Ultimate frisbee hosts tournament
As he walked off Sachem Field with a shirt that looked like the "before" picture in a detergent commercial and clumps of grass and mud clinging to his legs, ultimate frisbee team member Jordan Stern '94 bent down to pick up a rusty length of pipe and a weather-worn, heavily chipped piano leg.
"We take them with us wherever we go. There's our latest addition," he said pointing to a white plastic lawn chair perched along the edge of the field.
"At least that's somewhat useful."
Useful, yes, but that's not why the chair, along with the pipe and the piano leg, were on display at the Ultimate Frisbee Regional Finals hosted by Dartmouth this weekend. Sixteen schools from the four sections of the northeast region qualified for the tournament. The top four finishers go on to nationals in two weeks at Lehigh University.
In the process of qualifying, the pipe, the piano leg, the chair and the rest of the team made weekend road trips to Princeton, Amherst, Hampshire and a host of other disc-deluged schools. The chair didn't travel simply because the team wanted to give its $10 purchase a view of the world -- it was more about spirit.
"The spirit of the game is everything," team member Raoul Postmentier '93 said.
There is no greater frisbee faux paus than to show a lack of spirit in any way. And while spirit sometimes tends towards the bizarre -- dragging around piano legs is tame in comparison to some of the other feats of this wacky guild of athletes -- it suits them just fine. One of the greatest manifestations of spirit a team can give is in the creativeness of the cheer that teams customarily give each other after the games, win or lose.
"Half of ultimate is the cheer afterwards," longtime disc player Bill Lapcevic '93 said. After Dartmouth's opening round loss to the Team of Scam from Albany University, the Frost Heaves (as Dartmouth's ultimate teams are known) drew on Dr. Seuss for inspiration in their cheer:
"I would not, could not with a duck. I would not, could not with a huck. I would not zone you here nor there. I would not zone you anywhere. We did not beat the Team of Scam. We did not beat you, scam I am."
The Frost Heaves may have gone 0-3 in Saturday's tournament, but by Lapcevic's account they were 3-0 in the cheer.
"Albany didn't even give us a cheer," he said with disdain. "How lame is that?"
Pretty lame. The Frost Heaves managed to play through it, though. No one such transgression is taken too seriously by the demigods of disc.
Maybe that's because disc dudes are dashingly debonair. If half of disc spirit is the cheer, the other half may well be the dress code, or lack thereof.
"Who's the guy out there with the kilt on?" one spectator asked incredulously.
Several Frost Heavers chimed in gleeful unison, "Which one?" as if they had been waiting for the question all day. Chris Onken '93 and Sandy Ganzell '92 were both resplendently decked out in patterned, knee length skirts.
The skirt thing is actually going out of style ("A lot more guys were wearing them last year," Stern said) and giving way to a more conservative look by bohemian disc standards. Several of the Frost Heaves sport Calvin and Hobbes T-shirts which feature Calvin espousing a theory dear to disc-ers, "I say, if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life."
These guys don't have to do a whole lot of re-examining. By the end of Saturday's games, they were so covered with mud they looked more like they were emerging from the trenches of Verdun, not a friendly game of frisbee.
The diving-induced camouflage look is a kind of red badge of courage, or green badge as the case may be, among ultimate players. It's a rite of initiation to this unique fraternity of frisbee flingers.
That bond among ultimate players is essential to the game's success. There are no referees, no coaches, no real uniforms to speak of in "organized" ultimate. Just a disc, seven sweat-covered frisbee freaks for each team and an 80-meter long field. What they create is shear athletic artistry. The field is their canvas. The disc is their brush.
Ultimate players keep no statistics with which to rate themselves and it seems no one would care about them if they did. Accomplishments on the field are measured in terms of the brilliance of any one play and demonstration of a greater understanding of the game.
"Look at that, man! Look at that," an MIT player shrieked emphatically as his teammate dove through the air and whacked a pass to the ground. "That's just smart, man. He knew the disc was forced that way and he just anticipated."
While ultimate may appear to be a helter-skelter crossing pattern of cuts, zigs and zags lacking any element of design, it is at least a well-orchestrated chaos.
When a team has possession, there are three players designated as handlers, two as middles and two as longs. The positions are roughly equivalent to quarterback, tight end and wide receiver respectively. If all goes as planned, the frisbee flows smoothly up the field. The handers pass to the middles, who pass to the longs, who then pass to the handlers who have by that point raced up the field to begin the fluid chain anew.
Defensive players do not look at the offensive player with the frisbee, only the person they're covering. Then, once they hear their teammates yell, "Up!" they know the frisbee has been thrown and concentrate on knocking the frisbee out of the sky, intercepting it, or doing anything to make sure the pass is incomplete, short of deliberate physical contact, to take possession.
Ultimate is at the same time both intense and laid back. The same player who will dive for the frisbee if it's within ten feet of him wouldn't be able to tell you the score of the game.
It's all part of the spirit.