Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ultimate as a Parody

I had a few moments to view the Ultimate History Book DVD. Initially my interest was mostly in old footage of games, and although there was some, it was a bit sparse. This made me want to film everything Ultimate as I assume that it will be of interest to somebody someday.

I decided to check out some of the interviews and I found the Jared Kass and Joel Silver interviews to be more compelling than I had anticipated. Jared Kass' interview made it clear that the invention of this sport is a natural occurrence. It does not take too much to see how a bunch of college kids could think up an Ultimate-like game. I appreciated Kass' humility and interest in the basic joy of running and catching the disc. It would be fun to bring him out to Nationals at some point, as it seemed like he had no grasp of how so many people love playing this "Ultimate game".

I also enjoyed the Joel Silver interview. It was nice to finally hear, first hand, that he indeed pick up the game from Jared Kass, thus confirming that Ultimate was,indeed, invented in Amherst. This does not take away from Columbia's contribution, which is clearly documented in the book. Silver's interview did reinforce for me a notion that Silver distanced himself from the sport very early on. He describes how he did not take the sport seriously enough to feel compelled, like other players, to codify the rules or spread the sport to his college after the initial class graduated. He pretty clearly says that he did not have a vision that the sport could grow as it has, and it seems that he, like Kass, does not really grasp the growth of the sport.

Silver dropped a very quick and compelling comment that I have not been able to get out of my head for the past 4-5 days. He mentions that his view of Ultimate, when it was formed, was that is was a "parody". He says "That's why we wrote out the rules and had sweatshirts". I assume that they wanted to make fun of the other "serious" sports at Columbia, but also, I imagine, the larger sports world as well. I can see a group of high-school boys creating an imaginary sports world in a kind of dungeons and dragons or WWF kind of fashion. I had a group of high school friends that created their own newspaper in retaliation to the first release of USA Today. They created those street side boxes and chained them to the USA Today boxes. I think several of them almost got arrested. In any case, I can see this same kind of anti-establishment energy leading to creating an alternate sport. To me, this makes sense in a late 60's/70's kind of way.

So, for the past several days I have been pondering Ultimate as a parody. Are we stuck with that? Have we transcended such intentions? Is it destiny that we are to remain outside the establishment due to such beginnings? Have we become what the founders were making fun of?

I think a few answers might come from what happened to the founders after they graduated from Columbia. Most of them went on to found the Ultimate team at their college. To me, this suggests that they did not buy solely into the fact that it was a parody, but maybe I underestimate the power of their original intention. I think it is clear that Silver moved on from the sport quickly, so I am not sure that we take his impression as ubiquitous.


parinella said...

It was actually the second generation of Columbia High School players who really spread the game to colleges, I think.

gcooke said...

I was going off of Silver's comment in which he said that they made an agreement to "spread the word" and the other guys did, but he didn't.