Manila Vice & their Ultimate Sport
By Maida C. Pineda (The Philippine Star) Updated December 15, 2002 12:00 AM Comments (0)
It is Sunday afternoon. Rain is pouring outside. I finish a leisurely lunch and wonder if this afternoon’s game will push through. I get an assurance via text from my friend Gabby saying, "We play rain or shine."
For Manila Vice, a team of men and women passionate about Ultimate Frisbee, nothing stops game except lightning. On Sunday afternoons perfect for a nap or a movie, these guys chase a frisbee from 3 pm until sundown. Even darkness is not a hindrance: there are neon discs to play with after work on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. You’ve got to give these guys A for dedication.
The first time I saw the game of discs played was years ago in my college campus in the US. I always knew it was spring when I would see teams spending their afternoons running around the library’s lawn, chasing after a colorful plastic disc.
Ultimate Frisbee is a popular exciting non-contact team sport played in many US college campuses and by thousands of people around the world. It mixes the best features of soccer, basketball, American football and netball in an engaging and demanding game. It started in 1967 when Joel Silver, a member of the Columbia High School’s newspaper and Student Council, introduced the game of Ultimate Frisbee to his peers. This young visionary, now head of Hollywood’s Silver Pictures, uttered with certainty, "This is the Ultimate Sports Experience. Someday people all over the world will be playing this game." His prediction proved correct. To date, over 100,000 play the game in 50 countries around the world. In the Philippines, the frisbee is only used as a toy to while away time on the beach or with a dog. Hence, I was surprised to discover an Ultimate Team in Manila.
In 1999, Julie Gaw, Dominique Diongson and Ed Bondoc found themselves reminiscing about their college years spent playing the game in the US. All this sentimental talk gave birth to Manila Vice, the only team representing the country in Ultimate Frisbee tournaments abroad. While the trio who started the group no longer reside in the country, Manila Vice has grown to a membership of 40 men and women, with 20 members consistently attending the weekly games.
The group can best be described as diverse, with members from the Philippines, United States, France, Canada, Australia, Norway, Turkey and Ethiopia. The youngest member is 13-year-old JR, who picked up the sport while watching play in the soccer field in Fort Bonifacio. Most of the group’s members are professionals working in international agencies, advertising, stock market, media and their own businesses.
As in the early days of Ultimate Frisbee in Maplewood, New Jersey, this alternative team sport attracts a relaxed group of players, not the usual sports jocks. It is a very accepting sport, open to non-athletic types as well as natural born athletes. Even someone like me who never played a team sport in my life was warmly accepted on the first day I showed up on the field a couple of months ago. I was pit against an equally unfit female friend. We felt comfortable running and guarding each other, given the fact that we had the same skill level. The challenge was keeping up with the stamina of the team in running, defense and catching the disc.
Consistent with its laid-back origins in the days of hippies in the mid 60s, the game is fairly simple to play and learn. Two teams of seven players each play in a field 37 meters wide and 64 meters long. The object of the game is to score goals. A goal is scored when a player catches any legal pass in the end zone the player is attacking. The disc may be thrown in any direction to a teammate. Players are not allowed to run with the disc, hit any body, obstruct the offensive player or knock out the disc. The standard game is played until one team reaches or exceeds 15 goals. Without any referee to keep score, there is much emphasis on the Spirit of the Game, stressing mutual respect among players.
Tim Sullivan, an American who played the game in college back in the 80s and one of the pioneers of Manila Vice, admits that height and speed are definite advantages in playing the game. But it is not everything, he stresses: "It is a team sport, and the best asset is a team player. Leave your ego at home and you will do well in this game."
On some occasions, Manila Vice shares the field in Fort Bonifacio with a soccer team. While waiting for his teammates to arrive, one soccer jock tried his hand at Ultimate Frisbee. After a few minutes, he asked for a replacement. The fast pace of the game, running, attention to aerodynamics of the disc, throwing and catching left him breathless. Sweating heavily, he admitted with a smile, "It’s no wuss sport, man, it’s a tough game!"
The name Manila Vice is apt for these hardcore disc aficionados. They possess a keen sense of seriousness about the sport while maintaining a relaxed attitude playing the game. They have represented the country in international tournaments, competing against teams from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia. While Manila Vice has yet to rank first among its neighboring ultimate team competitors, team spirit is high. To create greater awareness and interest in the sport in the country, the First International Ultimate Frisbee Beach Tournament is scheduled for March 2003 in Boracay. There are plans of putting up a league, as well as practice clinics for beginners.
After three hours of playing on that wet Sunday afternoon, the sun had set and the night had cast its dark blanket over the field. Players filed out to the parking lot, their bodies, shirts, shorts, socks and shoes crusty with mud. There were no winners or losers: no fighting or bickering could be heard, only reverberating laughter and camaraderie. Truly, this is one good vice and the ultimate sport!