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This Is So Stupid

All Of My Problems With The Name “Ultimate”

An ultimate frisbee player leaps to make a catch, silhouetted against the sun
A player of the sport that shall not be named leaps to catch the ... the disc.
Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Today I learned of this: An attempt to crowdfund an ultimate frisbee video game. A fun note here is that the creator of the crowdfunding campaign appears to be the owner of an ultimate frisbee team, who also claims in his GoFundMe bio to have the most wins all-time in his league, and also says in the same bio that he is the CEO of the video game company that is going to make the ultimate frisbee video game. The man just loves ultimate frisbee! And that is the flimsy news peg for this blog, which is about my complaints about the name of this sport.

First, I want to get this part out of the way. Yes, I know, that for legal reasons—namely, that the term “Frisbee” is a trademark of the Wham-O toy company—the formal name of the sport cannot be “ultimate frisbee.” Fine! Dropping “frisbee” is fine. I do not wish for enthusiasts of this game to get sued by the Wham-O toy company simply for having invented a neat-o formalized sport out of one of the great toys of the world.

My complaint is about ultimate frisbee enthusiasts referring to their sport simply as “ultimate.” As in “On Sunday afternoons, I play ultimate with my pals in the park,” or, “Ah, I see you like throwing the frisbee, do you ever play ultimate?” This infuriates me, a sour curmudgeon who otherwise cares not a whit for or about the sport of ultimate, for at least two reasons.

First of all, “ultimate” is an adjective! You can’t refer to your sport with an unaccompanied adjective—or anyway I will not stand for it. It’s perverse! This would be like referring to the sport of basketball as “spherical.” Oh, that’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, a superstar of pro spherical. Disgusting. Skin-crawling. I simply will not permit it.

Secondly, on the subject of my first complaint: I am sorry but, in my opinion, your sport simply has to attain far greater prominence before you can just say, “The word ‘ultimate,’ unattached to any noun, now refers to this sport.” Whatever critical mass a sport must attain before its enthusiasts can snatch a perfectly good word, like “ultimate,” out of the language catalog and say, “This word? All by itself? It means us now,” this disc-throwing sport whose contours 999,999 out of any million people could not describe beyond “I think it involves throwing a frisbee maybe?” is not even halfway there. If you want to name your frisbee sport with a single, unadorned, and unspecific adjective, I am sorry. But at the very least it simply must be one much more obscure or charmingly self-effacing than “ultimate.” You can probably have “quotidian” without much of a fuss. Try it out! “On Sunday afternoons I play quotidian with my pals in the park.” Hmm. Actually that sounds like shit. You need a noun!

This leads into my—second? Third? I lost count—complaint about this name. Calling your sport “ultimate” anything is presumptuous! “Ultimate” is one of the many good words that movie trailers and car ads and, like, floridly psychedelic macaroni and cheese commercials for kids have worked for decades to strip of all specific meaning, dooming it to become another generic superlative people use to make something sound extra-rockin’ or badass. But it doesn’t mean “extra-rockin'” or “badass.” It also doesn’t mean “cool” or even “rad to the max.” It denotes the end of a process, a thing’s final stage: A living organism’s ultimate state is decomposing back into the dirt, which I think we can all agree is not rad to the max, or even to the median. When used as a superlative, “ultimate” means a point at which a thing can be improved no further. Are you trying to say that your frisbee sport cannot be improved upon, ever, no matter what? Rude. Future generations do not need that arrogant crap laid upon their optimistic efforts at finding the most fun possible framework for chuckin’ the ol’ frisbee around.

What if the kids have their own ideas for ways to improve this sport? What if somebody ideates or iterates in the ultimate frisbee space? Then its name will become a lie: It was never “ultimate” at all! It was, at best, penultimate: The next-to-final thing. Do you want to be a damn dirty liar?????

The whole thing smacks of an inferiority complex. A fledgling game trying to cast an impressive shadow through tricks of lighting and perspective. Shameful. At what cost to ultimate frisbeeists’ everlasting souls, I ask you?

The word “disc” is right there, a fine little noun, this sport’s equivalent of “ball.” Other fine nouns include “plate” and “platter” and “pan.” Possibly there are others, if anybody is uncomfortable with the kitchenware valence of those. However, “ultimate [disc/plate/platter/pan]” still has the “ultimate” problem, which is that the word “ultimate” is silly and sweaty and just, like, definitionally wrong, and makes me personally sick, and therefore must be abandoned. It is not my responsibility to resolve this issue for practitioners of this fine sport.

But I will go ahead and give the sport a new and better name, as an act of peacemaking between our two factions. Chuckdisc. “That is Cornelius Zwertment or whoever, superstar of chuckdisc.” Sounds great. This blog is over.