There are plenty of Ultimate programs that would be quick to tell you that they like to have fun or feel like a family together. That’s part of being a team. Especially during the spring, many teams spend the majority of their weekends in the spring traveling, playing and partying together. There is no doubt that such an amount of time together forges bonds that are on another level from your average college friendship.
However, there are some programs that take this idea even one more step further. These are teams that truly enjoy every second they are together. You can tell from their play, their interaction and the opinions their opponents have of them that there is something special about the team. There are a few programs like this, but very few that have managed to elevate themselves on the field to a level that rivals their interpersonal relationships.
Notre Dame Papal Rage is one of those few programs.
During the finals of CCC UVA’s Tyler Conger caught a goal and charged ahead into the open arms of Notre Dame’s remaining players, fresh off their consolation game against Alabama. Papal Rage, possibly still bitter about the way they lost to Wisconsin in semifinals, stuck around to heckle the Hodags and cheer Night Train on. Papal Rage mobbed Conger, it was a rare sight indeed, unless you’re familiar with Notre Dame Ultimate.
Papal Rage’s senior captain, Andrew Schroeder, enlightened us to some of the nuances of Notre Dame’s team.
“I think (this) highlights what we’re about,” Schroeder wrote in an e-mail. “It’s real cliche and I hated it for the first two years I played here, but ND Ultimate is a big family. We’ve got a really good relationship with our girls team and a great relationship with the alumni. It’s cool gettting to meet guys that played here when I was still a little tyke shittin’ in my underdrawers and occasionally getting sky’ed by ’em.”
Those alumni come out of the woodwork every year for ND’s home tournament, Whitesmoke. Ordinarily, the alumni and the current players gather for a beer scavenger hunt (groups of people taking photos while chugging beer in front of campus landmarks). Then, at the end of play on Saturday, the famous Rage-Age game, where all the Papal Rage alum take on the current players in an all-star game to end all all-star games.
“The game gets hype all year and there’s all kinds of trash talk and whatnot and basically it’s a blast of a game,” Schroeder wrote. “After it’s done, we’ll talk about it all year until the next year.”
Perhaps that’s the base for Papal Rage’s current sideline rapport.
“No one is untouchable or immune from the butt end of jokes or as we call it, ‘getting smoked,'” Schroeder wrote. “Hang out around our team for a few minutes and you’ll likely hear multiple ‘SMOKE!!’s in a short amount of time.”
And, perhaps, it’s that sideline rapport that has created Notre Dame’s rapport on the field.
“We’ve played verrry open lines throughout the fall and so far in our spring schedule in the hopes that we would be able to develop our entire team,” Schroeder wrote. “Hopefully that translates into our team being difficult to match up with man for man. Hopefully other teams can’t put out seven good players as consistently as we can, and we can recognize if even one guy on our line has a mismatch. Even if he is not our strongest player on the field, I know we feel confident giving them the big role on any given point.”
However, Schroeder is aware that there is a happy medium in Notre Dame’s personality. The team can certainly tack its laid back attitude too far on the field.
“There’s a fine line between bozo-ing around and still remaining focused, and letting the bozo take over and getting sloppy,” Schroeder wrote. “It’s all about the bozo-business continuum and stayin’ in the middle.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Schroeder has perfect evidence that without that laid back attitude, Papal Rage cannot perform its best.
“We changed our ‘tude when we played Wisco at Mardi Gras,” Schroeder wrote. “We were all about getting revenge for the game we played against them at CCC. We got all angry before the game. It was intense. And it SUCKED. We played our worst game of the year so far in that game.”
Lesson learned for Notre Dame, not surprisingly, Schroeder has a optimistic outlook about this weekend.
“This weekend, I expect (but obviously don’t hope) that we’ll be a little rusty seeing as we really haven’t played real ultimate in a while,” Schroeder wrote. “I also expect we’ll shake that off early on Saturday and start firing on all cylinders to match the beautiful sun rays firing down on us from the Tally skies.”
One thing is for sure, however Notre Dame performs, they’ll most likely be having more fun than your team.