So then, what does Spirit have to do with the rules?
If you look at the rules, the very first paragraph explains that we are assumed to not intentionally violate the rules, that an intentional infraction is cheating and an offense against Spirit, and that it is each player's responsibility to uphold Spirit of the Game. The very last clause of this first paragraph states, "this responsibility should remain paramount".
Okay, so the rules say that Spirit is important. Not only just important, but of supreme importance, above all other important things.
Are we sure it's that important?
As we read on in the rules, the Introduction starts with a part on Description, which is simply a very high-level explanation about how a game is played, and is immediately followed with the part called, "Spirit of the Game". Placing it first in the rules echos the paramount importance stated in the first paragraph.
Interestingly, although not surprisingly, for the Vancouver Ultimate League (my home league), it's their Spirit Committee that is tasked with implementing the 11th Edition to the League. Clearly from the VUL's perspective, the rules fall directly under Spirit.
So yes, Spirit is Paramount... Spirit is Supreme... Spirit is Ultimate. (no pun intended... okay, maybe a little)
So then, what is Spirit?
A big start is looking at the wording of this section, I.B.
"Spirit of the Game: Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting opposing players, dangerous aggression, belligerent intimidation, intentional infractions or other "win-at-all-costs" behavior are contrary to the spirit of the game and must be avoided by all players."
You should at least come away with the following main points...
Spirit means each player:
- is responsible for fair play;
- respects competing players; and
- understands and adheres to the rules.
So with that in mind, this 'first rule' of ultimate requires that players need to understand the rules (as they are, not as we think they are), in order to play fair and respect the other players. As stated, it's our 'responsibility'.
Kyle Weisbrod, in an article in the Spring 2005 edition of Ultimate News, put forward three main tenets to Spirit of the Game:
- Knowing the rules;
- Respecting and following the rules; and
- Respecting your opponent.
This sounds like pretty much the same thing.
It should be safe to assume that at least some of you agree. So, to the side you'll find links to the 11th Edition Rules and the Substantial Changes From the 10th documents (see the '11th Edition files/documents' link). Have a read, they're really not very long.
You don't have to memorize them letter-for-letter, or become a rules guru, nor does (/should) anyone expect you to. However, after reading them even only once, you will remember later on the field that you read something about that situation and will feel more comfortable that the explanation your opponent just gave you sounds similar. And you will certainly recognize something different than that 'rule' you thought was correct. ... and hopefully not be too embarrassed at how strongly you argued it. And each time you read through them, you'll pick up more and more.
So have a read now. And even if you find yourself royally confused, try to get through it. Our plan is to put forward some useful information here over the coming days/weeks/months to help with the confusion and build some good, strong, simple understanding. At least that's our goal.
Going forward, if you feel like suggesting a topic or clarification, just speak up. Others out there will most probably have similar questions.
See you on the field.