Recently, I went to a college football game, the first in decades, and it was hard not to compare it to the many Ultimate games I’ve been to in the last couple of years.
1. A disc is superior to a ball. In every way. In Ultimate, the players will go leaping into the air to make a one-handed grab. Because they can. It's exciting to see a player go suddenly flying into the air, his arms reaching way above other players, to snatch the disc out of the sky.
Football players make two-handed catches, and the damn ball keeps popping out of their hands like a wet bar of soap. People shout, “Fumble!” Because apparently football fans think it’s exciting to watch someone fumble the ball. Yes, that’s truly pathetic.
2. Parking. At Ultimate games, it’s free. And you can park about ten feet from the game. At the football game, we had to park miles from the stadium, and were saved only by Blond Brother-in-law who gave us a ride in the back of a police car, which unfortunately left some of my students with the impression that I’d been arrested.
3. An Ultimate player will come off the field when he’s tired, and stand on the sidelines until he’s rested and ready to go in again, at which point another player gets to take a break. Ultimate players actually play most of the game. At the football game, there seem to be thirty or forty guys on each team – seriously, a whole crowd of them – standing around doing nothing for the whole game. I mean, they got to wear uniforms and be on television and all that, but when it comes right down to it, they weren’t actually getting to play the game.
Everyone around me kept talking about this great “kicker” the team had. At a dramatic moment, this kid came out on the field and everyone watched while he kicked the ball. That was his big moment. He kicked the ball once. Then he went off to stand around for another whole hour until they brought him out to kick the ball a second time. Really. They should have let him bring his textbooks onto the field: he could have gotten some studying down in the downtime.
4. In Ultimate, an hour of playing time takes … about sixty minutes. At the football game, an hour of gametime took MORE THAN THREE HOURS. Seriously. I’m all for bathroom breaks and all that, but two hours worth of bathroom breaks? No one’s bladder is that sensitive.
5. Football uniforms are ugly. I bet the men we were watching had toned, muscular bodies, but with all that stupid padding on, there was no way to tell. And the helmets hid their faces. You could have replaced a couple of the players with androids and really, I wouldn’t have noticed. From where I was sitting, they looked more like wind-up toys than human beings. Ultimate players, on the other hand, wear shorts and t-shirts. When an Ultimate player leaps into the air to make a grab, you see bare legs stretching to their utmost, long arms curving towards sky, the grace and agility of the human body. It’s like watching dance.
6. Football games are really loud. Especially when they pump in loud 70s music for the cheerleaders and give microphones to obnoxious old men. At an Ultimate game, it’s so quiet that I can listen to the chatter as the players talk to each other.
7. Ultimate fans are not expected to dress like idiots. At the game I was at last weekend, there were something like 46,000 fans in attendance. About 35,000 of these people were wearing ugly orange t-shirts. Seriously. When someone like me notices how ugly the clothes are, that’s really bad.
8. Ultimate players never just pile on top of each other and lie on the field.
9. No annoying men in black-and-white shirts, stopping the game. Ultimate is self-officiated. Calls are decided with a few brief words. “Contest?” “No contest.”
10. No offensive mascots.
11. You don’t have to worry that some cheerleader is going to die every time she gets tossed ten feet into the air.
12. Ultimate players never run time off the clock.
13. Women play Ultimate.
14. No television timeouts.
15. Ultimate players don’t pat each other on the butt.