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Monday, Nov. 17, 2008

Tossing the Disc

Sports in Real Life

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I used to play with Frisbees when I was a kid, at least until our German shepherd tore the crap out of them.

There are some wonderful things about playing with a Frisbee; you don’t have to be particularly athletic, talented, or buff. This speaks to most Wisconsin residents. Enthusiasts and fans of the familiar circular plastic discs have taken a pastoral recreation further with Ultimate Frisbee, a game which has been around longer than you may think, and it’s taking the world by storm.

The sport was conceived by college students in New Jersey way back in 1967, an era steeped in peace, love, dope-smoking and Frisbees. Today, Ultimate Frisbee is played virtually everywhere you can find an open field and some willing participants looking to float the disc. Just watch out for the dog crap.

The game can move pretty fast, depending on the offense on the field at a given time. You can also run a slower patient offense. Or, you can run some plays, depending on how organized the team might be. The sport features opposing teams on a field much like a football field, and you score when you catch the disc in the opponent’s end zone.

One of the beautiful aspects of the game is that anyone can play.

There are disc handlers, catchers, throwers, and sprinters, and the taller and faster players are called ‘longs’ or ‘deeps.’

One of the basic tenets of Ultimate Frisbee is Spirit of the Game, or SOTG–playing out of love for the game. Since the game was created during the brotherhood vibe of the 60’s, one might infer an egalitarian and fair sense of play. The game has no referees, and that speaks to the point of SOTG. When I played rugby in college, I received a right cross to the face with an elbow–now that was spirit of the game.

In a unique twist, you call your own fouls. I’d like to see Michael Redd or Donald Driver do that. If a couple of players can’t agree on what took place, there’s a do-over (sounds like a George Carlin bit). The disc may be advanced in any direction by completing a pass to a teammate, but the person who catches the pass may not run with the disc. The next ‘thrower’ has ten seconds to throw the disc. The person guarding the thrower counts down the time.

The sport has found its way around the world, ‘mushroomed’ to Switzerland and New Zealand. Appeal has grown year-to-year and even UW-Milwaukee and MarquetteUniversity have recently started their own teams. Some say the game has become a little more aggressive at the collegiate club level.

Rules of the game are pretty straight-forward–if a pass goes out of bounds, is blocked, dropped or intercepted, the defense immediately takes possession. No physical contact, no picks or screens are allowed, and a foul occurs when contact is made.

The Milwaukee Ultimate Club runs indoor leagues in the winter and outdoor teams in the spring, summer, and fall. It’s a pretty good workout and you run as hard as you want to run. It’s open to anyone interested in playing. We have a lot of high school kids coming out to play.

Ultimate Frisbee provides an opportunity for local fans of the sport to participate in the festival, a team building exercise which fosters healthy competition. The sport brings a lot of different types of people together, it’s relaxed and a lot of fun.

You only need a little equipment to start a game: A Frisbee, and tennis shoes. Some people actually don’t wear shoes when they play. I guess if both teams want to, both teams can play barefoot.

To learn more about Ultimate Frisbee, or if you want to play, visit www.milwaukeeultimate.com or sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/mupu

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