Friday, November 10, 2006

Ultimate Frisbee Freaks

From a recent NY Times article (hat tip: Daniel Drezner):

Forget college guides, U.S. News & World Report rankings, average SAT scores. The best gauge of an institution’s excellence may actually be … its ultimate Frisbee team. At least that’s the theory of Dr. Michael J. Norden, a Univer sity of Washington professor of psychiatry.

Ultimate started in the 60’s as the hippie’s anti-sport — a coach-free, referee-less, noncontact game combining the free-form elements of Frisbee with the strategy, athleticism and goal-making of football or soccer. Players call their own infractions, and “The Spirit of the Game,” the ruling document, says that while competition is encouraged, it must not be “at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play.” More than 500 colleges and universities now have teams competing interscholastically.

Dr. Norden analyzed the Ultimate Players Association “power ratings” of private national universities over a decade (the ratings assess strength based on past performance), and he discovered a startling pattern. “All the schools with above-average ultimate teams also have above-average graduation rates,” says Dr. Norden, whose son is, not coincidentally, a serious high school player looking for a university with a good team. “They average a 90 percent graduation rate, while the average graduation rate for private national universities is just 73 percent. Statistically, that just doesn’t happen by chance.”

As far as the thesis of this study, I'm pretty sure Prof. Norden is confusing causation with correlation. But I just wanted to say that, as someone who's played Ultimate for more than 15 years, I'm disappointed to learn it was started as the hippie "anti-sport." No wonder I recently made the switch to "hardcore" flag football -- I hate hippies. And I've also been annoyed that the so-called "Spirit of the Game" has prevented Ultimate from becoming an Olympic sport, even though it's probably the only purely "amateur" sport being played in the world today. Ultimate players refuse to have referees (because of the stupid Spirit), therefore the Olympics -- quite rightfully -- refuses to sanction the game (because of the potential for cheating and collusion).


Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

Hackysack is the only true hippy antisport. Ultimate is just as competitive, just as much a "zero-sum" game as any other Olympic sport.

10:24 AM  

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