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Year-In-Review: In Our Own Words

Ultiworld hired a larger crew of writers in 2014 and sent them across the country to watch and report on the sport. We've asked our key reporters to chime in with some of their most memorable moments from 2014.

2014 in review.All year long, Ultiworld reporters tell the stories of the players and teams in ultimate. Rarely do they have the opportunity to tell stories of their own. So we wanted to take a moment to allow the team to talk about a memorable moment or two from 2014 while working for Ultiworld. Here are their stories.

***

Katie Raynolds, Ultiworld Women’s Division Correspondent:

Often the darkest, lowest negatives carry the strongest and most powerful positives. I sat alone in my dank hotel room at Midwest Throwdown, trying to hold it together after a long drive from Chicago during which I found out my brother’s teammates on Carleton CUT had been in a tragic and fatal car accident. For a long time nobody knew who was lost, then we all did and it was worse, knowing. The only good in that hotel room came from the phone in my hand. Twitter and Facebook flooded with messages from teams across the country and across the world for CUT. Messages of grief, of support, of love. Rivals came together, players crossed divisions, and we mourned together. I felt too far away from my brother at that moment, but I have never felt closer to our community before or since. I wasn’t really alone, and in that moment I knew none of us are ever alone if we play and love this sport.

 

Tad Wissel, Ultiworld Reporter and Back Pages Expert:

The first men’s semifinal between Ring and Ironside was incredible. I’m not talking about the game – which was great – but all the bullshit going on around the game is what made it really awesome.

The crowd is 90% Ultimate players who have just been eliminated from the tournament. What better way to put a bow on the 2014 club season than by getting unapologetically drunk and heckling some Ultimate? Keep in mind these are people that (for the most part) haven’t imbibed for a long stretch in preparation for Nationals. People are roaring drunk. The pisser lines are 10 deep. The heckling is truly nationals caliber.

Ring of Fire, who has been booing themselves as a team cheer since bracket play, quickly capitalizes on the fact that people love to yell shit all drunk. Now everyone is booing. So there’s USA Ultimate, sitting through what is essentially a double game point pregnancy scare – a two hour paternity test episode of Maury – to see if they have to watch Ring and a bunch of drunk assholes boo all over the live event and the ESPN broadcast during finals the following day.

In the mixed division, it’s already too late. USAU’s greatest fears have already been realized. Seattle Mixed is in finals. Then a few Seattle players go off the deep end all high’d up on pot brownies and bring some police attention to the field site. USAU SMH.

As the open semi is reaching a perverse, 17 stoppage kind of climax, Ring’s Jon Nethercutt busts his face open. Play stops.

Cue a fully naked chick streaking the field as Nethercutt lay there, possibly dead. The crowd goes berserk.

It’s funny because USA Ultimate is trying to take this game to the mountain top — the big venue, the ESPN broadcasts — and all the same goofy nonsense that happens at every other tournament was alive and well on the sport’s biggest stage.

 

Keith Raynor, Ultiworld Senior Editor:

The Oregon vs. UCF semifinal at the College Championships. Wow, what an incredible show. Watching the game from the press box was quite an experience. The match featured all the drama you could want and the crowd was into it. You could tell what a huge event and spectacle the game was. It was a dance where both partners lit up the stage, in the spotlight of the ultimate world. I haven’t felt that way about a live sporting event in a long time.

* * *

This next one goes out to random strangers. I got to Seattle for ECC a full day before play started and was by myself, so I decided to explore Seattle, having never been before. This sort of opportunity is not common, because usually I’ve got a full plate of work to do for the tournament, so I was eager to take advantage. I put out a call on Twitter for recommendations for lunch, got a great one in Paseo (RIP), and after hitting the EMP museum for a few hours, ended up getting connected via Twitter with Alyssa Kelly. She accompanied me to this awesome Cuban sandwich joint, even though we had never met each other or spoken to each other.

Now, I take care to catch up with Alyssa each time we’re at the same fields. On top of that, Molly McKeon from Riot came up with the incredibly kind gesture to bringing me free fancy coffee. Just another shining example of how awesome and close our community is.

 

Simon Pollock, Ultiworld Mid-Atlantic Reporter:

After trading a bunch of emails and a couple of phone calls last January, I was standing at my front window anxiously checking my phone and waiting for Charlie to get to Baltimore [for my first Ultiworld assignment]. We were about to meet in person for the first time, and we would be driving the next 6+ hours to Charlotte, NC, for QCTU. We were both pretty relaxed given the circumstances for the first part of the drive, and Charlie was super nice making conversation and getting to know me. I felt more or less comfortable, but still super nervous for the weekend.

Then we discovered that the rental car had satellite radio and we could listen to basketball. If we didn’t hive five right then and there, as two relative strangers, we should have.

 

Mat Reese, Ultiworld South Central Reporter:

I guess for me it would have to be during my drive from Missouri Loves Company just a month ago.

It was my first college tournament as a reporter for Ultiworld, but I rode up and back from Austin with a group of Texas players, three of whom were my teammates at Nationals last May. I was thinking about my story lines from the weekend, and as much as I wanted to avoid it, a big story was how much TUFF struggled. I was, however, keeping my opinions to myself, as I didn’t want to discourage the people who so kindly let me join their 14 hour car ride for free.

Then Charlie called.

Of course, Charlie wanted to do a podcast call with me and, I think, Keith. So there I am, in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma — which is painful in and of itself — and I had to spend five quality minutes talking about how Texas sucked that weekend, and that they were clearly the third best team, if that, in the South Central, while I was in a car with five Texas players.

The car conversation that followed was highly entertaining.

I guess that was the moment that I felt like I was actually a part of the Ultiworld team, rather than a part of the Texas program, which I ran for the past two years.

 

Preston Thompson, Ultiworld Southeast Reporter:

Earlier this year, while covering Florida: A Warm Up Affair, I was stranded. Charlie couldn’t make it down from JFK because of the crazy winter storms, leaving me with no hotel room and no rental car. The hotel room was an easy fix, but I still hadn’t hit the rental car age. As the tournament wound down after the stellar Friday night game between UCF and Pitt (featuring an unforgettable Brawley Adams Callahan), I began talking to some of the Wisconsin players who had also been left without some of their teammates due to weather. I told them my situation, and the five strangers with a packed car having just finished a 12 hour drive offered me a ride. Just goes to show our community is a strong one.

 

Alec Surmani, Ultiworld West Coast Reporter:

Last night of College Nationals. We’re all cranked from sleep deprivation and too much thinking about ultimate (and not getting to actually play it). We’ve also all had a bunch of beers. Not enough to get ripped or to be journalistic irresponsible or anything. Just enough to slowly drain us of our productivity.

It was about 3 a.m. We’d got most of the work we needed to be done that night, or at least most of us. We still had some preview stuff for Sunday that a few of us had to do, but at that point we had accepted we’d passed the point of usefulness for time being.

So we’re all lying down in our little claimed areas in this family’s loft in some Kentucky town near the border of Ohio. Some of the more responsible or exhausted or just not stupid people have passed out.

The rest of us are going all out on GroupMe, competing partly for laughs but mostly for supremacy.

The main thread followed an attempt by the lot of us to troll our photographer/videographer/staff fall guy Adam Shapiro, who, in not having any articles to write, was free to go party with some eliminated players. The troll-ery involved such ingenious maneuvers as trying to convince him we were on our way or were stranded and needed help.

This clever ruse quickly morphed into us doing our best to convince Shapiro that Charlie was terribly maimed, on the verge of taking that long slow dirt nap, and Shapiro was apparently the executor of Charlie’s estate and consequently responsible for the quality of Charlie’s life in his finals hours and beyond.

. . .

There were other great things about that time in Ohio. The fact that we got to witness and contribute to history, regardless of how specialized or minute it was. Or the fact that it was the first time an employer had ever flown me out to a city for, well, anything really, and I felt like a legit reporter again. Or the fact that despite all the shit Ultiworld gets for pretty much anything it does, we were doing a level of reporting that had never really been done in the sport — and it felt damn good.

All of that was great.

But for me, the moments that often wedge themselves the deepest within me and trigger the kind of nostalgic wistfulness found in old photo albums or Nickelodeon reruns are often the ones with my friends and I all laughing like maniacs when there are countless other “better” or “smarter” things we could be doing with our time. The kinds of things nobody retains in their memory. The kinds of things that never compare with remembering the cool tears drying on your cheeks, as you lie trapped in the fetal position, waiting for your abs and jaw muscles to stop hurting, but secretly hoping they never do.

 

Alex Rummelhart, Ultiworld Midwest Reporter:

For me it was pool play at Club Nationals (which also happened to be the first tournament I solely covered, rather than also playing in). Machine had just gone to double game point in round 1 against Sub Zero and come out victorious. The late victory had given me even less time before the next round started. I got my interviews, took a quick picture of the stat sheet, and then ran around two fields and back to the tent (I did a lot of running from place to place). I remember arriving with a strange feeling of adrenaline, being really annoyed at my computer for being so slow in starting up, and then typing as fast as I could…it was probably the first time I really felt like a reporter. There I was zipping away lines of coverage…I felt like an old newspaper guy on his typewriter covering boxing…while around me people yelled scores, floated ideas, and shared comments in a true media way. My recap was literally going to be the definitive report on what had happened in that game…it was a cool feeling.

 

Charlie Eisenhood, Ultiworld Editor-in-Chief:

In 2014, I traveled 16,526 miles reporting on ultimate. Highlights included Italy for Worlds, multiple trips to California, Seattle, Myrtle Beach, and an always enjoyable Athens, Georgia, during college football season.

At this point, the trips blend together a bit for me. I’m on year three of a pretty grueling travel schedule (especially during the college season). But, as you may have gathered from the stories above mine, there is something special about our major events — College and Club Nationals. It’s the most challenging reporting we do all year — even as we continue to bring more reporters and widen our coverage, the pace is similar: watch games all day, write furiously between rounds, then go home and keep writing until deep into the night.

It’s actually pretty rare that we even see each other in person during the rest of the year. I’ve met multiple reporters for the first time at a Nationals event. That had me fairly worried about how everyone would get along, especially with all of us living together in a rental house for close to a week. But it’s worked! It’s really a highlight of the year now to come together and churn out 100,000 words over the course of four days.

***

My number one reporting moment from this year had to be watching Rhino upset Sockeye in prequarters in Frisco. It was a wild game with the slowly ramping up of intensity that seems to define the classic contests — you kept waiting for Rhino to make a critical mistake or for Sockeye to break it open, but it never happened. In the middle of the second half, my phone — on which I was taking notes and tweeting — was approaching death. I had to do a full sprint back to HQ to grab my battery brick and sprint back to avoid missing any of the game. Tweets continued uninterrupted.

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