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History of Red Tide
By Toby Jacobs
Chances are that if you have ever played so much as pickup game of ultimate in the city of Portland the name "Red Tide" sounds familiar. For 20 years and counting, the Red Tide club team has been a fixture in the city, and yet very few, even among ultimate regulars, know the origins of the team.
The very earliest Red Tide members were a group of recent college grads, predominantly Bates alums, living in the greater Portland area. No one remembers exactly when the first disc was tossed, but by 1985 there was a weekly pickup game in the Cumberland Foreside. Virtually everyone that joined in was immediately hooked and eager to get others in on the action. News of the games spread by word of mouth, and a few devotees even posted flyers around some Old Port hangouts, thus forming an inextricable link between Portland Ultimate and the local restaurants and bars. As the new sport in Maine increased in popularity, games were moved to Portland's Fitzpatrick Stadium, and ultimate has yet to leave the city. Players kept showing up not just for the competition, but also for the great company of fellow aficionados. As put by Jim Goodbody, a regular of the ultimate scene: "Ultimate was important, but only because it brought a group of really fun cool people together"
That spirit certainly never left the ultimate scene but there were other goals that would be pursued by the group that came to be known as Red Tide. Everything changed when a man named Mike Moser moved to town. Moser had played competitive ultimate in college and beyond in the other Portland (Oregon) and was an organizer of one of the Solstice Tournaments, one of the oldest and largest in the country. He got plugged into the fledgling Maine ultimate community through his roommate, George Abbott, and immediately wanted to show everyone the more competitive side of the game. After Moser pitched the idea of forming a competitive team, a core group stepped forward that was willing to practice regularly and compete in tournaments. Jim Goodbody recalls, "Mike took over the reigns and Red Tide was born over tequila and OJ at 3 Dollar Deweys". The team gelled right from the beginning, and after a few years of playing together the only thing that remained missing was a name.
Team members wanted the name to reflect the Portland community by representing an ocean theme. They were also bent on involving a single color with which the team could identify. "Red Tide" fit those criteria perfectly and officially became the first of many Portland club teams. The naming tradition was continued on by open, womens, and coed teams including: Smelts, Swell, Tidal 9, Undertoe, Casco Baybes, and Halibut. The Red Tide influence soon pervaded all of ultimate in Portland leading to a huge interest and the establishment of one of the largest and best-organized summer leagues in the country. The other major offshoot of the men's club team was the Red Tide Clambake Tournament.
The Clambake Tournament, held as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics, was first played in 1987 and has since become legendary. From the beginning it represented an extension of the Red Tide spirit of competitiveness and all-around fun, and the feeling was infectious. A combination of the most talented and fun teams in the northeast and beyond rounds out the field each and every year. In its 18 years of existence, hundreds of teams have vied for bids to the prestigious tournament, often offering up donations or zany party contributions to pad their resume. The result has been a solid tournament and infamous associated party.
The UPA National Tournament consists of the top 16 club teams from around the nation, and qualifying effectively solidifies a team as one of the nation's elite. Through the late '80's and early '90's it was always discussed, and Tide's finish at the Regional qualifying tournament improved each year; however, any talk of actually making it to the show was premature. Finally, in 1998 the talent and preparation of the locals, coupled with the addition of several out-of-town ringers, got the team over the hump. Even at the highest level of competition in the sport, Tide maintained the highest level of spirit and were never known to shy away from an adult beverage or two. Red Tide qualified for nationals in the following year and again in 2001, establishing themselves as a fixture in the elite ultimate scene.
The team continues to practice and compete today, still playing with all the fervor of the early members. Additions to the team in recent years coupled with a strict training regimen have Tide once again eyeing nationals. However, unlike other top regional competitors they have kept with the extra-curricular origins of the team and now stand alone as the last great party squad of our time.