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Mar 4, 2013 5:37 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Native Earns “Ultimate” Honor

Mar 5, 2013 9:41 AM

Barkan said that Warsen’s New York team wasn’t always the most well-loved team by its opponents, given that New York was typically on the winning end of games. He explained that Ultimate players pride themselves on adhering to what they call “the spirit of the game,” maintaining a healthy level of respect between opponents. Unlike most other competitive sports, Ultimate is played without referees or officials, making that mutual respect and honesty extremely important for maintaining the integrity of the game. Some players on the New York team, Barkan said, had a reputation for “pushing the limits” of the spirit of the game code of conduct, so to speak, but he said that Warsen always maintained a spotless reputation.

“He just played,” Barkan said. “Head and shoulders above everybody else, literally. Dennis is, in my mind, for my money, the best player all around that’s ever played the game. It’s really because he was just a pure, pure Ultimate player. He had amazing throws, dives, and catches, he played offense and defense, he did everything.

“He was on a great team,” Barkan continued. “As annoying as they were to play, they really were the best team ever.”

Making It Work

As Warsen graduated from college, his Ultimate career was taking off, affording him the chance to travel around the world and compete in Norway, Japan, Canada, England and other countries. Of course, most of his peers were busy settling into careers at that time, but for Warsen, playing Ultimate was at the top of his priority list. Settling in any kind of fashion—into a new job, a new home, a new way of life—wasn’t in the cards for Warsen at that time. Jobs came and went, many of which he lost, he said, because when he’d ask for time off to play Ultimate, he’d take the time even if permission wasn’t granted by his boss.

“The one time the boss let me go play, I came home with a broken wrist, so they had to lay me off anyway,” Warsen said.

He also earned his nickname, Cribber, because of his reputation for crashing for an overnight stay at any number of friend’s or acquaintances homes.

In that way, Warsen was the exception, not the rule, on his New York team.

“He was on a team full of guys who were really successful,” Barkan said. “That New York team had a lot of ‘A’ type personalities—stockbrokers and lawyers. He was their young kid, the superstar, and it seemed like they pampered him a bit. He was definitely like the little brother. He didn’t seem incredibly career driven, but he was just a likeable guy.”

Second Act

New York’s run as the great Ultimate team came to an end in 1994, when the team broke up. But Warsen was nowhere near ready to retire from the sport. In 1996, he had a good job working at the World Trade Center, alongside several New York teammates, but his love of Ultimate pulled him out to the West Coast. He moved to San Francisco to join a team there and by 1997 found himself in another world championship game.

Warsen played in his last major tournament in 2002, and his son was born in 2003, leading to his official retirement.

Warsen found a new career niche soon after, going back to school and getting a job as a cameraman in sports television, working with the San Francisco 49ers Total Access show, for which he won an Emmy. Currently, Warsen is working on making a film about Ultimate, called “Flatball.”

“In today’s age of flopping in basketball and soccer, concussions in football, and doping in everything, Ultimate gives the world a look at what sports used to be and what it can be,” he said. The film will focus on the New York team and how the sport as a whole, while not necessarily considered mainstream, has been growing rapidly in popularity around the world.

Bringing It Home

While Warsen has been living on the West Coast for nearly two decades, and was based in New York City for years before that, he made sure he spread his love of Ultimate to his first home on the East End. Longtime friend Kevin Luss, a Southampton resident, said that when Warsen would come home from Purchase during the summers, he taught the game to Luss and their other friends, and they would play at the beach. Luss and Warsen became friends more than 30 years ago, when they worked together during the summers at the Bathing Corporation in Southampton, and he said he was excited to hear that Warsen had been inducted into the Ultimate Hall of Fame.

“I was not surprised, but so proud of him,” he said. “Ultimate Frisbee is not mainstream, but it has a vast following of passionate people. And in 300 years, when someone looks up this sport, Dennis will be an integral part of that history, and that is the most moving part of this.

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