The Huddle is dropping some heavy, heavy knowledge right now. The online Ultimate magazine has had many issues with “experts in the field” weighing in on subjects from a mock draft to how to use the sideline but The Huddle’s most recent issue on Spirit of the Game is real and addresses some serious issues about this game that we all know and love.
There are some seriously refreshing and honest opinions about Spirit from The Huddle, especially from Ring of Fire’s Taylor Pope and PoNY’s Ben van Heuvelen, but there is one gigantic mistake. Not a single one of the articles addresses the actual definition of Spirit of the Game (SotG). To be frank, while interesting, it doesn’t matter in the least bit what a single elite level player thinks SotG is when it is, in fact, something else entirely.
SotG has nothing to do with abiding by the rules, per se, and has everything to do with whether or not one abides by this italicized paragraph and these basic guidelines.
Spirit of the Game. Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting opposing players, dangerous aggression, belligerent intimidation, intentional infractions, or other ‘win-at-all-costs’ behavior are contrary to the Spirit of the Game and must be avoided by all players.
One can easily go here and realize that Ultimate is possibly the most loosely defined sports of all time. In the introduction there is not even a definition of the field of play. The only things that get defined prior to SotG are object of the game (to score goals), how to score goals, number of players, object played with (disc), ways to advance the disc and turnovers.
The way we interpret that is that SotG is second to only those factors in the way that the Ultimate community defines the game that it claims to live by. Which is why we think many of the articles in this issue of The Huddle, while insightful, are grossly misguided in an attempt to actually define Spirit. We can personally understand, feel, sympathize, imagine, define a travel however we want, the fact of the matter is that the rulebook and the governing body of the sport defines a travel a certain way and that is what it means.
We love The Huddle and the vision of a true form of Ultimate media is part of what led us to start writing on this website. (That and an extreme case of senioritis last spring) However, in reading this issue of The Huddle, we were really alerted to only one thing: what Ultimate says and what Ultimate does are two different things.
Not to say that the writers for The Huddle are a signal that, in the immortal words of Brodie Smith, Spirit of the Game is dead, but to say that perhaps it is time for a round of introspection from the UPA. Perhaps, as much as we hate to admit it, we agree with Toad and SotG does need to be redefined. To us, it’s clear that most people have their own definition of what Spirit is, but how those definitions line up with the UPA definition, or how the UPA definition lines up with the majority of its players definitions of Spirit may not be so clear.