My attempt at Ultimate Frisbee

My Monday night Street Academy teammates (which has now grown to a clan of six, now that three other RPI students – Stefan, Dan and Tim – have joined Jeremy and Alexis and me at Revolution Hall) are devotees of Ultimate Frisbee.  For those who don’t know, Ultimate Frisbee is a very fast-paced version of soccer or football – only you use a frisbee disc as your football or soccer ball.  It’s a great sport, you get plenty of exercise and there’s a ton of camaraderie in the game.

I’ve played it once.  ONCE.

True story.

It’s probably 1983, I’m a sophomore at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.  The spring thaw has melted most of the dripping snow away, and an impromptu Ultimate Frisbee game is taking place in the quadrangle of the older side, or “Stryker side” of the campus.  The game was not as strongly regulated as an official Ultimate Frisbee game might require; however, everyone was having fun and it was a great weekday diversion.

I had about an hour between classes, and when one of the teams needed an extra man, I joined up.  I caught a few passes, I tossed a few passes.  We had a chance to score and win the game, all I had to do was run down the length of the quadrangle, hook to the left, and catch the frisbee just past the designated end zone marker.

I ran down the length of the quadrangle.  I looked behind my shoulder, saw the frisbee coming straight toward the designated catching point.  I turned left.  Concentrated on that frisbee, as it was drifting down to the ground.  I leaped.  Caught the frisbee clean and clear.


That onomatopœia was my face running straight into the end zone marker – a tree.  My glasses flew in two different directions from the impact; I came down with a thud, blood oozing from the side of my face.  Two of my teammates came over to help me up and pick up what was left of my glasses.  I don’t know if it was the mini-concussion I sustained, but I handed one of them the frisbee and asked if we had won.  They were more concerned that I hadn’t killed myself – or at the least, that there weren’t cartoon birdies floating around my skull.

I was more upset that my glasses were broken, and that I would have to make an appointment at the local shopping mall to get replacements made – and pay for the replacements out of my own pocket.  Then I squinted at my wristwatch – and realized that I had about five minutes to get to the Root Building and get to my French class.

I got to the class, and of course my bloodied face was the topic of conversation among my classmates.  Comments ranged from sympathy to concern to a good smattering of gallows humor.  Now anyone who’s attended a foreign language class knows that the professor will NEVER speak English during class time, and in fact it’s almost a rarity if they speak English to one of their students OUTSIDE of class.

So when Mme. Davis came into the classroom, expounding “Bonjour, madames et monsierus, Bonjour – Oh my god, Mr. Miller, what happened to you?”  It was a shock to hear her speaking English during class time.

And dumb me, I actually tried to explain what happened to me – the Ultimate Frisbee game, the tree, the works – in French.  Not the greatest French, mind you, but it was an effort nonetheless.

Epilogue.  My glasses were repaired the next day; I only needed a stitch or two, and I passed French class that semester.  Of course, all the French I’ve learned in college has disappeared to the point where I can barely order lunch at a St-Hubert chicken restaurant in Quebec City, but that’s another story for another time.

I can still play Frisbee – the simple tossing and catching and stuff.  But I think I’ll leave the organized “Ultimate Frisbee” games to those whose peripheral vision will keep them from actually crashing into trees.