Why the University of Colorado's Ultimate team is called "Mamabird" is a big secret.
I learned this as I watched Mamabird fly through the quarterfinals at Pleasant View Fields on Sunday morning. The USA Ultimate College Championships are in Boulder this weekend. (Not-so-secret: "Frisbee" is often not attached to Ultimate for copyright reasons.)
The Bolder Boulder might be grabbing all the headlines today, but there's a crowd of athletes running their hearts out at the Ultimate finals today, too. Hopefully, Mamabird will be there -- their semifinal results were not available at press time.
(Also, I thought you might like to read about something completely different today.)
Back to the name: You learn the meaning behind the team's funky moniker when you go to nationals, said Aaron Sarfaty, a member of the Ultimate squad's B-team who was there cheering on the Mamabird A-team with his dad, Ed Schrandt, from Littleton.
Aaron hoped he'd get a chance to learn the meaning yet; he just finished his freshman year at CU, so he still has a few years to make the A-team and get to nationals. Apparently it's a 45-minute story, he said. That's what he's heard, anyway.
Dad Ed was cheering on Mamabird, too, even though Aaron wasn't in the game. This is an Ultimate family -- Ed played when he was in college in Michigan, 30 years ago, he said. As a result, Aaron said he'd been playing Ultimate "since I was a baby." He started playing on a team at 14.
If you've ever tried playing Ultimate, you know that it requires running your tail off; you're often sprinting up and down the field. It also requires skill -- when I've played, I think I followed every poorly-aimed throw with, "Oops, sorry!"
And strategy? When I mentioned strategy to Mamabird's head coach, Jim Schoettler, he mentioned that this year they'd tightened up their defense, but the rest was a little complicated to get into.
Despite this, the newer, upstart Ultimate is usually denied the marquis status of a sport like soccer (also played by running around big field and requiring much skill and strategy).
I asked Aaron and Ed whether they thought Ultimate got a bad rap.
"It has a reputation as a hippie sport," Aaron said with a smile. "But if people came out and saw the finals -- " he paused to bellow and cheer Mamabird.
Watching Mamabird, there's no denying it's exciting and impressive. And unlike some other teams, you don't have to pay a lot (nothing, in fact) to see them play, and you can get up close. Real close.
I walked right up to the edge of the field where CU was playing Pitt (Pittsburgh's team is "En Sabah Nur," which is the "real name" of the X-Men character "Apocalypse." And you thought "Mamabird" was unusual.)
When I first arrived, CU had just scored, and their fans were cheering "MA-MA-BIRD! MA-MA-BIRD!" Note: They were carrying on like this at 9 a.m. on a cold, wet Sunday morning.
I settled in to watch at the end of the field, so close that on one long throw, the disc landed just feet away from me. But the exciting stuff was watching the guys sprint, leap and dive for the disc and zing it to one another with practiced precision.
Defeating Pitt, Mamabird advanced from the quarterfinals to take on University of Wisconsin's "Hodags" in the semi-finals Sunday evening. (According to Wikipedia, a hodag is a "folkloric animal" of Wisconsin. Sheesh.)
At press time, CU was down 8-5 at the half. Good luck, Mamabird. Caw, or something.