Sunday, August 21, 2005

What's in a Number, What's in a Name

DC Nasty, the team I joined upon moving to DC, has undergone a transformation. After several years with the same name and a rotating lineup, we chose to change our name (and hopefully keep our lineup). It's been a period of changes for the team. For one thing many of our key players are completely new. My teammates Ed, Shamik, Paul, Lily and Megan are all new to the team. Though I think I may be the newest of that group. That’s some serious turnover and I think those additions will help (though I cannot speak to the players whom we replaced). All the same an old name failed to capture the soul of this new entity.

So we did what all good democratic entities do: we voted. Everyone on the team was encouraged (frankly I hounded people) to submit names to the group. In the end we accumulated 41 names. Many stunk, some of your author’s choices, in retrospect, were a bit off. Though I will continue to believe that St. Eugene could be a great name (St. Eugene is the patron saint of dysfunctional families, a pretty apt description for most ultimate teams). After voting (a 3 choice weighted vote administered by yours truly) we whittled the list to three choices: Wiki, U-Dog and Polly and Illuminati. Wiki as in the –pedia, and it’s Hawaiian for fast and informal, U-dog is a reference to the 60s cartoon, and Illuminati just sounded cool to enough folks.

Following a tournament we gathered together to consume some grilled meats and down a few beers in the hopes of uniting this motley crew of folks into a team. Never underestimate the value of shared meals, stories and humiliation as team building exercises. We managed to achieve each of these goals, and we also decided on the team’s name.


Big Red Death Machine.

Yeah, turns out like most democracies, decisions are made by those who show up. After talking about the various choices upon which we had voted, we decided that they all sucked so we went with Big Red Death Machine. I think it’s sufficiently ridiculous and despite sharing it's ackronym with that of boredom (BRDM) it's a good name and moreover I really enjoying playing with this group of people and feel more included now that we’re ALL calling ourselves this new thing. It’s nice, when I first moved here I was trying to choose between two seemingly disparate ways of playing ultimate: regionally competitive men’s ultimate and midlevel regional co-ed. I still wonder from time to time where my skill set places me, meaning if there were some sort of ultimate draft at what level would I be playing. Would I be able to play nationally competitive, regionally or mid-regionally? But that’s only one part of the equation the other part involves enjoying every minute of practice, and sharing in the creation of a team. That's the part of this sport that I love even more than playing, being a part of something larger than myself. It's a little like a campaign, you take a bunch of crazy fuckers bind them together under a common flag and then ask them to do things that are beyond sound judgement and their own perception of self-limitation. Oh and there's usually a fair number of attractive members of the opposite sex just to keep the lizard brain happy.

And as it turns out, I’ve really loved playing with BRDM. We’re a team that’s starting to figure out what it’s like to be a team. We are cheering one another, we’re going out for dinner and drinks. Teammates tease, taunt, and support each other. It’s a good situation. This is the first time I’ve been involved with naming a team, and it’s the first team for which I’ll have a jersey with numbers and the whole shebang.

Which forced me to select a number.

As a child I never had a favorite number. It seemed like numbers were symbols devoid of much communicative power, and so I never really picked one as my own. Oh, and even more importantly playing baseball most of our shirts were assigned by height. So the smallest child wore #1, while the largest was usually assigned #19. As a lanky kid who didn’t like tight shirts, I think I tended to get 11. That seemed the right size for me. But I never really cared about the number I wore. So when I got to pick my number here it was strange how easily I chose my number: 25. I first thought about selecting 25 when Jen and I were still dating, and it was the date of our anniversary, but the strongest attachment to the number comes from, sadly, Paul’s death. He died 10.25, and for some reason the number 25 has seemed a pretty powerful symbol since then. So I’m number 25 on this team…a childhood of Michael Jordan worship, and I pick 25 instead of 23. I guess I can think of myself as having grown up.

After picking my number (which I should add, I’m really proud of) I went to ESPN to try and find out what famous players have worn my number. (I guess it should be the other way around, presumably KC Jones didn’t select 25 in admiration of me). The most famous players to wear 25 are Barry Bonds….Mark McGuire….Rafael Palmerio….and Jason Giambi. So astute readers, what do each of these men have in common? That’s right they’re all baseball players. Oh, and they are all fucking steroid-ed out of their minds. There’s more juice in them than a carafe of Tropicana. These are men with veins with diameter of a garden hose and forearms that require headbands not wristbands. I have inadvertently selected the universal symbol for ‘roid head. Terrific. It’s hard to imagine a person less likely to be accused of using “the juice” than me. I once described my earlier physique/fashion choices as looking like a toothpick being wrapped in Kleenex. Put another way, I have a much easier time filling out a 10-40EZ than I do any shirt. But now I’m in the company of these great cheaters -- Mighty Caseys of the “medical” enhancement revolution, and Aaron: a modern redux of the 98lb, sand-kicked, weakling. Pretty great..

But what’s in a number. A lanky player wearing any other number would layout just as sweet.

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