Best Ultimate Men’s Teams 1975-2000?
by David Barkan (summer 2005)
Who is the greatest Ultimate team, ever? Tough question, so you have to break it down. After playing and studying the game since 1978, I believe there are four essential qualities of a great team. They have to be Smart, Athletic, Tough and Clutch.
To me, smart means the group is made up of thoughtful obsessed tacticians, who are always innovating, simplifying and adjusting strategies. Athletic means that as individuals, multiple guys exhibit outrageous physical feats regularly. Tough means they play with guts, attitude and never ever back down or give up. Clutch translates to ‘they find a way to win.’
Many teams have excelled in these categories, but these teams, in my opinion, were the best:
Smartest Team: Death or Glory, 1994-1999. When DoG ascended to champion in 1994, they killed my team in the final, showcasing a stripped down offense, a revolutionary zone, and a new way to use the field. DoG went on to capitalize on their brilliant, elegant approach to the game. Parinella, Moons and Jeremy had learned a thing or two from losing.
Toughest Team: Windy City, 1983-1986. This team was mean, rough, ugly and they smelled like cigarettes. But Glass, O’Dowd, Giampino, Conway and company crushed you with a nasty smile. Sure, they would taunt you as they spanked you, but they were tough on each other too: If you dropped that blazing cross-field blade, you’d get no mercy.
Most Athletic Team: Condors, 1975-1981. The Condors of this era were so much more athletic than any team - hard core athletes that could out jump and outrun almost anyone. At 1981 nationals, our tiny squad and all other comers were plowed over by their bleach-blond army. Tom “TK” Kennedy, Bill Clark, Johnny “Sky” Olcott, yes, these So-Cal dudes were that studly.
Most Clutch Team: New York, New York, 1989-1993. They won most of the close ones, had amazing comebacks, and were never out of a game. This team learned how to execute under pressure, and almost always looked unbeatable. Plus they never lost a Nationals or Worlds final.
The Greatest: No team that I have seen has possessed all four of these qualities so completely like New York. Granted, they played for keeps and their spirit could be dubious, but show me a champion who didn’t dabble in the dark side. To me, playing New York in a final was like climbing a wall without any where to grab. Gewirtz, Dobyns, King, Weiss, Cribber, the deepest roster ever… I’ll stop because I’m getting a headache. For my money, the best of all time, by far.