Eric Brach: A BiographyAug 26th, 2015 | By AndyBandit | Category: Articles
by Dan Oettinger
Way too long ago, Eric Brach and I entered into a bet over who could do more combined push-ups and pull-ups over the course of a summer. I built up an early lead and, going into the last weekend, I relaxed, confident that I would coast to victory. Eric was on the road covering the U-23 Worlds in Toronto, and I thought that there was no way that he would have time to catch up. Well, he did. He finished with an incredible push and I lost the bet. The consequence? I would have to write a feature article about Eric Brach to be featured on the LAOUT website.
Time passed and I forgot about the bet. I had other things going on, and there just never seemed to be a good time to sit down and write the article. But one person never forgot about the article that he was promised: Andy Bandit. With the summer league tournament approaching soon, all sorts of wild negotiations were flying around with team captains trying to replace injured or flakey players for the tournament. Lili Gu had offered to fly down from Seattle to replace one of OG Platinum’s players for the tournament, and Andy said that he would allow it on condition that I actually come through on the Eric Brach article. Andy is a man who understands leverage.
Two summers ago, I had every intention of writing an amazing article. I had gone out in Koreatown for dinner and drinks with Eric and interviewed him about his life story. I had even recorded our interview with an app on my smart phone, because I was pretty sure that is something that reporters did. We talked about everything from his childhood, his school years, and the winding path that brought him to LA. It was all very interesting, but unfortunately, the recording was lost with the untimely death of my Galaxy S3. So, instead of an objective, unbiased, and factually verified biography of Eric, you’re going to get my personal account of Eric Brach as I have come to know him over the years.
I first heard rumors of Eric Brach around 2008. I was finishing up my time at USC and had started venturing out of the college ultimate bubble into the greater LA ultimate community. At that time, Brach was a graduate student at USC, and he had some contacts with the team, although at that time he was already a very accomplished ultimate player, and I had yet to play in a Regionals tournament of any kind. Our meeting was inevitable, though. We ran in the same social circles and our friends were converging.
I can’t say for certain when the first time we met was. It could have been one night when Eric showed up to the USC ultimate house in a taxi at about 1 AM and we all continued our party on the porch until the early morning. It also could have been the annual “Chick on Chick” game that USC ultimate has, where the men’s team dresses up as women with water balloon boobs and scrimmages the women’s team (The men lose a point for every water balloon that pops). We must have played against each other multiple times in 2008 when I was on the very young Monster team and Eric was on the 2008 LA/SB Condors merger team, but I don’t remember him. We even dated the same girl at one point, but up until then Brach was only a name I associated with some great stories and a bunch of people telling me that I had to meet him sometime.
Our first real meeting was on an overcast day in the summer of 2009, when a mutual friend of ours brought Eric to Malibu where a small group of us spent the day in some mind-bending recreational beach activities. We spent the day exploring the caves and tide pools, and laughing uncontrollably in a cave while watching the waves wash on the sand. We thought of all the silliest nicknames for Frisbee players that we could think of, but the one that tickled us the most was that someone might get nicknamed “The Wetness.” The name was probably mostly inspired by the dank sea-cave that we were sitting in, but Eric and I were friends after that.
Eric grew up in Long Island and went to a free-spirited, hippy high school. He learned to toss a disc around at lunch time. He had long hair and was very into rock and ska, and was even in a few bands. After high school, he went to the University of Pennsylvania, where he started playing with the ultimate team. His first job after college was working for an attorney who ran a lobbying firm out of his house in Washington DC. After DC, Eric got a job with a consulting firm and moved out to Austin, TX. The money was good, but the work and travel left him unsatisfied. With the aspiration to become a writer and a teacher, Eric applied and was accepted to the USC Masters of Professional Writing program.
While he was moving around the country, Brach’s career as an ultimate player ascended quickly. He played for Philly’s mixed team, Amp, and the elite open team in Washington DC, Truck Stop (whose full name, appropriately for Brach, is Truck Stop Glory Hole.) When Brach arrived in LA, he played with the Santa Barbara Condors in 2007 and ‘08.
In 2009, Santa Barbara decided to cut ties with LA Ultimate players, which lead to the formation of LA Strike-Slip, the short-lived elite LA open team. Brach ended up playing and going to nationals with the mixed team Brown Chicken Brown Cow that year. The following season, a springtime ankle injury made me miss all of club tryouts, but Brach was captaining BCBC and the team extended me a late tryout invitation in August. Incidentally, this was the first year of 7 Figures and the last year of LA Metro, so it was a crazy time when LA had three very good mixed teams.
BCBC was a wild team. It was an awesome collection of people who wanted very little practice, but a ton of partying. The stories of BCBC’s partying at nationals 2009 are apocryphal. In 2010, Brach was one of the ringleaders tasked with trying to control the circus. It wasn’t the best conditions for athletic excellence, but I doubt that any team had more fun that year. Our club ultimate careers parted ways for a few seasons after that, but we still played together on numerous other teams, including AFO, Puszi Puszi, and Dinos. Puszi Puszi, in particular, was just an excuse to get hammered at the beach and go on adventures for the rest of the day.
Eric had become good friends with one of the waiters at the Firehouse Restaurant near the beach, and we would usually walk in to the sound of Eric shouting for some huge number of car bombs for the group. Eric lived in a small house nearby with Spike and Lorra, but we very often would end up back at the beach at sunset throwing a disc or just fooling around. They hosted some terrific parties over the years that they lived there, most notably an annual Friendsgiving celebration, a murder mystery birthday party for Alice Chen, and a Rocky Horror Picture themed Halloween.
If you can’t have an entertaining conversation with Eric Brach, you probably just aren’t any good at making conversation. This article can’t possibly do justice to all of his interests and areas of knowledge. During the BCBC time, my parents met him and loved him, and he’s one of the few ultimate friends that they always ask about. Around this time, Eric was working as an English professor at Cal Lutheran up in Thousand Oaks, where I grew up. I was up there walking my parents’ dogs one afternoon and their neighbor struck up a conversation with me. As it turned out, he was an English professor at Cal Lutheran, so I asked if he knew Eric – and they shared an office. The man is everywhere.
My parents were especially impressed last year when they called me up to ask if they knew that Eric was a contestant on Jeopardy! I had known, and a big group of us had gotten together to watch. Brach played a solid game but button issues seemed to prevent him from ringing in on some categories that I know he would have been lights out on. He had a disadvantageous position going into Final Jeopardy! and made a smart bet, but a little bad luck left him outside the winners circle. Still, it was amazing to see a friend on a TV show that I watch regularly.
Eric is now teaching at West Los Angeles College in Culver City, teaching writing skills to young Los Angeles Police Department Academy hopefuls. He enjoys teaching practical writing skills to students that often come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Writing skills are actually often one of the biggest obstacles for applicants, so Eric gets satisfaction from knowing that he is helping young people on their road to building successful careers.
In addition to being an English professor, Eric has a burgeoning career as a published author. He co-authored Billy “The Hill” and the Jump Hook with an often forgotten old-time professional basketball player Billy McGill, who was an All-American and NBA number-one-overall draft pick. More recently, Brach co-authored Conquering the Electron: The Geniuses, Visionaries, Egomaniacs, and Scoundrels Who Built Our Electronic Age, which lays out a clear history of the men and events that lead from the harnessing of electricity to the development of our modern day smart phones. Going to see Eric do a book reading or hearing him interviewed on the radio makes me feel like I have real grown-up friends that do real grown-up jobs.
Eric’s ultimate career has reached even higher heights, as well. In 2011, he was selected to represent the United States at Beach Worlds in Italy. He played for the men’s team that brought home the gold medal. He was also on the LA Point Break team that won the first ever USAU Beach Nationals in 2015. Brach is a fantastic ultimate player, and he has a knack of rising to big occasions. He doesn’t have any overwhelming physical advantages, but he is one of the smartest defenders I have ever played with, and he has very little regard for his own health while he plays. Beyond that, he is as good of a teammate as you will ever have.
We played together on 7 Figures last year, but this year he is taking the club season off to pursue other interests. In addition to ultimate, Brach is into hashing and Crossfit. Hashing, if you’ve never heard of it, is a social running club that involves running and drinking beer, and has a silly nickname culture not too unlike ultimate. Brach is also very committed to the Pants Off Dance Off group of friends who are spread out across the country but come together to collectively party their faces off and have a great time. PODO started off as a group of ultimate players tangentially related to BCBC, but nowadays they’re just as likely to get together for non-frisbee activities as an ultimate tournament. If you don’t know what Brach’s car looks like, you can identify it by the ♥OFPODO license plate.
I emailed some of Eric’s friends at the last minute looking for good Brach stories for the article. Emma Frankel, who moved to LA in 2013, but interned here for a summer in 2010, responded with the following:
January 2010. I was a young 19 year old in the big city of Los Angeles, interning from January to March and living with some family friends. I didn’t know anyone in LA, but I was already hooked on ultimate. I wound up, through a connection to Korb, being put on AFO to play with a bunch of the cool folks who are still on that team today! This Eric Brach fellow was super nice, welcoming, and even brought me to my first in-n-out dinner post-game. He was a great carpool buddy. Flash forward to March 2, which was my birthday and one of my last week or two in LA. Brach knew it was my birthday and orchestrated a group of people taking me to Swingers in Santa Monica for an after-game dinner, and more importantly, super sneaky Irish car-bombs using empty milkshake glasses and substituting dumped out salt shakers as shot glasses. Pretty damn cool!
When I was researching this article, I looked back through my gmail archive of every email that Brach and I have ever been a part of. There are hundreds, if not thousands. What really struck me was how much energy and enthusiasm Eric has had over the years in organizing events and bringing people together. Food, literature, movies, parties – I didn’t even attend a quarter of all of them and I’ve still been to too many to remember. What I also noticed was how much all the names on the emails have changed over the years. On the really old ones, the majority of people don’t even live here anymore. LA really is a transient place, but Brach has been a fixture of the community for years now. We’re lucky to have him here and we should be proud to call him one of our own.