The Ultimate story: Author, Frisbee pioneer tells tale at The Bookworm on June 15 | VailDaily.com

The Ultimate story: Author, Frisbee pioneer tells tale at The Bookworm on June 15

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David Gessner first saw a group of guys throwing a Frisbee on his first day at Harvard in 1979. He was on his way to crew practice.

"To me it looked like freedom compared to crew," Gessner said. "I went to practice with the guys, then started playing, then I became obsessed."

It turns out that Gessner was at the forefront of ultimate Frisbee, following the birth of the sport at a camp in western Massachusetts. The athlete and author will be at The Bookworm of Edwards today to share his book "Ultimate Glory," his story of obsession, glory and wild early days of ultimate Frisbee, a sport that millions participate in today.

At the birth moment of the sport, unathletic students were playing in parking lots with eggs being thrown at them from football teams. A few years later when David saw the sport in college, it was still more social than competitive.

"I played barefoot my first year, if that tells you anything about the competitive level. In the following years there was a change," he said. "The growth of the sport decided that it wasn't going to be a hippie activity anymore. Ronald Reagan came into office and winning started to matter."

As soon as athletes discovered the sport, better athletes joined ranks and a competitive sport was cultivated.

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"In the early '80s, the intensity of the sport picked up," he said. "We became obsessed with winning Nationals — we wanted to be the best."

'Lessons of dedication'

As the sport moved away from being known as social hour, rivalries were born.

"In Boston, we had the Rude Boys and Hostages. The Rude Boys were the better team, while the Hostages were the underdogs in Ultimate," Gessner said. "When I had the opportunity to pick a team, I said, 'Screw you' to the Rude Boys and joined the Hostages. I was investing in something that everyone else saw as ridiculous. It wasn't an accepted sport to be a part of yet."

After his years of playing competitively, Gessner returned to the goal of becoming a writer. The sport of ultimate Frisbee allowed him to find a community and a place to be a storyteller. Writing is a solo activity and Ultimate gave him an arena to be social and connected.

"From the sport I learned about goal setting and the ability to deal with failure," Gessner said. "What I most admired about Steve Mooney, who played in Boston, was his daily dedication. I took away his lessons of dedication and became a disciplined daily writer."

Coming to Colorado to share his story has an even deeper meaning to the author.

"I had testicular cancer at 29, soon after that, I was accepted into the University of Colorado for a writing program," Gessner said. "I came back to life in Colorado. Boulder to me was a town where everyone looked like an ultimate player. Life became better. It was liberating."

For more information about The Bookworm, visit http://www.bookwormofedwards.com.

IF YOU GO …

Who: David Gessner, author of “Ultimate Glory.”

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, June 15.

Where: The Bookworm of Edwards.

Cost: $10, includes appetizers.

More information: Call 970-926-READ, or visit http://www.bookwormofedwards.com.

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