This past week, my article in issue six of the Carletonian was the subject of criticisms by Maddy Halloran and Michael Goodgame. They argued that I had no evidence for my views, which were not only false and unfair to CUT, but (as Mr. Goodgame charges) downright “hateful” and “spiteful.” I concede that I ought to have more clearly referenced my sources in the piece.
However, my claims were based on extensive interviews with members of the Carleton community inside and outside the team. They represent an accurate depiction of how the Carleton community views CUT, and thus CUT’s place in the social strata here.
Mr. Goodgame and Ms. Halloran have three complaints. First, they charge that I dismiss CUT as a team that is “all about drinking,” in Ms. Halloran’s words. She acknowledges that I recount CUT’s “impressive national successes,” but calls my efforts “halfhearted.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. I describe CUT players as the “best practitioners” of college ultimate. I depict the “extraordinary success” of the team which is “even more remarkable” in light of the fact that CUT players simultaneously attend a small, highly selective liberal arts college in Minnesota.
I conclude that “the team has something to teach us all” because its “sheer will to do one single thing better than they did the day before reveals mental strength which we all ought to respect.” To those approaching the piece without preconceived notions of what their fellow students think of them, the thrust of my piece is, and was intended to be, quite positive.
Mr. Goodgame and Ms. Halloran attach great importance to my phrase, “Those who have heard about the Carleton Ultimate Team (C.U.T.), in all likelihood, know it as a particularly steadfast drinking collective.” However, this sentence merely demonstrates what most Carleton students think CUT is, not what my investigation showed it to be. That is why it appears in a paragraph detailing the Carleton community’s overall ignorance of CUT, up to and including its reputation as a drinking team with a Frisbee problem. In no way does this part of the introduction imply that my own investigation validated the Carleton community’s view.
Ms. Halloran’s and Mr. Goodgame’s criticisms illustrate a fundamental and recurring error in both of their pieces. First, they seem to think that the piece represented simply my own value judgment of CUT, and second, that I had no evidence for what I wrote.
Both assumptions are false. The question I asked was not “What is CUT?” but rather “What do Carleton students think CUT is?” In a wide array of interviews, I found extensive evidence that many Carleton students consider the team to be a sub-community distinct and largely apart from the wider Carleton community.
On a sidenote, a number of these sources requested anonymity, so I did not name them in the original piece and, out of respect for their wishes, will not do so here. Many of my sources feared the consequences of candidly describing CUT in a public manner. Their misapprehensions seem well-justified in light of the vitriolic nature of Mr. Goodgame’s piece. Those misgivings, however, should not disqualify their opinions. Bringing to light unspoken perspectives constitutes a central part of the journalist’s role.
For example, one interviewee said, “CUT’s a frat. We all know that.” Another added that, “My friend was one of the better players CUT had and he quit halfway through his second season – it was just too bro-y for him.”
A number of former CUT players also testified to something similar. While I realize that ex-team members can occasionally be biased, their own “insider accounts” shape campus perceptions of the team, so they factored into my article.
One remarked that after a few months on the team “I just realized that I had joined a fraternity,” while another observed that, “They’re just a bunch of jocks, and I wanted to hang out with a different type of people when I came to Carleton.”
Given such evidence from members and non-members alike, a journalist seeking to depict popular campus opinions of CUT must portray the “fraternity” part of the campus’s view. This does not imply that they are my own “spiteful” opinions.
A similar misunderstanding seems to have led Mr. Goodgame and Ms. Halloran astray in their counterarguments against my asserting that CUT is not intentionally isolated from the rest of campus. This is beside the point. What matters is how CUT is perceived. My interviews with a wide range of students demonstrate the general campus viewpoint is that CUT does isolate itself from the rest of Carleton. I list a few examples below:
1. “I don’t know anyone on CUT. They seem very insular and exclusive.”
2. “CUT is exclusive and intense.”
3. (from a former CUT player) “I felt more and more like I was sacrificing time…that I could have been spending with other friends. The Frisbee guys, mostly within their own team, would hang out together a lot and for whatever reason I realized that my personality just didn’t mesh as well.”
All of these demonstrate that Carls, particularly those with experience in the ultimate community, regard CUT as isolated from the rest of campus. Like the quotations about “fratty-ness” above, I was compelled to report them as part of a piece on what Carls think CUT is – regardless of whether or not I think that CUT isolates itself.
Mr. Goodgame and Ms. Halloran also ask “Why CUT?” They contend that the football team, the soccer team, and so on, are just as bro-y as CUT. Although that may well be the case, I do not know, not having written an article about those teams.
Contrary to what my critics seem to believe, my piece did not single out and deride one particular team above all the others. I set out the premise of my article very clearly in the introduction: Ultimate is Carleton’s sport, but CUT is not really Carleton’s team – why? Why don’t more of us go to CUT games? Why don’t more of us know how its win-loss record?
My conversations with students revealed two answers to this question. First, students seem to think that CUT’s social habits tend to set it apart from what the mainstream Carleton community prefers to do. Second, because of the intense training which CUT must undergo to compete, students tend to see it as “exclusive” and isolated from typical community activities.
Nowhere do I suggest that these two factors don’t cut, say, the soccer or football team off from Carleton (and like I said, I haven’t interviewed anyone about either of those teams). Nowhere in my piece do I suggest that the CUT is further separated from Carleton than other teams in this respect.
But some of the first soccer and football teams weren’t founded at Carleton, and our admissions office doesn’t mail prospies soccer balls and footballs. Ultimate is special to Carleton, but CUT isn’t truly treated specially. That’s paradoxical – and that’s why the story was about CUT.
It’s also worth noting that Mr. Goodgame received an email in September with a list of interview questions about CUT for the article. He elected not to respond. Though I conducted interviews with a number of other CUT players, Mr. Goodgame’s boarish rage at the “so lopsided, so unsubstantiated, so ambiguous, and so factually incorrect” nature of my piece seems a little misplaced in light of the fact that he declined to provide help on either account.