In 2004, Hollywood funnymen Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller starred in the infamous comedy, “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.” The film shed light on an obscure sport and subconsciously made every other moviegoer want to return to gym class to fire a rubber ball across a line at an unsuspecting opponent.
UCI has its own obscure sport: ultimate Frisbee, or simply, “ultimate.” The team is known as the UCI Nightlife, which is meant to be ironic according to senior co-captain Scott Roeder, “because people complain about the lack of nightlife at UCI. We’re also known as the Nightlife, because we hold practices on Tuesday and Thursday nights at the ARC (Anteater Recreation Center) under the lights.”
Many students have heard of the sport, but few know the intricacies of the game. What’s there to know? It sounds like a bunch of crazy guys throwing Frisbees and running around tackling each other, right?
Wrong. There’s so much more to it. In the spirit of “Dodgeball’s” straightforward instructional video, consider this a crash course on ultimate.
Ultimate Frisbee is a sport which consists of skills and tendencies that can be related to other sports.
“It’s like a combination of Frisbee, football and basketball,” Roeder explained. For instance, ultimate is started with a kickoff similar to football, except the Frisbee is thrown downfield instead of booted. Another similarity is drawn to football in the sense that a player must catch a pass in the end zone in order to score a point.
Defenders guard each other in a fashion similar to what basketball players do. There’s no contact, but a defender may remain in an athletic basketball-like stance and dive for the Frisbee as if they were a defensive back on a football field once the Frisbee has been released. Also, there is no running with the frisbee in hand.
“A lot of the game can be related to football. There’s a lot of footwork in ultimate that is similar to the movements that a football receiver would make when going out for a pass,” Roeder explained.
In a given ultimate game, 14 players are on the field, seven from each team. In early pool play rounds, games are routinely played to 13 points; however, the competitive tournament games are played to 15. Games are generally allotted a time limit of an hour and a half to be completed. In the event that neither team has won within that 90 minutes, the leading team is declared the winner.
“The technicalities of the game are tough to get used to,” freshman Pratik Panda admitted. “Experience plays a factor.”
Some characteristics of ultimate can even draw comparisons to golf. For example, golf is known as a gentleman’s game in which each golfer is required to keep their own score and go on the honor system. In ultimate, there are no referees. It is a self-officiated game in which players call their own fouls and they settle disputes by talking them out and coming to agreements.
“It’s really the spirit of the game. They’re the core values of ultimate. If guys were to start fights or play dirty, who would resolve it? Not having officials holds some people back from considering ultimate as a serious sport,” Roeder stated, “but we have to play fair and it says a lot that our games run so smoothly even though we’re without referees.”
These are not just some average Joe’s. Roeder is part of what he considers a generalization towards ultimate players.
“We’re trying to get away from the whole hippie image,” Roeder stated. “People think we just go out in sandals and throw a Frisbee around and call it a sport. There’s more to it. We’re real athletes.”
“In high school I always played soccer, but I was introduced to ultimate during my junior year and I got really into it,” Roeder conveyed. “By the time my senior season came around, I quit soccer and focused on ultimate. Frisbee was a lot more fun for me. It was a light-hearted game with people who I could really relate to.”
It’s a demanding game. Ultimate Frisbee features a field 70 yards long and 40 yards across, with 25 yard end zones, giving the players an area of 4800 yards to account for on any possession. Compare that to football’s 4000 yards. It’s a field that benefits seasoned ultimate veterans. As Panda gains experience, he hopes to “learn to have good field awareness, which will allow [him] to conserve energy and be more effective.”
He explains that the conditioning and teamwork that he had grown accustomed to in soccer are similar to ultimate; however, his toughest adjustment to his new sport has been getting used to playing against a defense.
The ultimate season began this fall, which is considered the time for development and rookie tournaments. On Oct. 24 and 25, the Nightlife came home victorious after posting a 6-1 record and defeating UCLA on their home field, by a score of 13-10 in the championship. This past weekend, they hosted their own tournament, the Irvine Huckfest, at the ARC in an interesting fashion. On the morning of Halloween, teams from all over the west coast including Long Beach State, UCSB, Arizona State University, Pepperdine University and UCLA showed up to find the Nightlife dressed up in Halloween costumes.
It’s quite a spectacle to see college guys dressed up as super heroes, Native Americans and condiments diving all over a grass field for Frisbees. Despite the light-hearted costumes, the team was ready to take it to opponents in a serious manner. In the week leading up to the home tournament, Roeder laughingly stated, “Come Saturday, we’re going to own those guys while looking like heroes.
At press time, the team’s record stood at 2-1 in the Huckfest after beating Cal Tech, Cal State Fullerton and losing a matchup to ASU on Saturday. The Nightlife looked poised to win back-to-back weekend tournaments, this time as the hosts.
In the winter, the competitiveness is taken up a notch as teams play in several tournaments that help determine the national rankings. The culmination of ultimate season is called the spring series. The Nightlife aims to perform well in the Southern California sectionals, advance to the southwest regionals and accomplish their “ultimate” goal of advancing to the nationals, which is composed of the top 16 teams in the nation.
“If we made it to nationals it would be huge,” stated senior co-captain Scott Miller. “It’s a long way down the road though. Teams like UCLA, UCSD and UCSB have bigger pools of players to draw from and they have good programs. Ultimate is still pretty new at Irvine and our goal is to compete with teams that are likely to make it to nationals. It’s a big step to qualify for nationals.”
So, if you happen to pass by a few guys seeming to skillfully, yet effortlessly, flick Frisbees around a lawn around campus, take time to appreciate their art. Beginners are encouraged to strap on a pair of cleats and try the obscure sport out this fall on the Ultimate Frisbee field. Practices run Tuesdays and Thursday nights from 6-9 p.m. under the lights at the ARC. If the UCI social scene isn’t doing it for you, Nightlife could be the answer.
Filed Under: Sports