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On The Fly

Hastily Assembled O.C. Disc Team Just Wants to Have Fun


The 10 or so players representing Orange County at Saturday's Southern California Ultimate disc competition admit they aren't exactly the stuff of champions.

Some players could easily lose a few pounds. Several have never entered formal competitions of a sport players describe as a cross between soccer and football--with a Frisbee, or disc, as Ultimate players call it. Others haven't seen competitive play in years. They don't even have a team captain.

Pulled together two weeks ago from a group of Orange County devotees who play triweekly pickup games, they know they have little chance of winning. But that was never their goal. Instead, they want a chance to watch and learn from the sport's best.

"We're in it for fun," said Pat Kelly, 34, of Laguna Beach, who organized the team. "But maybe we can surprise ourselves and upset some teams. And you sure can learn a lot by playing at a higher level."

At stake is a chance for the top teams to advance to the southwest regional tournament, where they'll go up against teams from Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The top two teams then have a chance to compete for the national title.

Thirteen teams are expected to participate in the Pomona tournament. The most serious contenders, such as the Condors in Santa Barbara and Peligro in San Diego, have been training for months. Some have even traveled to Orange County for extra practice time in a local pickup game.

"At the top levels, they're all real athletes," said Richard Hart, the coordinator for the Southern California competition and a Peligro player. "It's not like your weekend softball player. These people are serious."

The Orange County group has had no such formal practices. But each Sunday year-round, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer, they help make up the pickup game played at UC Irvine's Crawford Field.

Ultimate is truly the ultimate sport, say those among the group, which contains mostly men. While some still label it a fringe or "alternative" sport, Ultimate fans defend it as a physically demanding sport that requires stamina, speed and agility.

At its best, the sport is egalitarian, they say. Scoring a goal requires a team effort. Each of 14 players--seven on each side--can operate as a receiver, defensive back and quarterback.

"The speed and fluidity of the game makes it beautiful," said 40-year-old Curt Caprine, of Buena Park, who first played Ultimate 21 years ago, and will play in Saturday's tournament with another team.

A group of New Jersey high school students invented it in the mid-1960s. It caught on big at college campuses, and spread.

The game at UC Irvine started in 1975, said Steve Gelsinger, one of the original Irvine players. The Ultimate Players Assn.'s web site at lists the weekly game in Irvine as the only pickup game in Orange County.

Through the years the players have changed, but the game has endured. When long-standing pickup games in Long Beach and Laguna Beach folded several years ago, many players began trekking to Irvine.

"It's all so damn fun," said Kelly. "I made some of my best friends playing Ultimate."

Yet the sport hasn't caught on in Southern California like it has in other places. UPA membership tops 13,000, and has its biggest followings in cities such as Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. For a large metropolitan area, Southern California has relatively few teams and games.

Tournament coordinator Hart blames Californians' seemingly endless choices for recreational fun. But fans like Jerry Anderson of Tustin say it's easy to get hooked.

Anderson played casually for several years, before he began playing in the weekly Irvine games in July, he said. He eagerly accepted Kelly's offer to play on the Orange County team in Saturday's tournament.

"I don't care about winning or losing," Anderson said. "I just want to see some good play."


It's the Ultimate!

Think soccer meets football--with a disc. A handful of Orange County players will compete against the area's best at the Southern California Ultimate Frisbee competition being held this weekend in Pomona.

The Game

1. Play begins with teams lining up at their respective end zones. The team which has won a disc toss or scored the last point throws ("pulls") a 175-gram regulation disc to the opposing team.

2. An offensive player catches or retrieves a disc from the ground. The player has 10 seconds to throw the disc to a teammate. Players may not run with the disc.

3. A team progresses toward the endzone by successfully completing passes. A goal is scored when a player catches the disc in the end zone.

4. In a zone, handlers throw the disc back and forth until they see a teammate who is open. The defensive cup follows the path of the disc, attempting to force a turnover by having three people surrounding the person with the disc.

5. An incomplete pass or interception is a turnover. The defense becomes the offense. Defense uses a zone to create a high probability for turnovers.

Other rules

* No physical contact is allowed.

* The game is self-refereed. Players call fouls or out-of-bounds for themselves and each other.

* The length of games vary. The first team to get 13 points or the team ahead at 1 hour and 15 minutes of play wins. Team must win by 2 points.


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