Frisbee is a Real Sport, Damn It 

As an Ultimate Frisbee player, I long ago learned to have a thick skin, but last week's insult takes the cake. When a teammate of mine failed to show up for a weekly Merritt's Country Cafe Jukebox sing-along, Jane, the waitress, asked where he was. "Oh, Josh split his eyebrow open playing Frisbee," I sympathetically replied. Jane was incapacitated by laughter for the next five minutes.

What is it about playing Ultimate that earns us such scorn, such derision, such obscurity? You would think that the sport was on the cultish level of curling, fencing or porcupine racing rather than having more players nationwide than lacrosse. To top it all off, most people who do know something about the sport think it doesn't require any athleticism. In college, during an intramural season, I remember beating a football player deep to the end zone for a score. "Turns out you Frisbee kids can run," he granted, huffing back to his end of the field.

Well, sure we can. Ultimate requires as much running as soccer, disc handling skills to put beach tossers to shame, and an intimate knowledge of vertical, horizontal and zone strategy. Yes, we even have positions, plays and a field with end zones and sidelines. This ain't your schoolyard pickup game, partner.

Of course, we don't take ourselves too seriously, either. Boise team names from this and seasons past include Cookie Monster, Dungeon Masters and The Bitchin' Camaros. We all like to have fun. Perhaps this has contributed to the laid-back hippie stereotype. You do see a lot of dogs on sidelines, and sometimes beer cans make it onto the field during a blowout game. There is even an unwritten rule stipulating that a team receives an extra point after a score for every player in the buff.

But with Boise's competitive summer league now three weeks into its season, teams have been tallying records, analyzing competitors' weaknesses and training for next week. Each of the 10 teams consists of up to 20 players (with seven on the field for each team), so there are plenty of us out there. Every Wednesday night at Ann Morrison Park, we take over to play out the weekly double-headers, two games to 13 points. Competition being part of the fun, everyone is gunning for the top.

Of course, even for fun-loving Ultimate players, tempers can run high. I have let slip a few choice phrases in the heat of the moment, and the no-contact rule is impossible to uphold without mistakes. Hence Josh's split eyebrow (other team injuries include a broken nose, a shattered collar bone, several ankle sprains and some mean bruises). It makes Ultimate's unique refereeing system all the more amazing. Called "spirit of the game," it essentially means that every player is responsible for being his or her own referee. Fouls, picks, stalls and out-of-bounds are called and contested by players on the field, with the players directly involved usually getting the last word. That this system works as well as it does, with as few bad feelings, is a credit to the players and the game. There are no brawls or doping allegations in my sport, as far as I know.

So Jane, and anyone else who thought Frisbee was just for Sandy Point and that funny golf course, come on down to Ann Morrison at 6 p.m. some Wednesday. Watch a game or two. You will see athleticism, competition, and a grueling, underappreciated sport. You might even recognize that cute neighbor who always seemed to be in such good shape.

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