Oct 20, 2021

A little something about me...

Tangle founder Isaac Saul on the beaches of Cape Cod
Tangle founder Isaac Saul on the beaches of Cape Cod

When I'm not researching, writing, editing, recording or interviewing for Tangle, one of my other biggest passions in life is ultimate Frisbee.

If you've been reading this newsletter for any length of time, I suppose when you think of me you probably think of the "politics newsletter guy."

And it's true: Tangle takes up a huge, big, giant chunk of my life, and is probably the thing that gets more of my time than anything else. I love it, and it requires a lot of work.

But when I'm not researching, writing, editing, recording or interviewing for Tangle, one of my other biggest passions in life is ultimate Frisbee. In fact, for a lot of friends and family, ultimate is probably the thing that defines me even more than writing about politics.

I've been playing ultimate competitively since I was in 8th grade, and I had a Frisbee in my hands much sooner than that — when I was still in diapers. My dad played, and he brought the sport to my brothers and me, hoping we’d learn to love it as he does, and we in turn brought it to our friends, and it became a dominant part of our lives. And I'm not kidding about being in diapers, either:

A young Isaac on the shores of Cape Cod.
Tangle founder Isaac Saul on the beaches of Cape Cod

Ultimate is the best sport on the planet. Really. Basketball is a close second, and perhaps a more beautiful game, but ultimate is the best. I've played basketball, football, and lacrosse competitively, and dabbled in roller hockey and soccer — but none ever compared for me.

Ultimate does combine elements of each, though: The game is 7 vs. 7 on a football-like field. You score when you advance the Frisbee by passing it into the end zone. Like basketball, you can't run with it, so you must establish a pivot foot once you catch the disc. Unlike basketball, there's no dribbling. That means in order to play you have to be — at worst — a good enough thrower to complete 5 yard passes to your teammates and a strong enough runner to bolt downfield. I've never been particularly fast or tall, so my strength is in the literal lifetime of throwing I've done, and there is no instrument of play more versatile and enjoyable to throw than a Frisbee. The old joke among ultimate players is that when a ball sleeps, it dreams of being a Frisbee.

It's exhilarating, and awesome, and best of all it's a game of honor: Even at the highest levels, the sport is self-officiated, with players calling their own fouls and violations in an honor system designed to foster respect for one’s opponent and the game. At the national college and club levels, “nonpartisan" on-field observers settle disputes when players can’t agree. Howard Cosell, the legendary sports reporter, once said that ultimate was a "refreshing reminder of what sport was meant to be, and still, on rare occasions, can be."

Like soccer, ultimate is an endurance sport. The legs feed the wolf, so if you can't run for very long, you're not going to last. More intriguing is that ultimate is tournament play: You often play multiple games in a day, or single games in back-to-back days, making the endurance element one of the key components of the game. Skilled teams who aren't fit will fail. Teams who are fit can often win games they shouldn't because they can outrun their opponents when it matters.

Because a Frisbee is so unique in flight compared to a ball, the game produces unbelievable highlights. A disc can hang in the air for seconds as players crowd underneath it and try to climb over each other to make a play. Receivers who are open by five yards are suddenly overtaken by diving defenders by the time the Frisbee arrives. Offensive players chasing down a goal who look like they'll never make it can dig in, lay out inches off the ground and catch the frisbee's trailing edge with little more than an index finger, often with the game on the line.

So that's ultimate.

And as it happens, this week is ultimate's biggest week of the year. It's Club Nationals. As you're reading this, I have just arrived in San Diego, California, to compete with Pride of New York (PoNY), the team from New York City that I play on and co-captain. We won nationals in 2018 but lost in semifinals in 2019. Because our 2020 season was canceled due to Covid-19, we have been training for this year's nationals for nearly two years. Given the work we've put in, and the discipline required to compete at such a high level, I want to bring my best self, my complete focus and my undivided attention to the next few days of competition, so starting tomorrow — our first day of the tournament — Tangle will be off for a long weekend.

We'll be back "live" on Tuesday, October 26th (I hope to be celebrating a national championship late Sunday night).

To make sure your inbox isn't totally dark, I've queued up an edition tomorrow, Thursday, with some of "my favorites." Just some cool stuff I have come across on the internet that I think my readers would appreciate. I've done editions like this in the past and readers seem to really enjoy them.

That being said, given competitive ultimate's relative obscurity (no, it's not a bunch of barefoot hippies and not played with a dog), I also wanted to plug our games and promote this sport I care so much about. Live streams of tomorrow's pool play games can be found on the USA Ultimate YouTube page. My team will be playing at 2:15 p.m. EST against Atlanta's top men's team, Chain Lightning, and you can watch that game by going here at that time. I'm #19. My brother Noah is also competing with the Raleigh men’s team and playing at 6:45 p.m. EST. The full streaming schedule is below. If we make semis on Saturday or finals on Sunday — which we plan to do! — our games will be on ESPN3:

USAU Twitter
USAU Twitter

So, if you need me, that's where I'll be.

Over the next few days I am going to be periodically checking my email, but not very often, so I apologize in advance if I'm delayed in getting back to you.

In the meantime, I always like to encourage readers to "take a break" when we do. Keeping up with politics is, in my opinion, a civic duty. It can also be stress-inducing, exhausting, difficult, and a psychological challenge. So if you get your news primarily from Tangle, please accept this as your get-out-of-jail free card to enjoy a few days off from responsible citizenship. We'll catch you up on what we missed when we get back.

And, hey, wish me luck!


Isaac & the Tangle team

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Quick hits.

  1. The House panel investigating the January 6 riot voted to hold former Trump advisor Steve Bannon in contempt after he failed to comply with a subpoena. The full House will now vote on the measure.  (The vote)
  2. The White House released a plan to vaccinate 28 million children ages 5 to 11 years old. (The plan)
  3. The FBI raided the Washington, D.C. and Manhattan homes of Russian energy tycoon Oleg Deripaska. (The raid)
  4. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) was indicted on charges of lying to federal investigators who were looking into an elaborate illegal foreign donation scheme.  (The indictment)
  5. About half of the 53,000 Afghan evacuees living in the U.S. and at military bases are children, according to the Pentagon. (The count)

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