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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 16, 2011

Peace and love,’ Frisbee and fun

By Jordan J. Michael

ALBANY –– No sporting events can be played on the field of Collins Circle at the University of Albany –– except one. After 28 years, the Albany Ultimate Disc Association has earned its place.

“We were grandfathered in,” said Jeremy McNamara, who’s been the Albany association’s president for three years. “We’ve been playing here for so long.”

The AUDA has three leagues –– competitive, social, and women’s. On Tuesday, at least 115 people (six teams) gathered for social league games. The players ranged in age from 14 to 55.

Some came out to win, but all came for the fun.

“You’re playing with and against friends,” said Ryan Dubowsky, 21, a 2007 Guilderland High School graduate. “Everyone is shaking hands and cheering.”

Ultimate Frisbee, now called just Ultimate, is a self-officiated game. The seven players on each team are responsible for correctly following the rules. No contact can be made. No steps can be taken. Points are scored when a player catches the disc in the end zone.

The self-officiating is known as “Spirit of the Game.” This is what sets Ultimate apart from any other sport.

“You can’t start any fights because you have to interact,” McNamara said. “Every other sport is some kind of battle. Here, there are no referees to impress.”

Instead, players try to impress each other by making polished throws or diving for a catch. It’s a team sport, but each player is always directly guarding another.

“It combines different aspects from different sports,” Dubowsky said. “You make cuts like you would in football. I used to play football.”

Ultimate’s origin goes back to the fall of 1968 when Joel Silver, the film producer, returned to Columbia High School in New Jersey from summer camp in Massachusetts. Silver, Bernard Hellring, Jonny Hines, and Walter Sabo proposed a school Frisbee team to the student council on a whim. Kids started playing in Columbia’s parking lot.

Now, 43 years later, the sport has grown dramatically. There are college teams, club teams, and leagues around the world.

“Ultimate has that whole ‘peace and love’ thing,” said McNamara. “I know half of the people here on a first-name basis. It’s a different mentality.”

The team names reflect that different mentality. Nerf Headshot, Arm and Hammer, Seal Team 6, Flatball Circus, Violet Offenders, and Deadliest Catch each played two games on Tuesday. Soon, McNamara will scramble the teams and more people will get to know each other.

The AUDA has an annual budget of $15,000 to $20,000, McNamara said. It comes from user fees and a few sponsorships. Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany is the main sponsor, supplying massage therapists for the league finals.

Nick Yetto, 33, of Guilderland, has played Ultimate since he was 13. He went away for a year, but has returned to see some of the same faces this year. He says that there “isn’t a friendlier environment.”

“It becomes a narcotic,” Yetto said after the end of the first match on Tuesday. “You feel lousy when you miss it. You miss the people. There’s no pressure or anger and everyone is supportive. There’s nothing like it.”

Despite all the fun everyone is having, McNamara said that he’s “out to win every game.”

“We have some big plays happen,” said Dubowsky, who started playing in his freshman year at the State University of New York College at New Paltz. He just graduated. “The tension builds when the disc is floating in the air. Who’s going to get it?”

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