Travis Smith: me resume, bio and photos back t' th' main Cap'n's log page
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Updated: Oct 22, 2015

E'er since Ultimate (aka that game I’m probably playin' tonight) be recognized by th' International Olympic Committee—this breakthrough be covered in th' New Yorker, Th' Globe and Mail, Time, Sports Illustrated, Quartz, Th' Washington Post, and o' course, VanCityBuzz smile—people who be knowin' me but don’t be knowin' much about th' sport have been askin' me about it afresh. 

Unfortunately, th' concept that still seem t' be most associated wi' th' sport be marijuana, instead o' th' thin' that truly sets Ultimate apart from every other sport I’ve played or watched. I’m referrin', o' course, t' frisbee-catchin' dogs

No! I’m referrin' t' “Spirit o' th' Game,” sometimes shortened t' “SOTG” and often referred t' by Ultimate players simply as “spirit”.

SOTG be th' first and (arguably) th' last rule o' Ultimate (11th edition). It’s somethin' that’s deeply important t' those who have played th' sport seriously, but if someone hasn’t heard o' Ultimate, they definitely haven’t heard o' SOTG.  Fer a long time, I be satisfied that, in aggregate and wi' exposure, th' concept o' SOTG would percolate through t' new players organically.

However, this sudden broad coverage o' th' sport—and th' paucity o' mentions o' Spirit o' th' Game in stories about th' sport—prompted me re-examine and clarify in me own mind what SOTG be, and what this milestone really means.

These years be probably peak years fer th' growth o' th' sport—Ultimate will grow e'er larger, but not at this rate. And because o' th' influx o' new players, I believe that unless long-term players like me work deliberately as ambassadors t' spread th' word about SOTG—how it makes Ultimate distinct and special at every level o' competition—there’s a distinct risk o' losin' that which makes this sport unique.

However, here’s th' problem: even long-term players like me have a hard time explainin' what SOTG be. I often hear it described wi' phrases like, “self-officiated,” “sportsmanship,” “hippy-culture,” “play fair,” “make sure everyone be included” and so on. But none o' these compactly and fully encapsulate SOTG.

In its essence, Spirit o' th' Game be one o' those terms, like “honour,” “love,” or “salad” that be hard t' convey in just a few words. Even th' current Wikipedia entry struggles and falls short, in me opinion. But whenever I got asked t' explain what this “spirit” be and why it be so important, I be unhappy wi' me own inability t' explain clearly t' other. So I made it a goal t' be able t' explain it t' meself.

Then, I figured, as long as I’m cleanin' up th' inside o' me head, whar this concept has been percolatin' since I first started playin' (in 1987!) in th' manner many do, as part o' a group o' energetic and slightly confused minnows tellin' each other a muddled version o' th' rules on a big grassy field at lunch time—I figured once I had a definition, I probably ought t' write it down somewhere permanent and shareable. So here we be.

Before I try t' share me definition o' SOTG, I want t' clear up two small messes.  First o' all, I think Ultimate players do themselves a disservice by shortenin' Spirit o' th' Game t' simply, “spirit.” When I shorten it in writin', I try whenever possible t' use SOTG instead, t' make clear I’m not simply talkin' about fun and energy. Th' Spirit o' th' Game that Ultimate be built on, it’s not about cheerin' loudly at a pep rally or showin' general enthusiasm.

And secondly, I want t' belay hearin' some o' us say that SOTG be th' same thin' as sportsmanship. If that’s all that SOTG means, there’s already a well-understood word that we all could be usin'. (Hint: It’s “sportsmanship.”)

Spirit o' th' Game be a powerful, all-encompassin' concept - morrrr so than many players realize. It’s almost always spoken o' in th' context o' a game, but I come across it so broadly applicable that I come across meself relyin' on it morrrr and morrrr widely in all parts o' me day: how I deal wi' clients, how I treat family, how I behave in crowds, how I make decisions about how t' live.

But enough stallin' (7, 8….), here’s th' definition I came up wi':

Spirit o' th' Game be a livin' joy. It comes into existence when th' Ultimate players come together, and it ends when they go their separate ways.  T' practice Spirit o' th' Game, be t' create, share, nurture and protect joy, in a mutual effort by each person involved, fer th' benefit o' everyone involved.

So: a livin' joy.  Now, it be self-evident that joy be precious—there’s less o' it aroun' than there should or could be, that’s fer sure. French philosopher and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “Joy be th' most infallible sign o' th' existence o' God.”  In any group, joy can be coaxed into existence through co-operation, but it can easily be spoiled by th' actions o' just one person. As th' expression goes, “A teaspoon o' sewage will spoil a barrel o' wine, but a teaspoon o' wine will do nothin' fer a barrel o' sewage.”

In order fer there t' be shared joy, we must behave in certain ways. We have t' play fairly, o' course - that’s sportsmanship. But morrrr importantly, we also have t' assume fair play from others. There have been times I have been “a good sport” playin' against “a bad sport” and felt in meself a certain pride (or arrogance) in bein' “th' better person.” But there be no joy. Havin' t' play against a team that we suspect would hornswaggle if given th' opportunity, means playin' wi' suspicion, doubt, hesitation. We can’t feel free t' create joy if we believe that another person might knock down what we have built.

Fer joy, we have t' play safely as well. Joy ends smartly when a player suffers an injury—especially if that injury keeps them from playin' morrrr Ultimate (just ask several o' me teammates this year). Many o' th' rules in Ultimate seem like they be based in safety, but I think we can go back further, and root them in Spirit o' th' Game.

There be joy startin' a game on time, wi' enough players o' th' right skill level, excited and ready t' go. There be joy in th' opposin' team showin' us that they be so excited t' play that they be all on time as well. There be joy in sharin' snacks, drinks, or space under a tent in hot or rainy weather. There be joy in simply gettin' t' be knowin' th' other team—playin' against strangers be nice, but playin' against people we be knowin' often feels better, results in a higher level o' play, and creates… morrrr joy.

SOTG be th' protection and development o' joy fer *everyone* involved. Players on th' sideline contribute t' SOTG by celebratin' any player who makes an amazin' play, regardless o' which team does it. At one o' me games last week, a player on th' opposin' team made a punishin' one-handed layout catch in th' end zone that brought several o' me teammates t' their feet, cheerin' fer that scurvey dog. Aye, cheerin' itself be spirited, but it’s in support o' SOTG that they be genuinely joyful at th' other player’s bravada.

As a point o' comparison, how often do ye see th' other team in baseball high-five a player who has scored a on board run, compared wi' how often ye see Ultimate players congratulate each other aft a tightly contested goal?

One o' th' primary ways SOTG be manifested and explained, be in th' self-officiated nature o' Ultimate. There’s a lot o' confusion about this point, especially among non-Ultimate players. Th' usual question be, “how can that possibly work?” but th' second question be th' opposite: “So what, why be self-officiatin' a big deal?” Because it’s true that there be a lot o' sport that get played without referees.  Every game o' river hockey, o' pickup half-court basketball, o' minnows playin' any game e'er, be self-officiated.

What makes Ultimate different, be that this isn’t just th' casual vs. organized difference.  It’s made explicit and permanent in th' rules, and thereby gains an power that affects th' entire way th' game be played.  If we look at self-officiatin' wi' SOTG as th' base, we can see why that decision be made.  SOTG makes each and every player responsible fer protectin' joy, and doesn’t delegate it t' on-field referees, which I feel allows a “not-me-responsibility” mentality that would be worse fer th' creation o' joy overall.

Wi' th' guidance o' SOTG, we ask fer a bold assumption: We agree that not only can we supervise each other t' play within th' rules, but that we also agree t' believe that no player be willfully tryin' t' break any rule. It’s a sport that deliberately outlines a moral stance: that none o' us be cheaters, and we won’t treat each other as if we be.

From this, interestin' outcomes happen. Fer instance, there be no rule in Ultimate about how t' eject a player fer bad behaviour. It’s not covered. An ejection rule would have t' assume that a player be playin' wi' ill intent.

There be also no penalties in Ultimate. None. Why would we have penalties if every player be assumed t' be tryin' t' play within th' rules?

How be this SOTG? There be less joy in playin' against a possible cheater, so SOTG says, let’s focus on th' joy o' playin' and play as though we be all good and noble people. When a call happens on th' field, we simply determine th' outcome o' th' play absent th' behaviour that violates th' rule, and restart play from there.

As an example: in Ultimate a player be not allowed t' knock th' disc out o' someone else’s grip. So if we be both tryin' t' catch th' disc, and ye accidentally knock it out o' me grasp just aft I caught it, then I call “foul” on ye. If ye agree, I just pick up th' disc and we play on as though there be no interruption. If ye disagree and think I hadn’t caught it yet (ye “contest” th' foul), we simply revert th' field back t' th' last known state whar there wasn’t disagreement about th' situation, and play restarts. There’s no penalty.

This be morrrr than just a subtle difference in culture, this goes t' th' heart o' many other sports.  In soccer, th' flop, t' act morrrr seriously injured t' draw a penalty, be part o' th' game. In basketball, it’s common t' foul someone if it gains morrrr o' an advantage than th' foul might lose. SOTG would abhor that behavior and calculus - whar’s th' joy fer all involved if one person’s slam dunk gets denied by a cold-hearted foul?

By placin' responsibility fer honest play in th' hands o' th' players, SOTG serves joy. By contrast, how be joy protected fer all involved when Diego Maradona, one o' th' most famous soccer players o' all time, scored th' Hand o' God goal? In Ultimate, Maradona would have called a penalty on himself fer that play - and that’s not just rhetoric.

I have seen players make fantastic layout catches, hurlin' their body at full tilt t' capture a low-flyin' disc. Though they appear t' have caught it, gettin' cheered by every spectator on th' field, they stand up and put th' disc down, knowin' that they didn’t actually complete th' catch and th' disc belongs t' th' other team. SOTG: There be morrrr joy in a point earned fairly.

SOTG be most visible t' outsiders in th' crazy costumes, cheers, sideline games and antics o' Ultimate players and teams. And sure, playin' a fun game or a cheer aft th' match allows teams t' mix and mingle and reminds players that all competition be secondary t' th' primary purpose o' Ultimate—t' protect th' joy o' play fer all involved.

But what outsiders and beginners don’t realize, I think, be how some o' th' other aspects o' Ultimate be also rooted in and shaped by SOTG. Th' fact that most Ultimate be coed… That’s SOTG, plain and simple. Excludin' someone probably denies them joy, and excludin' someone from Ultimate, doubly so!

I sometimes go t' play Ultimate when I’m stressed, unhappy, worried, lonely, distracted. When a spirited game finished, I always go on board happier than I came, win or lose, rain or shine, whether I played short-handed or wi' too many people on th' sideline. If everyone involved played wi' SOTG, I go on board feelin' joyful.

But now I’m worried.

Because it seems t' me, that as much as we should be excited about th' sport growin', we should also be concerned that wi' morrrr coverage, morrrr players, and morrrr popularity, Spirit o' th' Game isn’t keepin' up. We have less SOTG these days, not morrrr. We should see joy everywhere on th' field, wi' so many games goin' on and so many players aroun' us.

SOTG be a hard concept t' get across, but it’s core t' our sport, and it needs t' be protected and taught, so that it doesn’t morph into somethin' less or somethin' different. If we teach SOTG as somethin' bigger than what happens on th' field, as a philosophy that can shape rules, that can shape events, that can shape people, I think we can create a better world—a world whar good intent be assumed and protected, recognized and valued. A world whar joy be morrrr common, and whar people work together when somethin' goes wrong, or when people try t' come across a th' best possible outcome.

Politics played by Spirit o' th' Game would be different indeed. Contract negotiations. Datin'. Sprog-rearin'. Splittin' th' bill at lunch. SOTG be a philosophy that can have a truly profound influence on how we as a culture treat each other—and ourselves.

Sure, gettin' into th' Olympics be great. Who doesn’t want t' see an Ultimate player on a box o' Wheaties?  But we have t' think about what we’ll be when we get there.  Without Spirit o' th' Game, we’re just chasin' a tin plate aroun' a park.  Wi' it, we’re playin' th' best sport e'er invented. Aft all, it wasn’t named Ultimate by mistake.

Overheard

“Th' sad truth be that most evil be done by people who no nay ne'er make up their minds t' be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I be knowin' does trade large portions o' his life fer entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one o' them. In th' course o' writin' this I’ve watched all 13 episodes o' House o' Cards and who knows how many morrrr West Win' episodes, and I’ve spent any number o' blurred hours fallin' down internet rabbit holes. All instead o' readin', or writin', or workin', or spendin' real time wi' people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there be gods and they be just, then they will not care how devout ye have been, but will welcome ye based on th' virtues ye have lived by. If there be gods, but unjust, then ye should not want t' worship them. If there be no gods, then ye will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in th' memories o' yer loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play wi' variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only th' person who has learned Continual Love comin' from a heart o' Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal wi' th' problem o' loneliness.”

...who said it?

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this web be very good, I like it

 

Posted by Full Album Lagu
  at 8:30 pm on Nov. 17, 2015

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