A Brave New World
In the autumn of 1967, Silver proposed that the Student Council form a Frisbee team. Suggested as a joke, the motion was seconded and then passed. Discussion of Frisbee continued in the Council throughout the year and into the spring, but it remained tongue-in-cheek.
“It was not a serious thing at all, it was a lark of Council,” Silver later said. Yet by the end of the school year, Silver and other members of the Council began to organize a game during their lunch period. Members of The Colombian had already been tossing a disc — a black 150-gram Wham-O, Master Tournament Model — during lunch on the east lawn of the school. That spring, members of both the newspaper and the Council began to play Frisbee Football. The first games were played on a small field that was later torn up and replaced with the school’s B-wing.
“It was a chance for The Colombian core — the intelligentsia (sic) and non-athletes of the school — to play a sport,” Silver has said. Many of the original players were in the upper ranks of the school academically, future Ivy Leaguers who weren’t exactly your Bo Jacksons and Kobe Bryants. “The core of us were largely among the better students,” Summers said. “There were also some druggie types. We were about evenly split between the better students and the half who smoked dope.”
The game was freeform early on, with no limits as to how many players should be on each side. As many as 20 to 30 players were allowed per team. The original game allowed running with the disc and included lines of scrimmage and a series of downs, but as they played, Silver, Hellring, and Hines began to modify the rules. Conceptualizing basketball, hockey, and soccer, they experimented, gradually eliminating running with the disc and the system of downs, and establishing rules for the defense. Unable to satisfactorily define a foul, one player came up with the phrase that a foul constituted “any action sufficient to arouse the ire of your opponent.”
There was no specific provision made for what is today called “Spirit of the Game” because it was viewed by those at Columbia as a “gentleman’s sport, a collegial game,” said Hines, who went on to found the Princeton team and is now a New York City-based attorney. “Even my Princeton jock-ringers of the time (football recruits from Texas and Missouri) were gentlemen, relatively speaking, on the Frisbee field. Hines, the most athletic of the trio of founding fathers, said the players liked the game’s athleticism. “There was very graceful running and jumping,” he said. Graceful by some, not so graceful by others. “There was a mix of athletes and some uncoordinated, overweight people playing,” he said. “The former could run and jump like gazelles; the latter evoked other analogies.” Some players came in sneakers and sweats, others in stiff jeans and walking shoes. “If there weren’t enough people, you’d grab somebody, some kid going by,” Leiwant said. “Originally we would play as long as we felt like it — till the sun went down, till people got tired and had to leave.”
In 1968 Hellring decided to turn The Colombian from a weekly into a daily, but needed more articles to justify the change. When Frisbee play during lunch grew, he figured it would give him something to write about. When Silver was ejected from the newspaper’s staff, a mock rivalry developed between The Colombian and the Council. The newspaper had also been critical of the Council, which fed the rivalry.
In the fall of 1968, the newspaper challenged the Council to a game of Frisbee to settle their differences. In a matchup that featured two large, co-ed teams, The Colombian won the first game in front of the high school, 11-7.
Article by Adam Zagoria.