There is no denying that Ultimate has its own little subculture. Don’t take our word for it though, almost anytime the subject of Ultimate is broached its subculture is dragged along for the ride. However, any Ultimate player knows that inside of that subculture, exists several subcultures that are even more unique. Take, for example, the Middlebury Pranksters, a team that lives up to their name and stereotypes, an Ultimate frisbee team from a small liberal arts school in Vermont.
One chat with captain [NAME REDACTED] will prove that.
“The Pranksters name derives from the Tom Wolfe novel ‘Electric Kool-Acid Test,’ which details the peregrination of a group of acid-loving hippies as they drive around the country in their bus,” [REDACTED] told us in an e-mail. “Their objective was to change lives by enabling persons to Turn on, tune in, drop out. Our objective and the means of delivering it are rather similar to the pranksters of yore. The bus, acid and the desire to spread joy are still at the core of the team. The means of dispersion has switched from giving people acid to luring them back to our house with frisbee skills and THEN giving them acid.”
Lest you think that [REDACTED] is the exception to the rule, then junior Charlie Roberts’ explanation of why Middlebury doesn’t wear uniforms, at least not uniforms in the traditional sense, will put that fear to rest.
“If the Pranksters were to wear jerseys, it would be like a tomato vine without sunshine,” Roberts wrote. “The world would be as dark and hopeless as it was before Barack Obama came to politics. If the Pranksters were to wear jerseys and sing and dance about how Harvard was home to legend George Stubbs (not only does he have his name written on his headband, but he’s also really good at Frisbee), a 22 billion dollar endowment and the smartest 18-22 year-olds on earth, other people would think they’re assholes, not just a bunch of silly goofballs trying to enjoy beautiful weather and a fun sport (game). Pranksters understand the appeal of jerseys… they’re fucking badass, real athletes wear them, etc., but people underestimate the Pranksters and then they go out there and demand respect through frisbee… not through uniforms. It’s like Rocky in Russia, man. When it’s a beautiful day, the sun’s shining and the Pranksters are out with their BFFs looking good, feeling good and playing well, they’re pretty psyched. It’s all smiles and bounces ultimate in Middlebury, VT.”
Instead of typical jerseys the Pranksters opt for what they call “flair.” Uniforms in the sense that each person wears his flair to every tournament, not uniforms in the sense that, well, they are anything but uniform.
“Good flair is anything that makes you feel good in it of itself,” [REDACTED]wrote. “Bad flair is flair that you wear for a sinister purpose: shock value, to be an asshole, to look like a douchebag, etc.”
Inside of the Pranksters goofy attitude and appearance is the same thing as every other Ultimate team. Somehow, Middlebury has managed to become a team that values fun over anything else, but at the same time desires to win as much as any opponent they face. As can be seen in [REDACTED]’s contrasting the Pranksters’ antics to a similar situation in the college Ultimate world, Carleton/Carleton-GOP.
“We’ve never dealt with anything like Carleton because we view ourselves as a union of diametrics,” [REDACTED]wrote. “Whereas Carleton adheres to foundationalist conventions in that they attempt to place all ideas into binaries then subsequently render them antipodal to one another, we are anti-foundationalist in that we seek to unify that which the endemic normative consciousness of frisbee has viewed as irreconciliable. The Pranksters are serious. About having fun.”
What [REDACTED]is saying is that Middlebury believes it has found the middle ground or unification between Carleton CUT and Carleton GOP. Most would argue that CUT is here to win and win first and GOP is here to have fun and have fun first. [REDACTED] believes that Middlebury is here to do both to their furthest extreme.
We’ve already covered how the fun comes about, the winning and competing will come about thanks to a cycling ho-stack offense that features [REDACTED] downfield and graduate student Dan Glatt behind the disc and a zone defense that [REDACTED] calls, “the pride of the junior class.”
skies for the disc against Virginia in last year’s Easterns finals. Photo courtesy of [NAME REDACTED].”]Last year at Easterns the Pranksters won the tournament, beating Virginia in the finals wearing UVA’s alternate jerseys. This year, [REDACTED] knows it won’t be as easy but he still believes that the Pranksters have what it takes but, as opposed to last season, will not be focusing on winning the early season tournaments.
“To return to the finals: we need to play super conservative on offense, pray to god that my ankle is functioning at 80%, and get huge D’s,” [REDACTED] wrote. “But really, I think no matter what the personnel we throw out there, we have a chance. Why? We want it more and we love each other more than you could possibly imagine. We learned last year, the hard way, that success in the early season tournaments is great, but it’s Regionals that matter. This early in the season, we cannot focus solely on winning. We need to experiment with personnel in such a way that it enables us to make a run at nationals.”
This season Middlebury has a larger goal in mind than last season. Easterns will certainly be a great opportunity for the Pranksters to prove they can compete with the best teams in the nation. While the outcomes of the game are not certain, we can guarantee you that the Pranksters culture within a subculture will be shining bright during the most competitive east coast tournament of the regular season.