Part of me knew I was going to try out for the Carleton Ultimate Team as I watched them compete at regionals my freshman year. The idea hadn’t fully formed yet, and at that point I couldn’t have told you for sure. But CUT delivered a message to me that weekend, and from then until the first combined men’s practice in the fall, I knew I was at least going to show up. Once I did, it was inevitable; my vision was confirmed – this was a team I wanted to be on.
I knew nothing about Ultimate Frisbee, but that was beside the point. They could have been out there behind the recreation center playing competitive backgammon and I would have latched onto it just the same. It was not about what they were doing, it was the way they were doing it, and specifically the way they were physically and psychologically destroying their opponents. Many of the teams they competed against, with their players who were merely skillful, simply stood no chance against the army of the CUT. Their noise, their passion, and the singular look in their eyes telling me and their opponents that they were hungry to win, gained my utmost respect. Plus, it was pretty cool watching Justin Norden slice forty-yard forehands through heavy wind with what looked like no effort at all.
When I made the team last November, I was ecstatic, but my excitement turned quickly into a sense of determination even more heightened than it was when I was competing to gain a spot on the roster. I felt an intense desire to prove myself, to show to the team that I deserved to be there after they had already effectively told me so, because I wanted to be at the same level of energy and commitment I saw behind the rec the previous April. Throughout the next seven months, I learned the hard way what CUT is, and I am never turning back. This is far and away the most meaningful and rewarding program I have ever been a part of, and being a returner this year means that my sense of determination, the sense that I need to continue doing more and more in order to prove myself and contribute to this team, is only increasing. I love the CUT.
This attitude, or something like it transmitted socially, seems to be the motivation for J.M. Hanley’s recent Carletonian article about CUT. He chalks the team up to “work ethic,” “verbal sparring,” a “fiercely competitive nature,” and, to illustrate the real focus of his argument, that CUT is little more than a “particularly steadfast drinking collective” in the eyes of the Carleton community.
There is so much wrong with Hanley’s article that it’s hard to find a starting point. His commentary is so lopsided, so unsubstantiated, so ambiguous, and so factually incorrect that it barely even deserves a response that has any semblance of clear-headedness or articulation. I, and I daresay other readers of the weekly publications on campus, have seen CLAP articles about century pong (and indeed pictures of mallards) with more substance. I was shocked and disappointed to find such an obviously biased piece of writing presented as journalism on the front page of the campus newspaper. At least the CLAP doesn’t take itself seriously.
Some of Hanley’s points necessitate a response not because they are at all correct or even valid but because I fear that his fallacious writing will confirm pre-existing biases of those who may think the way he does (and his piece forces me to assume that these inclinations are in fact shared by some).
Hanley’s claim that CUT “behaves like a fraternity in the Dartmouth sense” is completely untrue and not backed with any kind of evidence that doesn’t attempt to profit off the use of the ambiguous phrase “in all likelihood.” Dartmouth frats are notorious for egregious hazing of pledges and generally contemptible behavior. CUT is entirely respectful of Carls and of its own players and tryouts. No player is forced to do anything he does not want to do, and we wholly represent Carleton’s culture of openness and respect. Such a casual comparison to Dartmouth’s disgraceful frat atmosphere is nothing short of libel.
Hanley also demonstrates a lack of understanding of organized athletics in general, applying things that all sports teams at Carleton and elsewhere do to CUT alone and interpreting them negatively for no given reason. He writes that “CUT players choose to largely isolate themselves from a good deal of the Carleton community because they feel that preserving the team’s success requires it…Players live in the same houses, do homework together, and eat meals together.” Hanley seems to think that players living, working, and eating together is a phenomenon exclusive to CUT and is objectionable in itself. Neither of these things is true – all teams do these things and it makes complete sense that friendships are formed within such a group.
Furthermore, nowhere is he compelled to back up the claim that CUT feels that social isolation is required for success, which is also untrue. Hanley’s claims with regards to “isolation” point the conversation in the direction of athletics at Carleton in general and cannot be pinned to CUT alone, a group that I submit is exceptional with respect to its internal operations and attitudes but is no different than any other team here in terms of how it fits into the broader Carleton community. Every team is “isolated” in some sense. We do need to practice on our own.
But I digress. Hanley’s piece really is unique, and it presents me with a conundrum. The side of me that writes a column for the Carletonian and has a strange need to expose what I see as unreasonable or hateful has a very strong urge to verbally hammer it into the ground for many pages, which he is inviting me to do. I could fill multiple editions of this newspaper with complaints against such an article. But what is gained in so doing?
Not much. Because frankly, if Hanley wants to tempt himself into thinking the worst of a team that is simply trying to succeed at the highest level possible, he has all of the freedom in the world to do so. It worries me that he feels this way, but I am comforted by the fact that any level of evidence will point him in the opposite direction: that CUT is a team committed to its ideals like any other, it will have “tasteless” fun on the weekends like any other, and there is nothing wrong or even special about either of these things.
So excessive rallying against such an uninformed view is not really worth it. I’ve indulged to respond to what I see as the most spiteful aspects of his argument, and I’ll keep it at that. Because in the end, revilers can say what they will – the CUT moves forward.