The wind

The wind can be friend or foe in the game of ultimate frisbee. If you know how to use the wind and respect its power, it can do miraculous things with the disc. If you are inexperienced with the ways of the wind or you fail to pay the requisite homage, the wind can ruin your game.

In the early and late weeks of the season, when the weather tends to be feistier than during the hot humid doldrums of summer, we await with trepidation the news of where we will play. There are particular fields that are windier than others. Something in the lay of the land and the absence of buildings just uphill from the park sends a long constant heady wind swooping across these fields. We drag ourselves to the game with dread, with a hopeless sense of defeat, before we even know which team we’re up against. We suspect we’re already beat by the wind and our inability to control it.

We stand at the line at the start of the game, listening to the whooshing blow driving across the field toward us as we await the raised arm from the other team to signal their readiness to start. Our hair streams back from our faces and our shorts flap against our legs. We wait for it to calm for a moment before we pull. Long seconds after the signal is given, we keep waiting, but the wind doesn’t stop blowing. It’s not a cold wind, but for a moment we are chilled to the bone. We take a deep breath, the pull is thrown, and we await the consequences.

Our hope is to make up each upwind loss with a quick point going downwind. The greatest challenge is to score on an upwind point, because then we’ll score again easily downwind, and then, being two points up, ideally, in theory, we will have essentially won the game.

A game in these conditions is a test of our discipline. One line must play a short, careful game, fighting every few feet up the field, frequently pulling back to reassess the offense; the other line scores with one or two throws with the wind in their favour. As you switch lines, you must switch mindsets, but in the heat of the game it’s easy to forget.

Sometimes teams trade points endlessly this way. When it starts to get dark, the captains step aside to discuss the plan — cap the game at 17 points? first team to 19 points wins? There is more fun in a game going on longer than usual, like staying up late when you’re a kid, but there is a tension too. The stakes are higher when we’re not just fighting each other, but fighting the elements as well.

In an unpredictable, bullying wind, when neither side gets the advantage, we intend to play a short game. Short, flat passes with lots of spin, no high wobbly throws, no long bombs, no Hail Marys. Treasure the disc, we tell each other. We play carefully and slowly, but then we fuck up. We move the disc so well, throw after patient throw, and then suddenly we lose perspective. We see a teammate open downfield and upwind, we hurl the disc through space and watch it fly and with dismay watch it land nowhere near where we expected it to go. The captain shakes his head at our foolishness, that we think we could beat the wind. For a moment we forgot who was our master, whom we are serving on this windy night.

With time, with discipline, with the adequate respect, perhaps you will be able to work with the wind. The wind will be your friend if you show it more respect than your foe. If you feel it lovingly, if you approach the windy field with love and acceptance rather than fear and reproach, perhaps it will welcome you. Perhaps it will help you.

The wind may foil your opponent’s every throw; it may sweeten your team’s every throw. It may gently lift or lower the disc just perfectly into your waiting hands. It may tenderly carry the disc and your feet neatly into the end zone. It may tenderly dry your brow of sweat, sweetly cool the back of your neck. If you flap your sticky shirt against your skin just right, it will answer with a soothing kiss of relief. It will caress your sore muscles, it will lighten the weight of your body, it will alleviate the burden of your heavy heart when the game starts to come to a close. But only, only, only if you approach it with love, if you give it the respect it deserves. Do not fear it; love it, appreciate it. Give thanks for its service, and in return it may love you back.

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