Saturday, August 28, 2004

Ultimate self esteem - or "that's not a sport"

As one might be able to tell from the links on the left, I play ultimate. There are other things one might surmise from the list as well, such as that I am a lesbian stage technician with an affinity for tiny swimwear. The conclusion about ultimate would be correct.

Ultimate used to be ultimate frisbee, but sometime between when I went to college and my teaching at college Wham-O fell out of favor, ultimate players started playing with Discraft Ultrastars, and ultimate frisbee became "Ultimate." The most humble of sports names. The people that play ultimate tend to be dedicated in a way that often wouldn't apply to other sports. There is an element of service and sport development present amongst Ultimate players. This is due largely to the youthfulness of the sport and in some small part a defensive reaction to when people say "you play what? Oh, frisbee. I love the dogs." Talking about dogs and frisbees is enough to bring most Ultimate players to a froth.

So why are we talking about this? I guess because over the last couple of days I have felt fairly disenfranchised as an Ultimate player while watching the summer olympics. For as long as I have played disc, players and organizers (Ultimate has a federation, the Ultimate Player's Association or UPA) have been talking about having Ultimate made an Olympic sport. There are rules that govern this. The sport must be played in a given number of countries, and then a host nation must present it as a demonstration sport. Since I have been playing Ultimate has amassed the critical number of countries, but has never been at the top of the list when it came to demonstration sports. There was an inkling for LA in '84 and then again in Atlanta. But in both cases other programs got the call.

In the interim the Ultimate community has had to watch several other sports play on the Olympic stage. Some of them you might expect: baseball, softball, taekwondo; and some, well, less obvious: beach volleyball, windsurfing, and rhythmic gymnastics. Its the last of those that started me on this little jag this time. Last night I watched the hoop prelims, and then today a watched the group finals and inside I could hear an irate Ultimate player screaming.

Its not that I don't think these people are talented, and that they don't have to train hard and be in great shape to do what they do, but I have trouble seeing the lines. Its much easier for me to see "artistic" gymnasts along side of track athletes and wrestlers. Rhythmic gymnastics I kind of group with Ballroom dance, cheerleading, or competitive aerobics (a sport I have never really understood). I have to say that I would likely lump synchronized swimming in with this class as well. I worked with a bunch of former olympic synchro swimmers when I did the O show. I'll will grant you they were athletes, but I never would have thought what we were doing was a sport. For that matter, that forges another connection. Are synchro swimmers or rhythmic gymnasts all that far from trapeze artists? Why is Ballroom dancing not a sport when Ice dancing is? And don't say its because of the skates, I think a lot of what the dancers do is likely harder without the skates.

Strange, I don't have too much trouble with diving. I guess the difference between diving and synchro is much the same as between artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. Maybe this is it: anything where you wear a costume designed more for looks than for utility, any sport where judges are looking at "artistic impression," that's just not a sport. That's a show. Not to say it isn't physical, not to say it isn't difficult, but I think I am saying its not for the olympics.

Maybe we need another event, something like the world entertainment games. This would be the rightful home of all the artistically judged events. Plus we could add the aerobics, cheerleading, ballroom, and then the trapeze and acrobats, plus drill teams, marching bands, and drum corps. Maybe there's a place here for ballet and modern dancers, or for vocal or instrumental musicians. Is who can sustain the longest or sing the highest note really any less significant than who can lift the heaviest weight? They already have established the x-games as a commercial venture for new sports that are too fringy, someone should do the art-games for events that are as much art as effort. Maybe move these events out of the olympic summer games, and make room for my Ultimate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thought of you the other day while I was in Target. Saw a T-Shirt w/ a Mr.Yuk on it.. Glad you have kept up w/ ultimate.