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The Nomadic Who? -- Broomball Documentary Features Clarkson University Alumnus
The first time David Zarneke of Baltimore, Md., played broomball was as a freshman at Clarkson University in the late 1980s. He was in a broomball tournament -- residence hall floor against floor.
Today, the 1991 Clarkson alumnus plays broomball for the Nomadic Horde, a Washington, D.C., team that, improbably, took the Men's Class D Broomball Championship in 2012.
The team’s unlikely rise to the top is the subject of a documentary film, “The Nomadic Who?,” released in 2016.
The film follows the story of the Washington, D.C., broomball team in its quest for a national championship in a tournament dominated by teams from Minnesota. ESPN host Tony Kornheiser narrates. A city that's desperate to put an end to a more-than-20-year championship drought finally has a shot with the rising broomball team, the Nomadic Horde.
The only dilemma? No one has heard of them or the sport they play.
Zarneke grew up in the then-small-town of Victor, N.Y., where he played winter games on frozen ponds of water on his friend's parents' farm. Not quite hockey, not quite broomball, the boys wore skates or sneakers, and pushed balls and pucks around the ice with whatever sorts of sticks they could find. "It was basically a semi-organized way that teenagers could go out and run around for a while," says Zarneke.
Zarneke graduated from Victor Senior High School and traveled north to study chemical engineering at Clarkson, played some broomball and graduated in 1991. It was nearly two decades until he played broomball again.
In 2009-2010, Zarneke joined the league of a friend who organized games three or four times a year.
"It was one of those friend-of-a friend-of-a-friend kind of things," he says. "We were just trying to start a league -- having random pick-ups. Then they started advertising it and getting a hold of alumni associations. The first couple of times it was three or four of us, but that was really just unorganized pick-up. And then it was 30-on-30 with three, four or five broomballs!"
Zarneke and his friends named their team "The Nomadic Horde," as the Washington, D.C., area is very nomadic. "People are coming and going all the time," he says. "We started the team and over a few years we had people who were college hockey players or played a lot of broomball or were good athletes come in and find us and get on the team."
The team improved over the years and in 2011-2012 it looked like they had a chance at the championship and, it turns out, at fame. Documentary filmmaker Kasey Kirby was a team member.
"We were joking around one day, saying 'Geez, you should do a movie about this.' And all of a sudden the idea took off," says Zarneke. "And he ended up making the movie about it.' The Nomadic Who?' is a very tongue-in-cheek film about how the team came about and how we won the championship in 2012. The movie follows our track to winning. They recorded a lot of games!"
"It's a very funny movie," adds Zarneke. "Most people don't know what broomball is. So, there are a lot of scenes on the street where Kasey is asking people 'Do you know what broomball is? Do you know who the Nomadic Horde is?' And that's where the title came from. "
Broomball in the U.S. started in Minnesota, which today is the home of USA Broomball, the official governing body of broomball in the U.S. The championship is usually held in Minnesota every other year and in other cities around the country that play broomball in the alternate years. Any team can sign up to go to the nationals.
Today, the Nomadic Horde is third in country. And its league, now called Capitol Broomball, has a second team in the top-20. The Nomadic Horde was the first team outside of Minnesota to be ranked in the top-10. "It's pretty amazing, actually. There are actually national rankings," says Zarneke.
In his non-broomball career, Zarneke is a patent examiner at the United States Patent & Trademark Office. He started there about 20 years ago, not long after graduating from Clarkson. Inventors apply at the patent office to get protection for their invention and Zarneke is one of the people who determine whether they can get a patent on that invention.
Zarneke says that his Clarkson experience has helped in his work over the years. "The job requires a technical degree -- some kind of science or engineering degree," says Zarneke. "I work with the making of computer chips. I studied to be a chemical engineer at Clarkson, so most days there's something at least 'chemical-ish' that I'm dealing with. I use my Clarkson skills most every day."
See the Nomadic Who's trailer at https://youtu.be/EllLIWjnkLc.
The film is available to rent or buy on iTunes, Amazon.com and Google Play.
Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.
Photo caption: Clarkson University alumnus David Zarneke '91 (center, with flag and plaque) plays broomball for the Nomadic Horde, a Washington, D.C., team that, took the Men's Class D Broomball Championship in 2012 and is the subject of a documentary film, “The Nomadic Who?,” released in 2016. (still from "The Nomadic Who?" courtesy of Kasey Kirby)
[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/dzarneke-nomadic-horde.jpg.]