard to continue. I had a strong performance at Nationals, and the team made semis for the first time in three years.
But now, well, I'm perfectly fine with not playing, although of course Mr. Big Ego thinks he can still cut it at the highest level. It's not that I'm retiring to spend more time with my family (in his wonderful book "The Game", Ken Dryden talked about how he and his wife would laugh at any athlete who claimed that when retiring; I highly recommend the book, especially to anyone at the end of his athletic career). And it's not that I'm ready to move on with my life. It's just that all things considered, getting the band back together is a much more intriguing proposition. Yes, we're going to dust off the old DoG guys and relive the glory days, minus the glory.
We're still in the process of figuring out how to structure the team and what sort of goals to set. (One opponent this weekend asked if we planned to win six in a row in Masters. I replied that it's more likely that one of us would die on the field first. He replied, "That's morbid. Probably true, but morbid.") I tried at Fools to convince other old-timers to get their bands back together so we could all go at each other, but I'm not sure whether that will work out. Would anyone pay to attend a DoG vs NYNY match, maybe with an Earth vs Graffiti undercard (maybe as a fundraiser for some worthy cause)? Would we resort to breaking out the canes to hit each other for old times' sake?
I had a very satisfying and fun career, and while I feel that I earned what I accomplished, I know also that I was lucky, both genetically and environmentally. Even as I made fun of those who were perpetually injured, I probably didn't do much to escape being in that group other than avoiding collisions and knowing when not to push a tweaking muscle. And sure, though I did "bust my ass doing wind sprints in the cold and rain", so did a lot of other people.
I will miss being a nanocelebrity, and being able to make preposterous remarks about how infallible and worthy I am and draw laughs instead of strange stares. I don't think I'll miss people stopping me to ask about rules interpretations, even if the new pick rule is indeed stupid. I'll miss the camaraderie, although that should still be there in Masters, if not moreso (though not the sense of a shared struggle through the year). Most of all I'll miss the occasional game that is so consuming that you forget there is anything else in the world. I can mention "the Ring game" to an old teammate and not need to clarify which one, or "that one huck", or "Bim's catch", and I'll get teary-eyed and we'll both say, "yeah."
Aging of course was a factor in the decision. As recently as age 37 in 2002, the year we were a couple plays away from winning Worlds and Nationals (although we won neither), I felt as dominant as ever on offense, up there with 1995 and 1998 as my peak years. My overall awesomeness wasn’t as great in 2002, though, as I stopped being put in on defense in about 2000, our second year with a roster of 25. (I played about a dozen points of D in 1999, many of them important ones, as I was surprised to remember while watching the Above & Beyond DVD recently.) But now the peak isn't as high, but probably more importantly, I can't play at near-peak nearly as often. The warmup period is too long and the cooling down too quick such that the ebbs and flows of the game just make it really hard to be at that peak all the time.
Thus, big ego ultimate is dead, long live Big Ego Ultimate. All you other old guys, block off June 2-3 for Masters Easterns and the end of October for the UPA Championships, and I'll see you out there, if not on the field, then in the beer tent.