Monday, August 27, 2018

The World could take a lesson from Ultimate Frisbee

The World Junior Ultimate Championship has just concluded in Waterloo Canada last week. The United States won both of the under 20 men and women events, pretty much as expected because the US has been dominating this sport in recent years.

Eighteen nations sent teams to compete on the boys’ side and 13 on the girls’ side. As a proud grandpa, I went to watch my grandson play. Born and raised in Atlanta, Matthew has been a member of the Atlanta elite team that competed for the US national championship.

In Waterloo, however, Matthew was going to play on China’s team. This was the first year that China was sending a youth team and the team was short handed and pleased to invite my grandson to join and play on their team. I was curious as to how the 6 foot 6+ inch young man that does not speak any Chinese would adjust to his new teammates.

Even though Ultimate as an organized sport has been around for over 30 years, most people don’t know much about this sport. The rules are really simple. Each team put 7 players on the field and the object is to throw the flying disc over to the opponent’s endzone. Catching the disc inbound and over the goal line constitutes a score. If the disc is dropped or knocked down and hit the ground or intercepted by the opponent, possession reverts to the other side and they will try to score.

To be any good at this sport, the player must be in top physical condition, able to sprint and leap for high flying discs and dive for low flying ones before the disc hits the ground. Each line of 7 players must stay on the field until one side or the other scores. A normal squad typically carries a complement of over 20 players. The team from China came over with a roster of 14 players plus Matthew. By the last day of the tournament, China was down to 13 including Matthew. (Ultimate in China is a private sector club sport and does not enjoy any government support.)

Matthew Dacey Koo reached high to snatch the disc away from a Dominican player

Any physical contact between players, intentionally or not, is not permitted. And, screens and picks as practiced in basketball would constitute an infraction. The most fascinating aspect of this game is that there are no referees to officiate the game! In the event of any dispute on the field, the players are expected to be fair-minded, show good sportsmanship at all times and negotiate a settlement acceptable to both sides.

The games were played under the auspices of the World Flying Disc Federation, a body recognized by the International Olympics Committee, and relied on adherence of all the players to the doctrine known as “Spirit of the Game.”  According to the WFDF, “actions such as intentional fouling, cheating, dangerous plays, disrespectful conversations and other ‘win at all costs’ are contrary to the Spirit of the Game.”

Consequently, the dynamics of Ultimate are unique compared to other competitive sports. In an officiated sport, the players are psychologically disposed to push the boundary of acceptable behavior leaving the question of whether a rough play has taken place to the judgment of the referee. In Ultimate, the players have to play based on self-restraint and give more leeway to the opposing team during play.

At the end of the game, the two teams form a large circle with alternating players from each team and their arms draped around their neighbors. The players congratulate each other on good plays and vote on the player on the opposing team that is most emblematic of the Spirit. Win or lose, the players leave the game with feelings of fellowship and sportsmanship.

                              China and Mexico formed a team circle after their game

Each team has to rate the opponent on how closely they followed the Spirit of the Game. At the end of the tournament, the ratings were added up for a total score. This year, both teams from New Zealand were honored as the teams that best exemplified the spirit of Ultimate.

I was left to ponder the question: why can’t the world community of nations interact with each other along the same principle? A recent article from New York Times raised the same question describing the use of a game of Ultimate to promote peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

As for my grandson, he enjoyed being one of the major scorers for China, even though China was winless in nine matches. He also interacted and made friends with players from all over the world. By hanging around his Chinese teammates, he was introduced to a world of ethnic cuisines heretofore new to his palate that he would take back to Atlanta. Two years from now at the next world championship, he will be too old to compete in the Junior level but will be eligible for under 24 championship. Already, there were murmurs that China will want to invite him then.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The World According to Donald

Anything he says must be true unless he says something opposite the next day, in which case the latter is more true.

He is not above the law; he is the law.

He is not above the law, because he does not know what law is.

He is not above the law, but he doesn’t care.

He is not above the law, because law applies only to everybody else.

He doesn’t even think the law of gravity applies to him. (Let’s take him to the middle of a lake and see if he can walk on water.)

He has revoked the security clearance from former CIA Director John Brennan for disclosing a devastating national secret, namely, that his conduct is nothing short of treasonous.

If you write or publish something critical of him, you are fake news.

If you buy from him, you are a good country. If you sell to him, you are a bad country.