Do they still toss discs on college campuses? Is ultimate still the sport of choice among actively laid back undergraduates?
The only discs I've seen in the last two years are the ones outside a temple in Southfield, Michigan. There, a group of young men practice formations, like frisbee soldiers, shouting commands to each other and advising newcomers about the right way to play the game. They're in a competitive league, they say. Ultimate never used to be competitive, but these guys run marathons to keep in shape for their game.
It's strange, too, that there are no women in this group. When we played in college, ultimate was almost always co-ed. Are women to slow and too short for these eager young disc bucks?
There's been a change in the country in the last couple years, and a change in ultimate too. Discs are rarely seen on campuses these days, as students desperately study and work in thankless internships, hoping to get a leg up for the few pathetic jobs that await them.
The FBI and the CIA are back in the universities, recruiting future spooks. The military, thanks to George W. Bush's No Child Left Alone legislation, is now a mandatory presence in every American high school, its recruiters seeking out fresh grunts to replace the ones they've killed or burnt out.
Instead of catching discs, Americans are busy becoming spooked grunts.
It's preparedness, they say, for the next attack. That next attack could be coming...
or now... or now...
or later. You know it's coming, right? You've changed your life for that next attack. No more discs for you. Now it's the ROTC, and standing united, and shouting "Hoo-ah!", and being searched, and being searched.
Inside sources at the Justice Department say that John Ashcroft is working on an extension of the Patriot Act which will enable agents of the Department of Homeland Security to put roving electronic wiretaps on anyone seen tossing a flying disc just for the fun of it. Listen to that ultimate coach, now. Hustle! Learn your maneuvers! Throw it right, not like some French sissy!
The relaxed, soft-spoken, patiently considerate segment of American culture that ultimate long stood for is being destroyed. The game of ultimate is being destroyed along with it.
It's just a frisbee, after all.
If you get together for planning meetings, preparing tactics for the next time you throw a frisbee around, something has gone wrong. If you spend hours every week on exercise machines to improve your ability to play with a frisbee, something is out of balance. If, when you throw a frisbee, it hurtles through the air, whooshing at a speed that will cause pain to the person who tries to catch it, you've lost something of what frisbees are all about.
A frisbee is designed to float, gently spinning, to touch down easily in the arms of a partner. A frisbee is designed to be graceful, not muscular. A frisbee is to played with, not fought over. A frisbee is for spontaneous gatherings of friends, not for scheduled drills of disc squads.
A frisbee is not naturally amenable to rules.
When people play with frisbees, they don't think about enemies, or evidoers, or crusades, or the restoration of traditional morality. When people play with frisbees, they don't think about applying for a job, for any job they can get.
When people play with frisbees, they think about warm air and cool grass and soft ground and leaping into the sky. When people play with frisbees, they lose track of time and go to dinner late and are happy.
Frisbee players are disappearing from America, and they are being replaced by aggressive competitors, eager to prove themselves in their struggles against opponents. These athletic competitors seek out specially engineered tournament discs, with certified, absolutely unwarped balance. They yearn for practiced, predictable trajectories, using flying discs as missiles with which to gain victory. They register in leagues, and designate fields with borders.
This new kind of ultimate disc player is emblematic of a greater shift in American culture. It's considered wrong to relax now. The right thing to do, we're told, is to heed our fears and spread them to our friends and neighbors. We are to be vigilant. We are to report suspicious activities. We are to expect the worst at any moment, assuming that we are surrounded by enemies.
America's old mission was to imagine new, better ways of living and then try to make them happen, even if they didn't seem realistic to the old way of thinking. America's new mission is to hunker down, identify bad people, and kill them.
Is it any wonder that ultimate has become a cutthroat sport?
These balanced discs are twisted.
The time has come for America to take it easy.
No, there's not a terrorist in the East Moline Middle School gymnasium, so give the security guards a day off and let the children play. Osama Bin Laden has not formed a sinister partnership with Britney Spears fans, so turn off the metal detectors in Omaha's concert auditorium and let the candy-colored pre-teens and their mothers pop-out without being scanned for traces of plastic explosives.
Yes, I am suggesting that America needs to escape. Go take your critiques of escapism and go shove them in a deep, unorganized file drawer. Americans need to escape from the fear that the government tells them they're duty-bound to cling to. You say that everything has changed? Well, if I can't play frisbee I don't want to be part of your homeland security.
You can play frisbee too, if your heart remains.
We here at Irregular Times have created a completely original series of not-for-competition frisbees. Oh yes, "Frisbee" is a brand name like "Kleenex", so get on over to Frisbee.com if you want a real frisbee. Let's call them flying discs. In fact, let's spoof the moral clarity of our times and call them Flying Discs of Truth!
The conservatives who are in control of America right now believe that flying discs are the new gateway drug. I've actually heard that William Bennett is preparing a sermon on the subject: First they start off tossing a disc around in a public park, then they're tossing their clothes off and shooting up heroin!
Yes, if you toss a flying disc, you risk the anger of conservative passers-by, you non-conformist limp-wrist you! If you toss a Flying Disc of Truth, however, there's no possibility of toleration. With a Flying Disc of Truth, you can be dead sure to provoke a right-winger's wrath!
Tossing a disc these days is an act of conscientious objection to the psychology of Homeland Security. These discs are designed to confirm your rejection of the new culture of fear, serving as flying emblems of your calm in the face of national paranoia.
Think about this - you've never seen George W. Bush toss out a disc, have you?
Point, set, match. Whatever that means.
Toss on, America. Toss on!
Orange Alert Flying Disc
This disc is vulnerable to terrorist attack! Revoke the Bill of Rights before it's too late!
Toss Out Bush in 2004
Maybe you're not fond of Republicans, maybe you like to see topiary on the curb. Either way, this is your disc.
Time flies figuratively, but now you can make it a literal reality!
A Brief History of the World
...war begets death begets rage begets hate begets veangence begets... So toss a disc while the sun shines!
Dump Bush 2004
Toss this flying disc around for all to see, and you'll find out who's who at the park in no time flat!
The King is a Fink
Dethrone George W. Bush in 2004! Fling Bush out of office with this handy flying disc. Your fellow red diaper babies at the park will go ga-ga!
Throw Out W.!
King George could use with a good toss in 2004. Share this thought with everyone in the park as you send this disc flying.
Need we say woo hoo?
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