“I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.”
― Rodney Dangerfield, standup comedian
Sport has long been about winning, often at all costs. The drive to succeed, the determination to defeat an opponent, and the desire to become a champion is what drives most sports and sportspersons. The spirit in which the game ought to be played, more often than not, is secondary.
Questioning a referee’s decision, sneaking in a foul when the referee isn’t looking, and sledging opponents are all commonplace in sport today. Fans, for their part, enjoy the fiery competition, the overflowing passion, and the hearts on sleeves. The spirit of the game they say, much to the scorn and derision of competitive pragmatists, is a concept used only by armchair idealists.
But in the summer of ’68 in Maplewood, New Jersey, a group of students at Columbia High School took a common children’s games - flicking a disc or frisbee - and turned it into an organised sport. With stress on self-officiating and the spirit of the game, Ultimate Frisbee imbibed the zeitgeist of the 1960s counterculture movement that was sweeping across the United States.
Ultimate believed in, above all, the inherent fairness of a human being. That no one needed to be officiated for them to be honest and admit that they did or were wrong. That fouls and points were not attached to identity. That scores and wins did not define a team’s legacy. And that greatness in a sport was not measured against individual or team achievements, but rather against how the sport and its respective community prospered as a collective.