Peace, love and Frisbee

It is the crazy season. Overseas, an American soldier murders women and children in Afghanistan. Iran threatens a nuclear weapon. Israel threatens an airstrike. On the campaign trail, politicians wait for a misspoken word and pounce eagerly to improve their advantage. Even the weather is bizarre: Europe is buried in snow, while record highs are seen across the U.S. Here in Maryland, daffodils are in full bloom a month early.

But for a moment on Sunday, the stars aligned and all was well with the world.

Despite the turning back of clocks for daylight-saving time, my husband and I left early Sunday and drove to New Jersey. It wasn't the vaunted Jersey shore or Trump's casino that were the attractions; we wanted to see our son — and his Salisbury University team, the Buzz — play ultimate Frisbee in a tournament near Atlantic City.

The sky was a cloudless, deep blue. The 10 fields were filled with hundreds of young men from colleges as far away as Canada. As Saturday was Adam's 23rd birthday, his personal goal was to score 23 points in the course of two days. With 16 scores on Saturday, he felt optimistic, and in fact he went on to exceed his goal, scoring a total of 30 points.

His team won its first two games handily, then faced stiff competition in the final game. It was the Canadian team from Ontario, which had come in second in all of Canada this year. They needed to start the long drive home and at first talked of forfeiting the game, but the teams agreed to play a shorter game — the first team to 7 points would win.

It was spirited and fast, even though both teams had been playing almost nonstop for four hours. These guys are awesome athletes, needing speed for sprints, strength for vertical leaps, agility to bend low for catches and concentration to catch a disc in the midst of a group.

The rules of ultimate Frisbee are interesting. There are no referees to make calls. Any disputes are handled immediately by the involved players. The rulebook emphasizes the "spirit of the game." Fouls are usually for physical contact, a disc hitting the ground or a player stepping out of bounds. Although fairness is highly valued, this is not croquet, and spirits, if not tempers, can run high.

In the final game with Canada, playing for the win in their division, Salisbury was behind and realized victory was slipping away — only to be reclaimed with a burst of brilliance. Canada threw the disc, and two players leaped up for the catch. The Salisbury player and the Canadian collided then came down face to face. For the briefest moment, the Salisbury man was filled with anger — at himself, I imagine, for missing the disc; possibly at the impending loss. For a moment, he squared his shoulders and stood taller. In that moment, the Canadian, who knew he had been wronged, began to also puff out his chest, ready to respond to a verbal challenge, or worse, if necessary.

How many times have you seen this in sports? The injury or insult quickly escalates to pushing, shoving, fists flying, benches emptying, referees blowing whistles, flags being thrown.

How many times have you seen a version of this in politics, too? The one-upsmanship game. The "Aha!" moment of catching the opponent in an embarrassing slip. And they then the pounce.

How many times have you seen this in traffic? At work? The flash point when tempers erupt. It is human nature to press an advantage.

I stood transfixed, holding my breath, wondering what would happen.

Then, in less than a moment, the Salisbury player let out his breath, relaxed his shoulders, looked at the other player and apologized. As in: "I'm sorry, man. You were right." The Canadian relaxed his shoulders, looked his opponent in the eye and said, "Yeah. It's fine." The game went on.

The entire exchange, with all that drama and potential for anger, took less than five seconds, but the lesson lives on. Sometimes, the strongest thing we can do is to step back, to apologize.

Imagine if the world played by ultimate Frisbee rules. In July, Adam, a graduate student in conflict analysis and dispute resolution, will be in Israel, introducing Arab and Jewish children to the joys of Frisbee and the pleasure of resolving differences peacefully. The program Adam applied to participate in is called Ultimate Peace.

Sounds perfect for Adam. Sounds perfect for the world.

Pegg Melfa is a nurse practitioner at Towson University and mother of three. Her email is

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad