What's the deal with TRON?
The team is about a lot more than Frisbee
“Hey, I’ll see you around,” Robert Singer ’19 said on his way out of his politics class. “I gotta go buy a banana so I don’t die.”
Around this time of year, the Brandeis men’s Ultimate team, known as TRON holds its annual game of mafia. The risk of being assassinated sends team members retreating into the farthest corner of the library clutching a brown banana.
Yet, for TRON, multiple assassinations fail to break the bonds created by UDH: unity, desire and humility. These three values are the the foundation on which TRON is built.
Throughout the years, the team has relied on this motto to create the family culture and welcoming environment that exists today. Brandeis Ultimate Frisbee has been around for decades. Jordan Kaufman ’19, currently a TRON captain, has researched the team’s history. In an interview with the Justice, Kaufman disclosed that the first Ultimate Frisbee team at Brandeis began in the 1970s, calling themselves the Brandeis Whippets. A 2001 fall issue of The Ultimate News confirmed the existence of the Brandeis Whippets. Gil Wernovsky ’78 remembered his time with the Brandeis Whippets. “It was the 70’s, and I wanted to rebel. I was tired of my lacrosse coach having testosterone storm and screaming we weren’t real men. Ultimate was much more appealing,” Wernovsky said, “and the people were much more normal.”
According to Kaufman, by the 1990s the name had been changed to Fluid Union. Later, sometime between the late 90s and the early 2000s, the team rebranded themselves as TRON, after the American science fiction film of the same name.TRON alumni consistently emphasize the unity within the team. A November 2010 article in the Hoot quotes Josh Mandell ’11 saying, “Most members live with someone else on the team. We hang out together when we’re not playing because these guys have become some of my best friends over the past three years.”
Six years later, Elan Kane ’16, a former TRON team captain, said in a May 2016 interview with the Briarcliff Daily Voice, “most of my closest friends from Brandeis were my teammates.” In an interview with the Justice, Daniel Lay ’21 explained, “what got me into TRON was both the community and the environment. We traveled as a team, we ate as a team, we did everything in a community and that was something I wanted.” TRON’s unity not only reveals itself in the strong friendships between players, but also in the team’s internal structure. The team is open-roster, offering positions to anyone interested in the sport. In November, TRON holds a trial tournament during which all members are split into, in the words of Kaufman, “A Side and B Side, two sides of one team, is what we say about it.” Both sides have their captains, practices, and tournaments, with A Side attending more travel tournaments than B Side does. Singer explained that the teams begin and end practices together. “Even though TRON’s split into two sides, it is still one team,” he declared.
TRON nicknames, although a tradition veiled in secrecy, also bring the team together. Ben Korman ’21, also a TRON captain, said, “Nicknames are a secretive thing, but it’s something that makes you part of the team and keeps people coming back.” These nicknames are taken so seriously, in fact, that some team members only know TRON names. When asked for the name of the alumni captain, Lay sheepishly admitted, “I only know his TRON name.”
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of TRON nicknames is that team members must wait their entire TRON career before learning the story behind their nickname. Only at the TRON alumni weekend during one’s senior year are the meanings revealed. And yes, TRON has an annual alumni weekend. In fact, it was held this past weekend during the rain storm. The internal unity of the team makes it easy for players to encourage one another in their dreams and goals outside ultimate frisbee. Korman explained that the goal of TRON extends beyond being physically in shape or getting better at Ultimate. “It’s a lot about mental toughness and part of that comes from supporting each other as friends, as family,” Korman said.
Korman also recounted how playing frisbee and ultimately, the TRON community gave him a place to apply himself and “come out stronger.” He shared how as a “smaller guy and not the fastest, constantly throughout my career, I’ve not been given the spots I’ve wanted. I was told I’m not good enough.” This gave him the desire to, as he put it, “put my head down and work hard.”
The student leaders of TRON desire to create a community where members can not only push themselves to play frisbee better, but also where, according to Korman, “they can become the best versions of themselves.” Becoming your best self often requires a lot of humility. Kaufman referred to humility on the field as “the spirit of the game.” He said that “since there are no refs, there is a huge focus on being a spirited player. The point of it is to avoid cutthroat gamesmanship.”
In 1978, Mike Banks ’79 told the Boston Globe that Ultimate Frisbee is the “purest sport.” 40 years later, Lay further described this systemic opportunity of displaying humility, as “calling fouls, but also calling them on yourself too.”
Despite their team’s talent on the field, Kaufman, Korman and Singer — all captains or administrators of TRON — emphasized the critical role their coaches play. The expertise their coaches bring to the field comes from playing among the best club teams in the surrounding area.
Singer also pointed out that Derek Jenesky, Brandeis’ Club Sports Coordinator has been a huge resource for the team. “He’s actively helping us make things happen,” Singer said. “It really feels like he’s on our side.”
All members of TRON — whether they be coaches or team members, alumni or current students or A Side or B Side players — stand united in their desire to be their best selves both on and off the field, living life with humility.
Although TRON members usually have one another’s backs, they are currently preoccupied watching their own backs. “People look at me strange because I’m flossing,” Singer said. “But you know, I don’t really want to die today.”