Broadcasting Spirit - Can It Be Done?

Jason de Rooy
Monday, 04 February 2013 20:20

The “T-Town Spike” has momentarily displaced the battle for future of elite Open Ultimate as the top talking point between the online American Ultimate community.  It all seems to have sorted itself out fairly amicably (as well as anything can in the online community that follows US Ultimate), but what may be interesting over the long term is what it means for broadcasting Spirit of the Game.

After letting the Worlds 2012 dust settle, I wrote back in August 2012 that the growth of Ultimate broadcasting , while bringing new pressures to elite Ultimate players, could well save Spirit of the Game.

Everyone in Ultimate knows the one simple line of thought that seems to threaten Spirit of the Game – it’s the ‘big games’ where players are giving their physical utmost (potentially impairing their judgement) and feeling the most pressure to push beyond the Spirit of the Game to win. – whether its by deliberate gamespersonship, or play that chances not being 100% safe.

It’s also these ‘big games’ that are going to be recorded and televised, meaning we’re going to see video of dangerous play and bad spirit, and have the folks at home offer their opinion – often demanding a penalty of some sort be imposed against the infringers.

But in the aftermath of the world watching Canada’s Spirit meltdown against Japan I suggested that televised Ultimate has the potential to greatly strengthen Spirit of the Game.  The big games, and the Spirit players display in those games, is now seen by many many more people, from a much more advantageous perspective, and are now recorded for posterity.  The evidence of seeing it for ourselves is powerful.  Despite the eventual public explanations and apologies, the global Ultimate community won’t forget Canada 2012 in the way that a bad effort mentioned on the grapevine may have been in the past.  The penalty isn’t just that the people who were there knowing you’re a cheat or have poor judgement … everyone in the Ultimate community will know.

What the T-Town Spike has reminded us (aside perhaps from people being aware that in the aftermath of the Worlds game Canada didn’t do itself any favours) is that when there’s a rush of blood to the head, the spirited way is to address the matter is to take a moment to calm down, and then deal with the matter as quickly as possible.

This poses a big challenge for those looking to broadcast Ultimate in the future.  We’ve all got an experience of watching different sports on television, and grasp that they each need their own angles, commentary, direction and technique to emphasise the strengths and distinctiveness of their approach.  Broadcasting sport is about action Action ACTION and keeping everything moving onto the next thing.

So the question for Ultimate broadcasters is going to be, how do they convey something that, when troubled, requires calmness – like Spirit of the Game?   The uniqueness of Ultimate and of Spirit of the Game may mean we need something unique from broadcasters to capture that and convey it ‘over the airways’.

A few somewhat random thoughts then.

Commentators as promoters of the sport have a role in talking about good Spirit of the Game – spirit doesn’t need to only come up when its bad.  When it does, their calm analysis (or at least, contrast between a calm and an excited announcer, perhaps) is essential.  The tip has to be though for commentators to not be quick to judge – encouraging spectators to wait for it too.

Non-live games can have ‘the later resolution’ of an incident of poor Spirit edited in, so perhaps it can be the role of commentators to leave room in the soundtrack for an explanation to be dubbed in later.  Live games need to see directors and commentators looking around the ground and not just at the immediate incident to take in other perspectives.

The takeup of WFDF’s call signals has been slow, but its coming, and certainly helps the televised product as well as improving onfield communication – essential to good spirit.

Shaking hands and presenting ourselves to the crowd before the game is something most other sports do and Ultimate for some reason does not – maybe we should change that so that before the game we’re reminded of the community we’re a part of.

While its not there yet, when the budget comes through for the ‘sideline commentator’ we see in other televised field sports, a very large part of that person’s role should be reporting on the Spirit of the Game – like the crunch in tackle sports, its on the ground amongst the players where the feel of the Spirit is, not up in the grandstand and the commentary box.

Your thoughts?  The comment lines are open!



#3 Jason de Rooy 2013-02-15 20:57
Thanks for the comments, Dan and Richard. On the old site, it felt at times that I was writing for myself (which was a big contrast to when I wrote for the Brisbane Ultimate Blog and its dedicated community). But with the new comment system, I'm hoping to get more conversation going.
#2 Daniel Clenton 2013-02-14 17:14
interesting article.

liked the point about hand signals.

some of it was a bit off the mark...
#1 Richard Moore 2013-02-14 15:13
Great article, Jason!

It might be logistically difficult to have cameras trained on every moment around the field, but it'd be great to show the respectful, spirited interactions between players and teams. I think that comes out best on the field even during "big games" - a player complimenting their opponent on an amazing, safe, successful bid is something great to show.

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