Published: Aug 10, 2011 12:00:00 PM

"When the ultimate frisbee sports-club that you're enamored with—which is meant to be the healthy evolution from competition-driven traditional sports—quickly turns into a clusterfuck of LSD and wardrobes of unaddressed sexuality, you've got a contradiction on your hands."

frisbee-resized-600In the grand scheme of personal vices and obsessions, we'd rate Ultimate Frisbee just below World of Warcraft and just above Bible Club.

(Nota Bene, Ultimate Frisbee will henceforth referred to in this writing as simply 'ultimate,' as those in the industry refer to it.)

Any freshman activities fair rep will tell you about the inclusiveness of ultimate.

(Right now is when we go on record as people that weren't booed off a try-outs field and feel spurned. Ultimate players didn't break into our car or undercook and eat our dog (Floki, no!!))

People that play ultimate, and are a part of the surrounding community, really like it. Similarly, people in fraternities, yacht clubs, and Methodists, really like their communities, but they don't promise grassroots equality and inclusiveness. Clubs are clubs are clubs, and up to the most extreme extent (local church potluck supper organizers: cool. The Tea Party: really fuckin' not cool, man), they're within their rights to set rules on who they allow in.

When the sports-club that you're enamored with—which is meant to be the healthy evolution from competition-driven traditional sports—quickly turns into a clusterfuck of LSD and wardrobes of unaddressed sexuality, you've got a contradiction on your hands. Ultimate players are devoted to their sport and its lifestyle more passionately than Cleveland Browns season ticket-holders. It's high school football in Texas to them. It is the only thing in life. It's the clique. It's Augusta National, and all your friends are members. It's that montage in a crime movie where everybody's getting along and making money and getting laid and moving into huge mansions with bathrooms the size of Luxembourg and shower-curtains made of albino tiger pubes. It's the mob. It's a mob that preaches inclusion and non-competitive learning but boils over into a kind of hate that pumps spin-class leaders' obsidian hearts. It's self-regulated and self-refereed by supposedly-honorable players while simultaneously being populated by overly-inventive trash-talking that borders on consensual, verbal hate-yiffing (don't Google "yiffing") towards one another. They are the athletes, the owners, and the fans, all serving their self-propelled morbid hunger for—cherry pie? We dunno.

But there are smiles on the surface and there is slander and threats of skullfucking behind each others backs.

It's difficult, isn't it? Knowing that you care as much as you do and that only the diluted will agree that it isn't time wasted in a fantasy? The players want it so much to be real. To make it real though, they must first let it go. If you want to be a sport, be a sport. Be competitive, get some refs, dislike your opponents, and knock each other down. You'll be a sport then, but you won't be a Natural Foods Co-op Membership Club Sub-culture. If you want to continue to be a 'culture,' then stop wearing those shit-eating grins, and secretly hating people that don't take you at all seriously.

Handball is an Olympic event. Ping pong is an Olympic event. Ultimate frisbee is not.

Ping pong is a more real 'sport' than your pseudo-competition / box-wine / kegger / circle-jerk.

It's there. You feel it. It's a niggling doubt in the back of your mind that you really and truly aren't ACTUAL and you're having less fun than you think you are and you're just killing time until your next match, or, eventually, you'll have to be excommunicated from the only thing you know anything about. Otherwise, you'll become a 38 year-old burnout riding a fixed-gear bike, incapable of jumping more than two inches because somebody slashed your Achilles tendons at a tournament in Savannah, GA while you were sleeping. The fact that they have to insist, that, "yeah, it's a total sport, we have an acronym for our governing body and everything!" is a sign that they are not emotionally-developed enough to be a sport.

A One-Note Song is not a song, even Tenacious D knows that. The best ultimate players are one-note humans. They play their sport, they practice their sport. They organize their sport. They live with people that play their sport. They vacation to play in events they've practiced for and organized. They brood over the lack of their sport when the weather is cold and the squash team won't let them practice their sport in their courts. They're the sporting equivalent of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, wandering grassy areas, highly recognizable, even at a distance, getting ready to ruin your day with banter about this thing that they love and want to 'legitimize.'

"There's more to it than you know!"

Who are you trying to convince, Chester? Go, play your game, have fun, and enjoy it. We encourage you to spend your time getting some physical exercise. It's the contradictions and self-delusion that's hurting your ability to love it to its fullest. Really good ultimate players get sponsored to play their sport. They talk about their sport at the water-cooler at the job they work to pay for their sport.

(Notice how generous we're being with the word "sport," and how much of its power the word loses when placed in close proximity to the word "Frisbee" (Copyright: Whammo Toys). You're welcome!)

It becomes a tiresome load of bullshit. There's deeper meaning in sports, and how, on a base, pure level, they can teach us about success and failure and competition, and then we carry that over into real life. Ultimate is none of those things because it's all one in the same to the people involved with it. It's not a means to an end in the way that high school baseball is, it's Shangri-La. Except it isn't! It's the Opiate Of The Jackasses. Most of them aren't even red-blooded hippies—they stopped smoking chronic when their shit got 'real.' A Frisbee player will steal his friends' Birkenstocks and throw them off the Chesapeake Bay bridge as a prank, but he won't abuse substances that might hurt his game.

Ultimate is a thrilling study in how a utopia collapses. Founded on principles concerning equality and non-violence, things were beautiful, sublime, in fact, among the young, Fae-Frisbeeians. The people in the Ultimate Utopia looked outward from their small, walled garden, shaking their heads at those outside who could not understand their Zen wisdom. They didn't concern themselves with outsiders, and for a while, it was good. They played their sport, lived, laughed, and loved, cultivating healthy respect and competition. Then, one day, one player decided to work on his cardio and outran everybody during a game. He won with ease. The others asked why he did this, the competition and been simple and pure until then. The player that had worked on his cardio explained that he had been envious, and annoyed that he hadn't ever won. In the next game, another player elbowed him in the ear for transgressing against the friendly competition. Slowly, the ultimate players started living closer and closer to their sport, devoting more time to deciphering how to win. Eventually, they believed they had developed enough of a competitive identity to earn the respect of those outside their garden, and they opened the gates.

What they didn't know was that inside their micro-society, the sense of reality had become so warped that they could barely speak the local dialect. Nobody could understand them, and certainly nobody could understand why they wanted to be a "real" sport.

It's a society. It's a way of life. It's not a sport.

The best thing about ultimate is its honesty, and the players genuine love for the sport—for the mantra built around it, which is unique. The worst part is that the highest levels of play are still populated by pretentious, arrogant, true-athletes, whose existence betrays the sports' best justification point. Their desire to bend unwritten rules and exploit a system that isn't built to defend itself against these exploits ruins the game.

An abundance of rules, unwritten or otherwise, signals bad game-design.

"Oh, but where's the harm? Surely they're doing good." No, madam. No. What occurs is an artificial ego that is incapable of functioning outside of the ultimate snowglobe. In that world, they're warriors, and athletes, and politicians, and have lead armies across battlefields with tactics comparable to Sun Tzu and Machiavelli.

They live, truly, as gods do, drinking in halls akin to Olympus or Valhalla or Azeroth. Everything is right, the world is full of color and merriment, and the sparring and competitions endure even after you have retired.

Wrong, fucker! You are a human being in the real world. You don't ride a fucking battlecat o'er snowcapped peaks never-summited. That wench you snapped up from a recent festival is as ugly as sin and the only reason she is blowing you is because you can throw a decent hammer, or whatever.

Stop it.

Your conquests are as real as those in World of Warcraft. People that love, love, love World of Warcraft have ground the game's purpose and identity into dust, exploiting it until it has become a freebase-drug called 'Distraction,' entirely pure and wicked. The numbers, the calculations, winning, that's all that matters. The escapism, the spirit, the world, the art, all of it is invisible to them.

Ultimate players experience the same thing: they're all tall extroverts instead of people with Internet connections and a WoW account.

Here's an idea, ultimate 'competitor.' Move to a dirt road in Tennessee. See how long you last. You'll be wandering and in withdrawal like a lip-less meth-cooker in less than a fortnight, grumbling with dementia that nobody will throw round plastic at you, before your kneecaps are forcibly removed by a pheasant hunter with a Bowie Knife and a bladder fulla Jack because of a confusion over the phrase 'poach.'

-- Alex Crumb (originally published 8/10/11)
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