There is a life to be had amongst the grey concrete jungle of Gauteng. Between the mix of cars and construction you may see some green fields, and on some of those fields, if you are lucky, you may see some people running after a little 175 gram white disc. If Ultimate was a religion, this disc would hang around the necks of the converted. We cherish this disc; it belongs in the air or in the hand, and expect that it never touches the ground.
The people who run after this disc come from all areas. Some of these players have never played competitive sports, and some are champion athletes. You will spot students, parents, brothers, friends and partners. Each has his or her own story, and each is welcomed into the community. I find that Ultimate attracts a personality type that complements the game, and in turn the game complements these players. Maybe this is only true in South Africa because the game is not quite as mature, not quite as competitive, as some other sporting codes.
We play by the Spirit of the Game (SotG), an ideology that encourages a self-officiating discussion, compassion and understanding between teams during a game. This does not take away from the fiercely competitive nature of the sport, but can sometimes be abused by those willing to win at all costs. In the super-competitive leagues of America, referees have been employed to remove this potential for abuse. Unfortunately SotG is effected by this; why be spirited if a referee will just overrule you/them.
There have been whispers to get official referees in place for high level games in South Africa, something I would not like to see yet. We are in a fortunate position where our top teams are (for the most part) spirited, led by captains who themselves play by a strong code of honour, with oversight committees and associations who aim to keep this ideology in place. Gauteng leagues have recently implemented spirit scores for games which is a good step towards developing the sport in a self-officiated way. Of course as Ultimate grows in the country, top-level games will become more competitive and we may one day have to ask for that impartial opinion on calls.
Being part of Ultitude for the past 2 years has been a pleasure, playing with those wise minds has taught me as much about life as it has about Ultimate. The title of this post – why we do this – has perhaps not been addressed. We play this game week after week because the people it attracts make our lives just a little more colourful. Sometimes the life we live in our grey concrete jungle could use more colour.
– Ché Makanjee