Freakonomics on Ultimate Frisbee

I listen to a lot of podcasts and one of my favorites is Freakanomics which recently had a segment about Ultimate Frisbee. It discusses self-policing and how it governs some aspects of the world and our lives.

Imagine that soccer (football) was a self refereed sport? It would take a while for it to get to the level of Ultimate in the form of spirit of the game.  I’ve been playing Ultimate for a long time (20 years in 2017) and I know that sometimes I can be a member (of the male persuasion) and I ain’t proud of it but I do keep it under control.  The main reason is because I think that Ulti is just magical.

I’ve been lucky that I have been able to play for so long- it has brought a lot of happiness and passion to my life.  It’s allowed me to travel around the world, meet new friends in different countries and attend some pretty epic parties (Bali has to be one of the best).  My pace has slowed down, my throws are not always as accurate but I know that I still play with fire and fun.


To tell you the truth, I never want to retire either.


Nice Grab
It’s not about the two guys going for the disc.
It’s the teammate on the sideline

This excerpt is taken from the USA Ultimate website on Spirit of the Game :


From the Preface:”The integrity of Ultimate depends on each player’s responsibility to uphold the Spirit of the Game, and this responsibility should remain paramount.”

From Section 1. Introduction, item 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.”
Spirit of the Game sets Ultimate apart from other competitive team sports. For over 30 years, Ultimate has flourished, reaching a highly competitive level, without the use of referees. In Ultimate, the honor system works. Sure, human nature rears its ugly head from time to time – just as in any sport, just as in life. Yet, one of the many beauties of Ultimate is how, even amid the most difficult of situations, utmost graciousness is allowed to meet that challenge head on. Through this balance, Ultimate players are free to demonstrate the most honorable and the most joyous sides of human nature in sport.

Most Ultimate players care deeply about Spirit of the Game. The organizational challenge for USA Ultimate is to foster an environment where the challenge does not become,”to see what I can get away with”. Rather than dictate what Spirit of the Game is or should be, it is up to each player to do so for him or herself within the context of the teams he or she plays with and against.

Mike H.
Hi there,
I am photographer, father, son and ultimate frisbee player.
I've recently switched my career path into Mechanical Engineering.
As someone once said, "What a long, strange trip it's been."