By @SimonCocking selected images by Get Horizontal
As befitting for a man who doubles up as a comedian by night, this was a great interview, even, or perhaps because, it was so long in the making. Don’t believe anyone who says great art doesn’t take a long time to create. Delighted to present this interview with probably our longest standing Irish based American player, Jim Elliot , whoop whoop.
Your back ground, you played in the states before you came here?
I started playing organised ultimate in college, at William & Mary in southern Virginia; during the summers I’d play in the Washington DC league. My college Ultimate experience oddly mirrored what I came to see in Ireland, in that I caught the program just as it rose from “bunch of stoned dudes having fun” to “competitive team”. My freshman year we all wore cotton T-shirts and every player was number 420; my senior year we qualified for College Nationals and made the final four.
You first came to Ireland 2001/2? To study, what do you remember of that time, has ultimate changed since then?
I first came to Ireland in the autumn of 2002. I had finished college with a degree in computer science, and this was right when the tech bubble had burst, so I wasn’t working at anything serious. A friend of mine found out that USIT would sell you a work visa for Ireland if you were a recent college graduate, and at the time I was stacking pallets in a warehouse. I figured if I’m just going to work an hourly job, I might as well move somewhere I’d never been and have some fun.
The month before I moved, I met Eoghan Barry, who told me that yes, they had Ultimate in Dublin; I think he was the one who originally told me about the Saturday pickup games in Herbert Park.
Bottom row, 3rd from left
You played for the national team in ’03 in France. What did you think of the experience?
As an ultimate experience, it was super fun and remains one of my fondest tournament memories. I was proud to have made a national team, even if I was only an option due to a lack of domestic players. I’d never seen anything operating on this kind of international scale before. The tournament kicked off with a parade through the centre of the town before the opening game. How delightfully European, I thought.
2 from the perspective of how the team played?
I think the team played about as well as you could expect, given the level of preparation and youth. Aside from yourself, Dom, Stokes, and OJ, all of the other players were still in college, weren’t they? I recall a few training weekends, but I’d be shocked if we’d played a single competitive game against anyone before landing in France.
Did you try out for the national team again, or was that enough for you (we had quite a few debutants that year who never played for Ireland again afterwards. Something in the water that year?)
I never tried out again. I was away in 2007, and then by 2011 there had been a total step change in terms of the commitment required. I got the email about the tryouts and the tournaments the team would be attending, and I knew it wasn’t for me. I’m under no illusions as to my own level of play – I’d put myself on the upper end of the casual players. If your team is competitive enough to have track workouts, I probably don’t belong there.
After that you left Ireland, I think? What made you come back (the love of a good woman? but anything else too)
I left Ireland in November of 2003, and came back in September of 2007. My girlfriend and I had made it through a good four years of long distance, and it was time to try to get be together properly. We got married in 2012 (kids, don’t let anybody tell you long distance relationships are impossible!)
What’s you perspective on Irish ultimate over the 13 or so years you’ve seen it? what ;Good / bad / could do better?
The scene has absolutely exploded since 2003. Regional teams? High school teams? The very idea would have been laughable in 2003. As for the international teams, it’s very different. In 2003 it was a few lads who were happy to even be playing in tournaments in other countries; now it’s some bloodthirsty dudes trying to take scalps. It’s great.
What made you chose to play for Brocolli on your return to Ireland?
Probably because Mark Earley was one of the first Ultimate heads I ran into when I got back to Ireland. Also, what was the alternative, play for Chimpo? Ugh. Those guys were dicks. Who would want to play for them?
How is / was the vibe for the green veggies?
Brilliant vibe. Who wouldn’t love coming second in every tournament?
You’re a funny guy, what inspired the path into standup and how’s it going now?
I’ve loved standup comedy since I was old enough to memorise an Eddie Murphy routine. It’s going grand; check out www.jimelliottcomedy.com to see where I’m gigging next.
Working for paypal, any Ultimate vibe there? What’s you take on the tech scene in Ireland and how on earth do you manage and assess risk? Sounds hairy!
No ultimate vibe there, which I’ve always felt was a shame. What with all the tech companies in Dublin, I think we’d be able to get a corporate summer league going without too much trouble. Anyone who works for Facebook or Google or Twitter who wants to set this up, get at me!
Say a little bit more about getting to the final four, what did you do to become awesome?
A couple things happened that helped the team make the leap in 2002- consistency and fresh talent. My senior year we had a core of 9 guys who’d been playing together for four years; and then this crop of new kids came in who were phenomenal players (two of them just won the UPA championships with Johnny Bravo, one as captain; another went on to help found the San Diego Growlers), and the combination of their talent plus the older guys’ experience made for a very good team. Of course, the only way for a team to get better is to get destroyed a bunch of times by good teams, and our college was in the same region as a North Carolina college on the tail end of some dominating years, so they were only too happy to oblige.
Any favourite games, plays and or tournaments during your Irish playing career?
European Nationals tops the list. Winning the All Ireland with Broccoli was great, even if I don’t remember what year that was – 2010, maybe? 2011?
Also, I seem to remember some Chimpo / Broc final in… I want to say Limerick?… under the lights that was a lot of fun. I made some D over Stokes at one end and was so pumped up that on the next play I wound up accidentally just flying directly into Reuben, to the delighted heckling of the sidelines. (Reuben didn’t even call the foul! Even between rivals, there is still great spirit in Ireland). (and just thinking about it now… I think that was the final in which I dropped a pull. Thanks for bringing up bad memories, Simon.)
How would you compare playing in Ireland to playing in US
The major difference is one of good-naturedness and spirit. A lot of the play at upper levels of American ultimate can be marred by constant calls that really sucks the fun out of playing. Ireland doesn’t seem to have that (although maybe it does at the upper levels these days. I hope not.)
Do you still play now / what happens next?
I play maaaaybe one or two tournaments a year now. Who are we kidding, it’s a young man’s game.