Sunday, July 03, 2016

Going to Extremes

I must say, the Weekly section of The Guardian (what we old-timers still think of as the 'colour supplement') does serve up some stupefyingly easy targets, so tempting for those of us ever on the search for inspiration. Lurking at the back of this week's issue is a short interview with somone who describes himself as an 'Ultimate Frisbee player'.

Now you probably know that a Frisbee is the trade name for a little plastic disk that skilled players can throw in such a way that it goes a hell of a long way. And that is it. You throw them and they go a long way. Someone may choose to catch and return the disk. End of story.

The gentleman being interviewed goes as far as he can to talk up his "sport" of throwing and catching a little plastic disk. It can involve 7 players a side on a 40m pitch. There is

a lot of running, jumping, sprinting and diving. There’s also the skill of throwing the disc itself, which is so satisfying. You use a forehand and a backhand like tennis, and put different curves on a throw in the way you release it.

OK, OK, it's athletic. Fine, so are loads of other team sports where running and accuracy with an object are required. My eyebrows raised a half a millimetre or so on learning that this activity is a recognised Olympic sport but then again, almost anything can be. What put much more severe strain on those little muscles above the eyes is the abuse of that word so beloved by unimaginative admen and publicists - 'ultimate'.

You want ultimate? I'll give you ultimate. How about these ideas, buster?
  • Razor blades are inserted round the edge of the Frisbee
  • The players are on a high wire over a deep gorge
  • The players are blindfolded and stand on a plank suspended above a tank of piranhas
  • They change Frisbees every five minutes and one in ten is booby-trapped with an anti-personnel device
  • They have to do a triathlon event before each Frisbee match
  • They have to come up with an original limerick, using the word Frisbee as one of the rhymes, each time they play
  • They have to play in front of one of those giant fans that power wind tunnels 

Extreme? Over the top? Ludicrous? Of course. But that is how you earn the right to use the word ultimate. Not by pretending that running around on a pitch barely a quarter the size of a football pitch is the hardest way that this game can ever be played, for this is what the word ultimate, if we are to use it correctly, means and it means only that. We may not able to stem those seeking to destroy the English language but we can at least have a tilt at those who do.

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