Everyone watches as the throw sharply heads for the ground. Before the thrower fully realizes they turfed it, you hear “Nice throw bro.” Or maybe with the game on the line, a cutter catches a big 20 yard in cut. Instead of applause from the side line, he only hears numerous shouts of “HAMMER.” Heckling comes in all forms and exists at all levels of play. As a community, we love and enjoy our heckling. But, it does create an interesting atmosphere for high level games.
The finals of an Ultimate tournament are incredibly different than other sporting events. Usually, everyone is watching, cheering, and hoping to see great plays. They came simply to watch the sport. In Ultimate, we don’t have many non-playing fans; we rarely go to tournaments just to be a spectator. Instead our finals are watched by the numerous players who played hard in hopes to get to the game they are now watching.
You train, practice and travel to get to this one tournament. A few games don’t go your way and now you are sitting on the sideline watching your opponents play in the finals. You mix that frustration with a community that is very pro-heckling, and you get Ultimate finals. I’m not here to complain about this, but I think we need to recognize that this atmosphere, while fun for us, does not encourage the passerby to take our sport seriously. Over the many tournaments I have been to in my life, I can count on one hand the number of finals that from the sideline felt intense, serious and deserving of spectators. Even when a display is athletic and talented, it is hard to take a game seriously when everyone watching treats it as a comedy act.
This is all based on the good occasions, but many of us have been to the game where those jokes borderline humor and begin to trash the idea of SOTG. When bitter players fail to understand the difference between jokes and insults. You can say that happens at many sporting events – fans will be fans. But imagine if you were watching the World Cup finals, but instead of a stadium filled with soccer fans, the only spectators were all the teams that were defeated during the tournament. I’m sure they would have something to say, and those things would not be all too spirited. Luckily for the soccer players, this is something unique to Ultimate. Instead of getting the mix of excited, happy and angry fans, Ultimate gets less variety with more apathetic and frustrated spectators in the crowd.
With all of that in mind: I’m going to retroactively apologize to all the players that had to listen to me yell at them during the finals of oh so many tournaments. Good job. You earned it, even if you did turf those last three swings. Nice throws, bro.