by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
Utrecht, the Netherlands
November 17, 2001
ULTIMATE FRISBEE IN UTRECHT: WHAT'S DUTCH FOR C.P.R.?
UTRECHT, The Netherlands -- Those who know me know that one of my favorite pastimes is playing Ultimate Frisbee. In college, I was known to drop everything to play a couple of games, and could always be counted on to have a disc or two in my book bag.
Ultimate Frisbee is a combination of American football and soccer. Players run around the field in all sorts of intricate patterns, while their teammates throw frisbee to them. Points are scored like American football, when a player in the end zone catches a pass. Then play starts all over again, and the other team tries to score. People with all sorts of skill levels play, whether they're the 15-year seasoned Masters player with dozens of tournament discs and hundreds of stories, or the I'm-still-learning-to-throw-straight beginner.
Now that I'm married and have a family, I can't just drop everything to play whenever I feel like it. I have responsibilities athome, like teaching my oldest daughter to whip a disc across the yard. Needless to say, my physical conditioning and endurance have suffered since my college days, so I can usually be found puffing and wheezing atone of the area colleges almost every Sunday for a game. And if I can make it out of the car, I'll even play for 90 minutes. But I've played for over nine years, and like to think I'm pretty good at it. Oh, how we fool ourselves as we get older.
In The Netherlands on business recently, I thought "Hey, wouldn't it be a kick if I found a place to play Ultimate Frisbee in Holland?" I knew there were players here, so it was just a matter of finding someone who played in town, and finding a free evening.
I got on the Internet and did a quick search to see if anyone was playing in Utrecht, where I was staying. What luck! Using my laughable Dutch language skills, poor high school German, and consulting my Dutch phrase book, I found a group that played every Dinsdagavond (Tuesday evening) at the University of Utrecht.
I emailed Marcel, the contact person on the Web site, and asked him if I could just show up the following Tuesday. Marcel emailed back and said something to the effect of "Sure, we'd love to have you. Just show up and play," and he gave me directions to the Sporthal, which is Dutch for Sports Hall (isn't Dutch easy?). Since it was November, we were going to be playing indoors, which was not a problem, because Dutch Novembers are usually grey and wet.
Despite the fact that I knew the Dutch words for "Tuesday evening" and "Sports Hall," I did not know that in Dutch, "Sure, we'd love to have you. Just show up and play," actually translates into "If you are foolish enough to come, we will kill you with exercise!" Looking back, I realize I should have just stayed in my hotel and watched highlights of English soccer.
Now keep in mind, I'm 34, I'm waaaay out of shape, and I'm going to play a sport that involves a lot of running. The only difference between Ultimate and running a marathon is that there aren't well-meaning strangers on the sidelines handing you a banana and a cup of water as you pass by.
Once I got to the Sporthal, I realized I was in trouble when the team captain conducted the entire evening in Dutch. And I knew that unless he was going to talk about how he went to the market to buy a blue pen, I was going to be completely lost. Luckily, nearly everyone in Holland speaks English,= and there was even an American and a Canadian who were there. Both of them lived in Holland, so they spoke Dutch andEnglish, and offered translation services at times.
"Just do what everyone else does," said Mark, the American, aswe started running around the gymnasium.
"What are we doing?" I asked. "Warmups," he answered as he continued past me.
Warmups? Warmups?! I hadn't done warmups since ... well, since I was in high school soccer. Oh well, I thought, I can do warmups. So we ran around the gymnasium. And ran. And ran. And then we ran some more. Oh sure, we broke up the monotony by occasionally swinging our arms in giant windmill motions - I managed to smack a female student from Finland, who, I found out later, was studying International Marketing - or skipping, but there was not much else. Ih ad to stop and walk on three different occasions, even being joined by one player who had broken her elbow in a bicycle accident a few weeks before.
Then it was on to the drills. Oh God, the drills! First there were throwing and catching drills. Then there were throwing, catching and running drills (always with the running). Then there were throwing, catching, and running drills, but with patterns and tactics.
In one of them, we were supposed to start at the center of the court, run very fast toward our teammates who were holding the disc, and if they didn't throw it to us, we had to turn around and run very fast back to the center of the court.
Then, we turned around and did it all over again. We could do this four or five times before they ever threw the disc.
I found out during the drills that these tactics had been developed by the Germans, the same people who gave us German Engineering, the Autobahn, and the German airline Lufthansa ("No, you may not have two pieces of butter! Only one!!")
And since the Dutch - who are equally logical, precise, and organized - had adopted this drill from the Germans, there was no room for deviation, different strategies, or newfangled ideas that some wacky American might have, like running a different pattern, throwing up on an opponent's shoes, or just lying down and quietly dying in a corner somewhere. And since I was= n't getting anywhere with the first option, the third one was looking more appealing with every step I took.
So, after two hours of having my butt handed to me on a plate, it was finally time to stop. Mark, the American, offered to take me back to my hotel. He also gave a ride to Marcel, and the Finnish student who thankfully did not need reconstructive surgery on her nose despite the whack I gave her.
I staggered up to my room, showered, and fell into bed. I spent the next two days in excruciating pain, groaning like a 200 year old house on the San Andreas fault every time I sat down, and looking forward to 2003 when I can go back to Utrecht and try again.
I'm also looking forward to having sweaty, burly men pull my nose hairs out one at a time.