If you watched ESPN2 or ESPNU (ESPN8) over the past week, you might have seen some ultimate frisbee* or caught this ad for the sport:
It’s a little schmaltzy and idealistic, but it also highlights some of the things that I love about ultimate.
I started playing in 2001 at the age of 26. I had never played a sport before. That spring, I had gone out to watch Eric play in a rec league game. I was surprised that there were players of all ages and all shapes and sizes on the field. It seemed that maybe even I (short, chubby, not-an-athlete) could participate and maybe even contribute to a team. While I’ve never been good at catching, throwing, kicking or hitting a ball, a frisbee (or disc) was something I had some experience with. (Of course, here I am 16 years later and I’m still working on my throws…)
The other thing I love about the sport is what’s referred to as Spirit of the Game. Now, I might define this differently than some, and I don’t think it only exists in ultimate. To me, SotG is all about respect. To me, if you love the game, you have respect for it and its players, teammates and opponents alike. Much is made of ultimate’s self-officiation, but playing fair is just an off-shoot of that respect. When I play, I want to play well and I want the other team to play well too. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to be competitive, but it does mean that I’m going to play fairly and non-recklessly. And I’m also going to appreciate when the other team plays well. I’ll never forget being a newbie player and having a woman defending me compliment me on making a good cut. It’s an attitude I strive for even if I sometimes fall short.
A few weeks back I played in the inaugural grand masters women’s division at USAU’s masters national championship. It was three days full of ultimate; although with a body as prone to inflammation as mine, I only played on Friday and one game on Sunday. And it was great. The competition was good and the teams were spirited. Maybe it was our age (37+ for grand masters women), but every single women just seemed happy to be playing.
And maybe that sounds a little dumb, because why would anyone be out there playing eight games in three days if they weren’t enjoying it? I don’t know. People do weird things. For me, ultimate is a joy and I will play it as long as I can.
* These are club games (not masters) currently available on ESPN3 replay.