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A frisbee generation

09/24/02 12:00AM By David Moats
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(Host) Commentator David Moats says he's discovered a key of sorts for determining where one generation leaves off and another one begins. And it's a key shaped like a pie plate.

(Moats) It occurred to me the other day what distinguishes the new generation from the old. I count myself among the old, by which I mean people who are 50, plus or minus a few years. The new generation would be those who are now in college, getting ready to take on the world. What distinguishes us is frisbee.

Now we had frisbee back then. I remember hours on beaches, in driveways, and parks. But the new generation has Ultimate Frisbee.

The first thing to know about a frisbee is that it is an inherently humorous object. It does weird, unaccountable things when you throw it. It doesn't hurt when you catch it. What the new generation has done is take this humorous thing and make a sport out of it. No doubt that means there are those who now take frisbee very seriously.

An Ultimate Frisbee game is a little like soccer or lacrosse, except the players are using a frisbee, which gives the whole thing a sort of Monty Python kind of silliness.

My generation took sports seriously, which meant we learned to bash into each other and endure immense pain. I don't mean to criticize traditional sports, which teach important lessons to the new generation as they did for mine. Football and baseball have been central to the youthful growth of both my generation and my sons'.

But the other day I got a glimpse of an Ultimate Frisbee game, and as serious as the kids were about it, there was something light and free and ridiculous about a bunch of strapping young men chasing that swooping plastic disc. I see it as a sign of progress that the new generation has managed to develop a sport based on a premise of humor.

Certainly, there are lots of ways to throw and catch a frisbee, and I'm sure there is even strategy to the game. But none of the guys I was watching seemed too worried about it. When my daughter plays, it's all for fun.

I actually know someone who says he and his pals from Middlebury College invented the frisbee sometime before World War II when they were on a trip and started throwing a Mrs. Frisbee pie plate. Whether or not they were the first, frisbee occupies a unique and carefree place in our arsenal of leisure activities. Now there's even a sculpture at Middlebury College by Patrick Farrow of Castleton, in which a dog is leaping to snatch a Frisbee out of the air

I'm not sure frisbee is the only difference between the new generation and the old. Another difference is bicycle helmets, which we never used to wear but which now adorn the heads of the tiniest tot on the most peaceful sidewalk. But that's another topic.

As long as people are playing frisbee, I think things are basically OK. As for me, I happened upon that Ultimate Frisbee game while I was running on an adjacent field, staving off the onslaught of time, keeping the body loose and the heart pumping. It was an all too serious endeavor on my part. I wish I was up there tossing the frisbee. It lifts the heart.

This is David Moats from Middlebury.

David Moats is the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.
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