Photo: Toby Green/Flickr
What is the ultimate way to spend a summer? Playing lots of Ultimate Frisbee.Ultimate has come a long way since it’s days as being perceived as a counter-culture activity bore during the 1970’s.
It’s now a sport with an international governing body, several tournaments, and it is likely to be added to the Summer Olympics.
The word 'Frisbee' is trademarked by Wham-O Toys Incorporated. Even though the word 'Frisbee' is used colloquially, the sport known as 'Ultimate Frisbee' is actually known as 'Ultimate.'
The year was 1968, and Joel Silver was a student at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. At some point during that fall, Silver proposed the idea of starting an 'Ultimate Frisbee' team to the student council. By the time the next summer had arrived, Silver and his friends were playing the sport.
A man by the name of Jared Kass taught at a summer camp Silver attended in his youth. Kass likely played a game with Silver of a sport that was, at the very least, similarly designed as Ultimate. There is still some debate today as to who actually invented the sport, but the official rules were certainly crafted at Columbia High.
In America, the people in charge of all things Ultimate are USA Ultimate. Founded between 1979 and 1980, they were originally known as the Ultimate Players Association (UPA), but re-branded itself on May 25, 2010.
The international competitions are under the jurisdiction of the German based World Flying Disc Federation, and have been since 1984.
When the game was first played at Columbia High, the players acted as their own referees and were trusted not to call fouls unjustly. This system has worked ever since.
This idea is part of a more holistic view of the game shared by most Ultimate players known as 'The Spirit of the Game.' The sport of Ultimate is considered to be a 'gentlemen's game,' and any thing that sullies the Spirit of it is considered to be blasphemous.
At the highest levels of competition within the sport, 'observers' watch over the game, but they still don't make any calls. If a player appeals to an observer that a foul shouldn't or should have been called, the observer will make a binding call that cannot be disputed.
Only regarded as a localised counter-culture activity during the height of the Vietnam War, Ultimate (still known as 'Ultimate Frisbee') didn't reach national exposure until July 4th weekend in 1970 when a group of players known as the Nat Love Nine went out to Michigan for a national Frisbee tournament.
Sports Illustrated was on the scene and chronicled the event in a 1971 issue.
In 1970, a student by the name of Sam Weingast just starting out at Lafayette College created the first college club for Ultimate. Several schools followed in his foot steps not long after, and intercollegiate competitions started to take place.
The first intercollegiate competition occurred only 20-four miles away from the place where the sport was invented.
Rutgers University hosted a match against Princeton University at their New Brunswick campus on November 6th, 1972. That date was also the 103rd anniversary of the first organised football game in history.
Who played in that first football game? Princeton and Rutgers.
The official USA Ultimate rules don't say anything about determining opening possession as a means to leave it open ended. Rock-paper-scissors has become a popular method of determining who gets to fire the opening salvo.
While covering almost the same amount of area as a football field, the actual playing field of ultimate is 30 years shorter because each end-zones being 20-five yards deep.
On the international level, the end-zone size is shortened to about 20 yards. Both fields are 40 yards wide, whereas a football field is around 50-three and a half yards wide.
The Olympic Committee has been cold to the idea of welcoming Ultimate into their medal competitions. Both governing Ultimate bodies agree that they only chance the sport has for making it into the schedule rests on the continued growth of the grassroots movement.
Ultimate does participate in the next best thing, however. It is a medal earning sport at the World Games. Ultimate was added to the docket in 2001. Canada won the 2001 gold, while the United States won in 2005 and in 2009.
One rule of Ultimate that is preached to its players is 'if the disc is in play, don't stop running.' If a player strictly adheres to that rule, they are in for quite the workout.
The average amount of distance traveled during a game of Ultimate does vary from person to person, but it is reasonable to expect that the players who really do run the entire time reach several miles.
At least one player at a Ultimate tournament in the past has rigged an electronic device to accurately tell how many miles they ran over the course of three matches, which is the typical amount of games someone plays one day at a tournament.
In those three matches, this particular player ran fifteen miles.
According to the centre for Disease Control, the official amount of Frisbees or flying discs sold during a year is a number impossible to fully know, but we can safely estimate that the number is more than the amount of baseballs, basketballs and footballs combined.
If you don't believe us, think back to the last goodie bag you received at a convention. Did it have a Frisbee in it? It probably did.
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