Frisbee on the beach

By Geeta Padmanabhan

“Frisbee should be in the Olympics,” said the guy, between swigs of Red Bull and shouts of “Come on DOD, come on LTF, SDS, CU, MU…” Which team was he rooting for? “All,” he said in ad copy lingo, “I’m for the disc game, are you?”

It’s amazing how Frisbee has caught on in Chennai. Seven teams (one of them Sri Lankan) with players from scattered geographies (Indians, Americans, Canadians, Spaniards, Brits, Germans and Australians) chased the disc under floodlights at the International Beach Ultimate Frisbee tournament at the Besant Nagar beach. “Beach Ultimate tournaments happen in only two other places – Bali and Thailand. Ours will be an annual event like those,” said Manu Karan, project head.

Informality must be Frisbee’s greatest charm. The Mumbai Storm Chasers(MSC) became a combo of disc buddies only in September 2008. “We play for 45 minutes each week-end,” said a Hrithik Roshan look-alike. “For losing weight, you can’t beat it.” This young team took a train at Dadar on 26/11 just after they heard of the CST attack. “We had to show we wouldn’t be defeated by violence,” said team captain Sunal.

The friendship here is unbelievable, said the MSC. “Balaji from a rival team gave us tips on using the wrist for better throws.” Pritham flew down from the US to join Learning to Fly(LTF), another team. “Word usually spreads though e-mail, facebook and blogs,” said Pattu Subramaniam, BMW specialist. “They would’ve played in the rain.”

It’s fine recreation, said Venky of Disc O’ Diwane, a group of tall (ave. 5’10) rock climbers in Bangalore who throw around the Leo disc after climbing sessions. They Googled for info, found LTF, formed the all-Bangalore cell. “At the Kodai tournament in July we were babes in the game, now we are in the semis.” The game is dynamic, but “we are adventure sport faddists.”

Pure enthusiasm drives the Sri Lankan Serendiscity, who practice at Colombo’s Victoria Park on Sunday afternoons. The group is truly diverse – young, old, men, women, novices and veterans. The playing crowd is transient, as expats are on short term contracts, making it a different game every week-end. Possible only in this disc game.

“We have been frissing around since November 2006,” said Chenoa, one of the three women in the eight-member squad. Said team-mate Jesse, “Colombo is choked up  with international NGOs.  It has an equal number of Sri Lankans and expats. Frisbee affords us a great op to know people.” Work in Sri Lanka is intense; they don’t have an easy time. “Back there everyone talks about Chennai,” said Chenoa. “We’re glad to be away from the sound of guns. Fun to be here.”

For Delhi’s Stray Dogs in Sweaters, the appeal is undoubtedly gender equality. “It’s a beautiful game, men and women can play together without making contact,” said Troy Duffield, a globe-trotting teacher, here with colleagues from the Embassy School. SDS is an all-expat team except for Mahesh. He picked it up easily, he said. “You could join at any level. Frisbee eliminates the gender imbalance in sports like basket/volleyball.”

“In spite of gender or athletic ability you can be competitive,” added Troy. “There is beauty in the co-ordination not found in games like soccer and football. There’s so much you can do with a Frisbee – hammer throw, scoober, fore and back hand, pizza pie. When a ball has a dream, it dreams of being a Frisbee.” It’s convenient as well. Troy packs this light equipment and flings it anywhere he finds an open space and a group of kids. “I’ve done it in Peru,” he said.

Frisbee is a generous, non-referee game. The penalty is to go back and start. Its greatest draw is the friendly culture it creates and supports. Chennai Ultimate is grooming a team at the Olcott Memorial School. You’ll find teams in Gandhi Ashram on the Sabarmati, and KFI, Adyar, said Srivatsan Murali.

Bryan Plymale, teacher and coach at Kodaikanal International School says: “The flying disc symbolises the spacecraft we travelled in to reach planet earth, represents Vishnu’s disc destroying ignorance and darkness. Ultimate is a sport that combines the best of sports like hand ball, water polo, futbol (soccer), basketball, lacrosse, kabaddi, rugy, Ultimate is a metaphor for community cooperation, excellence, integrity, honour, joy and play. In the end it’s just a silly game played by brainiacs with a plastic pie plate!”

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