UCSB Black Tide Memories

The Tide Rises
Early Years of The Black Tide
by Vince Bertsch 'Fortress'

Going through an old box of college junk and came across what must be the Spring '87 Black Tide Playbook...

But this story actually begins a few years earlier as collegiate ultimate transitioned to a national forum. Through 1983, collegiate teams had no eligibility rules and competed in open tournaments with the big boys. That was my first year playing ultimate, but at a rival college up north. I remember one of my first tournaments was a road trip down to Santa Barbara with seven other students. We were very green, with only a couple of skill players, but we had a brand new precisely choreographed offense. In those days, most teams employed either an anarchy offense or a kind of deep loop. Someone hanging way down field would turn on the afterburners with a 30 yard cut back to the disk. If unsuccessful, he would just take off on another 30 yard explosion deep. And the absolute masters of both anarchy and afterburners were the Santa Barbara Condors. With skill and unmatched team speed, the Condors dominated the west coast and were perennial national contenders.

On the first day of that tourney, one of my team-mates broke a toe. With only seven players we eeked out victory against the Condor's B team (Seawolves?), who must have had over 40 players. The Semi's brought the Mighty Condors with another enormous horde of subs. Our defensive points were pure hell as the endless fresh legs blazed constantly up and down the field. By contrast, our offensive points were a model of conservation, with rarely even two people running at the same time. Against all odds, it actually went down to the wire, but it wasn't the fairy-tale ending.

Spring '84 brought the inaugural collegiate nationals season. With its wealth of Condor and Seawolf experience, Ronnie's Ranch Hands were the prohibitive favorites, yet disaster struck in a single elimination regional quarter final. Their loss; my gain (but that's a different story). The next year, even without ringers, the newly christened Black Tide was still unmatched in speed and experience. Surprisingly, they again failed to make it out of regionals. In early 1985, I followed my heart and decided to move to Santa Barbara to play on the Condors. That summer I lived on the couch in a typical Isla Vista slum-shak with Sean "daddy" Greening, John "malibu" Keogh, Vic Mathews, Trish Meyer and Andrea Kelly (Burning Skirt & Condor stalwarts),... 7 in the house with Brian O'Donnell and another frisbee player in the garage (Jim Mallon?). Ted Roach dropping by every other day to review game film on the house VCR...

After the Condor debacle in DC (pool losses to Kaboom and Windy City in DC), with nothing else to do for the Spring, I signed up for grad school and the Black Tide. Once again, the Tide was strong in speed and both Condor and Seawolf experience. Tim "Timba" O'Donnell, the grand-daddy of the team and a very cerebral player, was on a mission to get the Tide over the hump and a more structured offense seemed essential. Yet the now three year old "Stanford O" had become quite predictable, and teams were successfully clamped on the limited middle and deep cuts the 3-2-2 afforded. Also, it couldn't utilize the Black Tide team speed or the excellent throwing skills or even the exuberant team spirit. But a 3-1-3 with a still middle would bring structure for the skill players and open up the deep threat by giving more choices and space to the speedy deeps. But how to sell it to the rest of the team. At intramurals, "you and you are deeps" had come to mean stay out of the way. A face lift was needed. Sean Daddy should probably get credit for the new flashy name as 'shred' was one of the 57 words in his complete vocabulary. The deeps would be called shredders to emphasize their expanded and much more active roll. And the sell job continued...

Excerpt from the playbook:

Handler - An egotistical bozo who doesn't know his limitations.
Middle - The guy who bails out the handlers when they mess up.
Shredder - A demi-god. Gandi, Da Vinci, Confucius, Alexander, Mohammed, Clark Kent and 87% of all astronauts were shredders.

With speedsters like Jeff "Nutty" Cutler running the X and 60 yard flicks from the likes of Eric "E" Elliot, we were structured and wide-open. Through '86, '87, and '88, we wouldn't lose to a single team from another region. There were close ones, but then again in '87 SUNY Purchase came in as top seed and fell 15-1. The pinnacle for me was lining up shoulder to shoulder with Jared "J-rad" Tausig and Chip "Jo Handler" Arenchild against Texas in the '88 finals. All three of us just painfully tall. We reauchambeau for first deep break and then peek down the line to wave at Doug "The Bum" Saulter. You know it's comin', they know it's comin'.