"I hope you all enjoyed that. I can't wait to hear Brian's comments on that, but before we do that I want to give Brian Murphy an appropriate introduction.
I think it is safe to say that the sport and specifically the organization of the UPA, now USA Ultimate, wouldn't be a solid organization if it wasn't for the efforts of Brian in the 80s. Brian was the second director of the UPA after Tom Kennedy, who you briefly saw in that 1980 clip. Brian served as the UPA director from 1983 to 1985, was involved in things such as writing the 8th edition rules, he rewrote the bylaws for I guess both WFDF and the UPA, got 501 c(3) status for both organizations, and really put the UPA in firm financial standing so that it could continue on to be where it is today.
As a player, Brian started with the Bucknell Mudsharks in 1976, and later played on teams such as Flying Circus, and won two World Championships with Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. In his time, he established the College Division, and after his time as director he served from 1989 to 2001 as the legal council for the UPA. So, Brian's contributions to the sport are amazing, and his 2007 Class Hall of Fame makes a lot of sense.
So, Brian, the first thing I'd like to hear about...having seen that video, you started playing before that 1980 UPA championship. I'd like to hear about what the sport was like before the UPA."
When I started playing in the mid 70s, there were really two types of players. There were the Frisbee guys, that we kind of derisively referred to as the freestylers, and they were mostly events players. They were Frisbee enthusiasts; they played freestyle, MTA, Double Disc Court, and when they wanted to run around a little bit they played Ultimate. The other group was the athletes who were the people that were coming into Ultimate from other more mainstream sports. All the teams at that time were really college teams, and a lot of these people were highly recruited Division 1 athletes: basketball, soccer, football, and on occasion track and field, who had for whatever reason became disillusioned with mainstream collegiate athletics but they still craved the competition. For them, Ultimate was just another game that you played and you could beat your fellow peers that happened to be played with a plastic flat ball instead of a round ball or an oblong ball.
For a little while at least, the freestylers kind of dominated for a couple of different reasons. Number one, their throwing skills were vastly superior to the rest of us, and really showed us a lot about what you could do with a disc that was not possible with a ball. But also because, to the extent that there was a disc sports establishment at that time, they were it. Ultimate, along with the other disc sports were under the umbrella of the International Frisbee Association (the IFA) which was really just a promotional arm of the Wham-O Corporation. That organization had been formed by really for the benefit of the events players. Ultimate was kind of an add on, an afterthought later on.
By the end of the decade, which is to say shortly before that last clip you just saw, there were a few things that happened which really pretty much directed how the sport was going to be played, and how the sport was going to be organized for the years to come. The first thing was that by the end of the decade it was clear that the athletes has prevailed. Throwing as we now now it is a learnable skill, so the window of opportunity for the freestylers who dominated the sport was rather narrow as it turned out and closed pretty rapidly. So, by the end of the decade, the sport was populated primarily with people who had come into Ultimate from other sports, who thought themselves as competitive athletes, who thought of Ultimate as a competitive sport capable of producing its own elite class of athletes who could become the equal of another other sport.
That's more of a big deal than you might image at that time. The Frisbee itself as an object was associated with long hair, love beads, hippies and marijuana - not necessarily incorrectly so - but nonetheless, the thought that this could become a competitive sport with real athletes was pretty far fetched, and not at all a forgone conclusion.
The other thing that happened by the end of the decade was that the sport became self-governed. By the end of that time, there were many many more times the number of Ultimate players that didn't play other disc sports than there were all the other events players combined. So we had far blown through what the IFA could provide to us, and had decided there was essentially an ownership moment in the late 70s when the players decided that they wanted to organize the sport. The wanted to control rule making, they wanted to control the organization of competition, they wanted to preserve what I think we all thought was a very unique culture and identity, and I think that is frankly the only reason why things like the Spirit of the Game, and observers as opposed to referees has endured. I really don't doubt that those things would have fallen away if it had not been for the fact that the players at the time decided that they were going to take control of the sport - that they were going to organize it their way - not withstanding the fact that none of us knew what we were doing. I mean, none of us had run, all of us were in our mid twenties or younger, and had never run any organizations of any type, let alone national or international sports organizations.
The other thing that happened by the end by the way was that all that second wave of players that came to the sport in the mid 70s graduated from college and they began to gravitate towards the major metropolitan areas that then became the hubs for Ultimate to really flower in the 1980s: Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. So, that last clip of the 1980 Championships was, in a way, an interesting kind of crossover year that was the first of the, what many people thought of as the all star club team versus the last of the big college teams. Within a relatively very short period of time there were no college teams that were competitive on a national level. Just within a matter of years, they were pretty much - you'd have one or two teams that might be relevant on a regional level, none of them ever made Nationals. It actually got to the point were the college teams were almost getting squeezed out of the sport, which we'll talk about a little bit if we get into the 80s.
That was the year I think were you saw the change, and obviously field sports, we again, now know that you reach your prime in your late twenties stretching into your thirties. Within a few years you had 25, 26, 27 year olds playing 18 and 19 year olds. That is kind of what led the club scene there."