Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Talking with Trainor- Jim Parinella, Death or Glory

Since the inception of this blog, two questions have persisted for me

-Is this site any good?
-Do people enjoy it?

I hope the answer to both is yes. Along these lines, I want to interview the stars/legends of the game.

Jim Parinella is one of these. He was one of the longest serving members of the Death of Glory dynasty (6 National / UPA Championships and 3 World Championships, including twice winning the gold as the U.S. National team at the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF). DOG is now defunct, but Parinella is now equally known for his book on ultimate and his wisdom regarding the game.

Jim was my first choice for an interview. I don't know Jim, but I contacted him directly and tried my luck. He obliged without hesitation, and it has been a pleasure speaking with him. Here's the questions I asked him:

What's your greatest Ultimate accomplishment?

I’m going to cheat and list several from different areas. Playing, it’s being part of a team that went six straight years without losing a game
at Nationals. Professionally, it’s writing a book (with Eric Zaslow) and having it published by a leading publisher. Those are obvious. The unheralded greatest accomplishment is that I like to think that I made it more popular for top players to get involved again with making the sport better.

What's your worst moment in Ultimate?

Probably being part of the mob that lost to NYNY in the semis of Nationals in San Antonio in 1993. We should have been the better team that year but we didn’t handle ourselves well in any manner.

Favorite tournament city?

Either Naperville (despite its utter lack of charm) or Sarasota, because of the history of the tournaments there (Tuneup and Nationals, respectively). Just driving up to the fields every year brings back the memories.

Favorite Opponent? (Team/Individual)

Furious George from 1998-2002. Two high-powered offenses, strong defenses, very high respect for each other.

Who's the best player in the game today?

Despite my bias towards receivers, I’ll go with Jeff Cruickshank. He combines outstanding throws with terrific vision (plus he’s surprisingly fast after having his knees cleaned up). The more you know about the game, the more impressive his throws are. There was one throw in our game at Nationals last year. Upwind, also a crosswind coming from right-to-left, a guy is streaking down the center of the field just ahead of a defender, another defender is about to poach from behind, and he throws it over all of them to another cutter who is running down the downwind sideline. I was standing right behind him and watched it develop and didn't see the sideline cutter until the disc was well down the field and looking like an overthrow. I asked him about it and he insisted it was always to that guy. I then asked him why he didn't throw a thumber, which he did at Regionals last year, and he said the wind wasn't right for it.

Who's the best ever?

I can’t choose between Mooney and Dobyns. Both great players for a long time, and fiery team leaders to boot.

What's better- Vertical or Horizontal Stack?

Whatever works? I’m still trying to figure out whether the Ho Stack couldn’t be improved by a little more selective deep choices. Ho Stack seems easier to learn and allows Big Dumb Athletes to cut without needing to know about timing. I guess I still think a Vert Stack would be better for smart, athletic players.

Why is Boston Ultimate not using the DOG name?

I think they want their own identity. I wasn’t kept in the loop at all about it, so I don’t really know. Plus, I think there are only 12 guys from last year’s team, and only 3 of those guys were on the team in 2003.

What's wrong with Boston Ultimate this summer?

It’s probably just growing pains. DoG and Metal had vastly disparate playing styles last year, so integrating those must certainly be a challenge. And travel is always a challenge, especially across the country.

Why does the West dominate?

It does? By my count, the East has won 11 of the last 17 titles. (laughs). No, they dominate. It’s a positive feedback cycle. It’s a good place for outdoorsy young people to live, and the ultimate is good, so more people move there to play, and then they get better playing each other all the time. Constant testing really is important. Neither NY nor Boston would have won so many titles back in the 1990s if we didn’t have each other to battle against every couple weeks (we would play up to 10 times a year).

How does it feel to be a "legend" in a sport?
Mostly I like being a nanocelebrity, but sometimes I would prefer the anonymity of being lazy out there. People treat me nicely, I try to be nice in return. I don’t abuse it, but people seem to go out of their way to be fair to me. At least half a dozen times a year, an opponent will call a foul on himself against me (or more correctly, will suggest to me that he fouled me and wouldn’t contest it if called).

You talked about the rash of the " latest overpumped superstar who actually isn't that good". (Why College Ulitmate Sucks post) Are egos becoming more of a problem in today's game?

Nah, it’s not the egos so much as the style of play seems a little more Sportscenter-y. The Clip of the Day, while awesome, tends to reinforce this view of the game as being all about the highlight reel. To me, a great huck is one where the receiver catches the disc by himself, chest-high, just as he starts to slow down. There is a lot more to being a great player than throwing a flick 80 yards or jumping 4 feet high or running a 4.5 40. Then again, I might be the one who is taken in, thinking that COTD is a true representation of ultimate today.

Can you tell us something great to see/do in your hometown of Pittsburgh?

Get involved in the local ultimate scene. They have a remarkable youth program there, truly amazing what these kids are in charge of, and how closely tied they are to the club scene. Or take a ride into the city from the airport, emerging from a tunnel with the city right in front of you, then driving up to Mt. Washington at night for a panorama.

Should Canada get to compete in the UPAs?

I think so. I’d even go one step further and open it up to the rest of the world, while making sure that US teams aren’t inconvenienced at all (make all qualifiers in the US, make sure outside qualifiers are truly qualified, etc.). Perhaps invite the Pacific and European champions to UPAs (in essence, treat them at separate Regions with one or two spots allocated), or allow them to compete at the US qualifiers. It would become the de facto world championship instead of the North American championship. WFDF World Clubs are a great time, but as shown last year, they don’t have the cachet to make teams drop everything else and attend. Because it’s Outreach as much as it’s Competition, there are a lot of non-Worlds-caliber teams that attend. On the other hand, one very strong argument against is that it can create a problem in Worlds-qualifying years like this year or 4 years ago.

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Did you like the interview? Let Jim know. His blog link is http://parinella.blogspot.com/

1 comment:

kev ko. said...

Nice interview Steve! Surprising what happens when you ask eh?

The one thing that really sticks out in his responses other than he is an amazing player is that he exemplifies what ultimate is all about. Amazing athlete. Check. Amazing attitude? When other players tell you that it's ok to call a foul on them and they wouldn't contest. Check. And wow. This is the kind of guy that the sport was created for.

Again, good work Steve! Keep 'em coming! Appropriate follow-up? Cruickshank? ;)